Five Minutes of One Hour of Happiness

This is the beginning of ONE HOUR OF HAPPINESS (EINE STUNDE GLUECK, 1931), William Dieterle’s last film before leaving for Hollywood (with excellent timing, two years before the Nazis caused rather a rush in that direction). It’s terrifically charming and inventive.

But wait! Although it’s attached to the front of the file of the film I obtained, it behaves more like a trailer. And then the film has no opening credits, so I think it’s a trailer grafted on to the front of a print missing the main titles. But I can’t be 100% sure. The film is quite short — literally an hour, though not literally all happiness. Maybe the specially-shot trailer was patched on to pad the movie out? hard to be sure.

The trailer, in fact, is better than the movie (a phenomenon we’re used to) but has the same virtues: it’s quirky, ludic and highly original. We were following up our interest in Dolly Haas — though she isn’t the crazy monkey we’d enjoyed so much in GIRLS WILL BE BOYS, she’s affecting and sweet and gets a dance number. The whole film takes place in a department store at night, making it a kind of prequel to EVENING PRIMROSE. The jazz band of racist caricatures is unfortunate, and its discomfort/eeriness points to a bit of an issue with the film overall.

Dieterle, who is delightful as himself in the trailer, is a problematic leading man in the film: as in a lot of German operettafilms of the period, people who are supposed to be charming are instead creepy. The hulking Dieterle “We called him the iron stove” — Edgar Ulmer) isn’t as grotesque as his costar Harald Paulsen with his freaky corpseteeth, but when he looms forward tenderly it’s terrifying rather than reassuring.

But DO check out the trailer. I’ve left the first shot of the film proper on the end which continues the playfulness. Fans of sandy Vaseline will enjoy this odd movie: the pleasure/creep balance is way off, but it’s definitely distinctive.

2 Responses to “Five Minutes of One Hour of Happiness”

  1. As always, Weimar names send me straight to Wikipedia. Hans Reimann was more a writer than an actor, and based on the “Works” section of his Wikipedia page, being a Saxon was his THING.

    I liked this “Works” entry:

    1921: Ewers. A guaranteed neglected junk novel in rags, tatters, antics and underpants by Hanns Heinz Vampir

    Harald Paulsen’s Wikipedia page, on the other hand:

    “The Viennese actor Rolf Kutschera reported in his memoirs that Paulsen was notorious among his colleagues as an informant to Nazi authorities.[4]”

  2. Wow — a Hanns Heinz Ewers parody novel! I made a film of a Ewers short story before I knew he was a Nazi (albeit a strange, atypical Nazi who was eventually expelled and died a “non-person”).

    Reimann is the most winning male performer in the film and it’s a shame his role wasn’t larger.

    Paulsen is so rodentlike and creepy it’s no surprise to learn he was a literal rat, though I guess I shouldn’tstereotype all rat-faced people unfairly.

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