Friday, April 24, 2009

Lubitsch Alert

Would you like to share an opinion on these upcoming Ernst Lubitsch movies?

Sure, we all know the phrase "the Lubitsch touch" connoting a certain nuanced, worldly understanding about how human beings live a civilized life, evident on screen from The Oyster Princess to Cluny Brown.

The small European man with the cigar found a way to reinvent reality and has left us a glimpse of a lost world that seems far more grown up yet playful than our workaday world . We probably think of those films seen through the amused and artful lenses of his most enjoyable work as light-hearted. Yet, just as there is an awareness of an often dour, even tragic reality just off screen in his movies, our amusement may stop us from considering that his work is only superficial if you'd like it so.

While I'm not crazy about all of the director's movies, (I wish that TCM would give Shop Around the Corner a well-deserved rest), I'm interested in everything he worked on and am often really entertained by it too--especially when he shifts the focus away from the central figures and generously allows the Charlie Ruggles, Robert Griegs, Sig Rumanns and Edward Everett Horton's of the world their moment in the spotlight.

One of the oddest movies of Lubitsch's career is on this Sunday on TCM. Broken Lullaby (1932) (aka "The Man I Killed") stars Phillips Holmes, Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll. The story concerns a WWI veteran trying to make amends for causing the death of another in the war.

While Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman (Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise), didn't care for this film at all when I asked him about it, another writer and a contemporary of Lubitsch, playwright Robert E. Sherwood, described it as "The best talking picture that has yet been seen and heard.” From most reports, it was not a success with the public in 1932. They probably didn't want to be reminded of painful recent history, since audiences already had their hands full of troubles just then. But aren't you curious?

You be the judge. Here's a list of upcoming Lubitsch films on TCM. I'm still hoping that Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) and Angel (1937) show up on the schedule soon as well.
(All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time).


Broken Lullaby (1932)
Apr 26, 8:00PM













Ninotchka (1939)
Jun 23, 10:00PM
Jul 3, 1:30AM










The Shop Around The Corner
Jun 23, 8:00PM











The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg (1927):
Silent & sublime
Jun 24, 2:00AM












The Merry Widow (1934): Bliss, especially when
Edward Everett Horton is on screen.
Jun 24, 12:00AM












That Uncertain Feeling (1941)
Jun 24 4:00AM












A Royal Scandal (1945): Completed by Otto Preminger though Lubitsch
has producer credit. If, like me, you find Tallulah Bankhead pretty
interesting even when she is not at her best, you might get a
boot out of this one.
Jun 23, 1:15PM








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