Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George" Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George" 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Peter Bogdanovich's Ernst Lubitsch Files UPDATE: Part 1 and Newly Added Part 2 [CLIPS]

Thompson on Hollywood By Peter Bogdanovich | Thompson on Hollywood March 29, 2013 at 1:47PM

The great Polish-German director Ernst Lubitsch was not an absolute favorite of mine while I was keeping my card file of every movie I saw, 1952-1970, so my ratings and comments would be a great deal higher and more effusive today, because over the years he has evolved into one of my all-time top picture artists. (Watch a selection of Lubitsch clips below.)
0
Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch

The great Polish-German director Ernst Lubitsch was not an absolute favorite of mine while I was keeping my card file of every movie I saw, 1952-1970, so my ratings and comments would be a great deal higher and more effusive today, because over the years he has evolved into one of my all-time top picture artists. (Watch a selection of Lubitsch clips below.)

I think perhaps his sense of life and humanity was so much deeper than I could have possibly understood at ages 12 to 31. I have already written extensively about him, and a long piece I did for Peter Kaplan's The New York Observer can be found in the Links section of this blog. Titled "O Rare Ernst Lubitsch," you can go from that introduction to the original article, called "The Importance of Seeing Ernst" at the Observer's website. There's also a section on Lubitsch in the introduction to my Who the Devil Made It (1997), which is now available also as an e-book. 

To Be or Not To Be

Here is the card---one of 28 Lubitsch films---in my movie file, this one for "To Be or Not To Be," starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny:

TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942; d: Ernst Lubitsch).

1961: Very good (An often uproariously funny satiric comedy set during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and what a Warsaw troupe of actors do to help in the fight; very well played by Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, with superb character support. Lubitsch's sure, easy direction places his personality on every foot of the film; a delightful picture.)


Added 2013: No, Exceptional would once more be the rating today: this is a wildly courageous masterwork, filled with hilarious takes on actors and on the Nazi personality, mercilessly etched by the Master.

And here is a card from Part 2, this one for "Design for Living," starring threesome Miriam Hopkins, Fredric March and Gary Cooper:


Design for Living
DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933; d: Ernst Lubitsch).

1962: Excellent* (Thoroughly delightful, sophisticated, and brilliantly subtle, stylish, tasteful sex-comedy about two artists and a young woman who take up residence, promising each other, of course, hands off. Finally, the lady gives in to love, saying, as she falls on the couch, "It was a gentleman's agreement; and I'm no gentleman." Witty, urbane, beautifully controlled, written, directed. The cast, all of them perfectly charming, is led by Miriam Hopkins, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Edward Everett Horton.)

Added 1965: (Even funnier the second time: a droll work, enlivened by Lubitsch's worldly, enchanting touch.)

Added 2013: Much has been made of the fact that this is by no means like the original stage comedy written by Noel Coward; it is based on the Sir Noel's premise, but it's essentially a new script written by Ben Hecht to Lubitsch's specifications. The play could probably not have survived intact since it was basically a menage a trois story, so Lubitsch ran with the ball in a different direction and came up with a delight; though it isn't my favorite film of his, it's still pretty damn good.


Read more of Bogdanovich's Lubitsch files -- Part One (the first ten movie file cards) is here, and Part Two is here.

Meanwhile, the American Cinematheque's wonderful series "A Touch of Laughter: The Films of Ernst Lubitsch" is underway at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, running through April 1. Full schedule here.


Here's a selection of Lubitsch clips to whet your appetite:
 

This article is related to: Features, Video, Classics, Ernst Lubitsch


E-Mail Updates