The Sunday Intertitle: “First it was Hess, now him.”
Not really an intertitle. But a joke, since it appears right after someone says, “Now let’s go to England.” And a sophisticated, Lubitschian joke, since it requires the viewer to recognise the fact that Scotland is not England. Even some of the English don’t realise that.
The film, of course, is TO BE OR NOT TO BE, and we watched it with Marvellous Mary, who had recently enjoyed THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and realised she hadn’t seen much Lubitsch. I always forget this one more-or-less finishes in my homeland. All so that a man dressed as Hitler can parachute into a haystack and startle the local farmers into uttering the line quote at top.
Hess, of course, had flown to Scotland, bailed by parachute (breaking a leg) and promptly got himself arrested. He claimed he was trying to broker a peace deal, but mystery surrounds his trip — he doesn’t seem to have been acting in any official capacity. He couldn’t have made peace all by himself, really, could he? Or if he could, can I? Why don’t I?
Attention to detail: the two farmers are played by authentic Hollywood Scotsmen, prolific Fifer Alec Craig (from Dunfermline) and arch-foe to Laurel & Hardy, that axiom of cinema, James Finlayson (from nearby Larbert). Even though only one of them has a line, Lubitsch evidently wanted convincingly dour faces.
It’s a little sad to see Finlayson looking so old — like Laurel & Hardy, he should be invulnerable to time, we feel — but good to see him doing his bit for the Old Country. He also turns up, all-too-briefly, in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (as a Dutch peasant!), another anti-Nazi movie made before America’s entry into the war. I’ve always intended to visit Larbert to see if there’s a big bronze statue of him tearing his hair out in the town square.