The Sunday Intertitle: Epidemic!

Finally watched THE OYSTER PRINCESS, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and part of the splendid Lubitsch in Berlin box set which I contributed some writing to. Fantastically odd and very funny, with some textbook drunken staggering, and an all girl boxing tournament and a lot of other good grotesque stuff (the gymnasium floor is littered with hanks of hair after the girls have gotten finished battering each other. Ossi Oswalda plays the titular heiress, a boisterous wild child not that far removed in her obnoxiousness and ebullience from Lubitsch’s own comic persona in his Solly Pinkus films. I’d like to be able to say she’s better-looking than Uncle Lube, but the main impression she gives is off a mad keyboard of teeth embedded in a troll. She’s pretty interesting though, in her violence — I’ll watch out for her in other stuff. She made several films for Lubitsch, always playing characters called Ossi.

The musical epidemic itself is a fabulous conceit, and it’s a set-piece that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, substituting for about an act’s worth of plot. The David Lynch type musical saw man is a particularly interesting touch.

More Lubitsch tomorrow, as part of the For the Love of Film Blogathon in aid of film preservation.

Lubitsch In Berlin [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1918]

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19 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Epidemic!”

  1. Utterly marvelous!

    Remindful of Richard Lester (the split screen shot) Vera Chytilova (the Bridegroom preferring food to dancing) and Hellzapoppin (Martha Raye’s jet-propelled jitterbug with Mischa Auer.)

  2. Martha Raye was some dancer. Mitchell Leisen harnessed here whirlwind for his Big Broadcast.

    There seems to be no direct Lester-Lubitsch influence in reality, but it’s interesting that they both had periods of wild pop experimentalism (Lubitsch in the twenties, Lester in the sixties) and they both moved to a more classical yet still distinctive style, and they both also worked in historical subjects where their plan was to humanize history through humour.

  3. Martha Raye was also an extremely important jazz vocal singer.

  4. The rumpy conductor = Curt “Vultures everywhere!” Bois?

    Renewed temptation! I came very close to buying this set a few weeks ago. The European release of the set w/D Cairns is cheaper than the earlier US release on Amazon, even with the additional postage for US residents. I await payday.

  5. Goodie! Be sure and order via my link so I make a few cents off the deal.

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    Kurt/Curt Bois would have been only 19 in THE OYSTER PRINCESS. He lived to be 90. And Ophuls’ CAUGHT (49) “outs” him, when a character refers to him as a “poodle.”

    It’s the “Ernst Lubitsch Glutes of Steel Workout”!

  7. Bois actually gets a prominent screen credit in The Oyster Princess, despite only being in one scene, doing that. But he totally earns it.

  8. David Boxwell Says:

    Happily, Bois’ Weimar cabaret years are readily accessible on YouTube, including his giant hit “Guck Doch Nicht Immer Nach Dem Tangogeiger Hin” (1930). He really was the essence of Weimar “Decadence.”


    Scroll down for Curt Bois in drag, as featured in Fritz Hippler’s “Der Ewige Jude” — followed by Peter Lorre, preceded by a relativity-Jew.

  10. “The Jew Curt Bois enjoys a particularly perverted role.” Yes, it’s the ENJOYING that steams them up.

  11. They didn’t much cotton to sauciness.

  12. One of the best musical numbers I have seen in a silent. The expression on he-who-gets-slapped in the orchestra was perfect. Thanks for a great post.

  13. Ha ha, not the kind of musical saw playing I expected :)

  14. Are you related to the Log Lady?

  15. In So This is Paris Lubitsch stages an utterly spectacular Charleston number with double-exposed images, another silent musical number.

  16. Syd Henderson Says:

    “The Doll” and “I Don’t Want to be a Man” are also Lubitsches with Ossi Oswalda; I believe they’re also in Lubitsch in Berlin. “I Don’t Want to Be a Man” has her pretending to be a boy for most of it. For some reason, she looks like how I picture James Cagney as looking at about 15. Ossi wasn’t bad looking; she was playing a grotesque in “The Oyster Princess.”

  17. Thanks for the news. I’m going to check those Lubitschs out soon. But there are three Lubitsch in Berlin box sets and unfortunately those two aren’t included in the Masters of Cinema or the Kino sets.

    Ossi does have some of the destructive energy of the young Cagney…

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