Archive for The Blue Angel

The Story of the Moral

Posted in Dance, Fashion, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2021 by dcairns

Ellen Richter seems like a good subject for further study — I intend to check out on of her travel-adventure films (Reise-und-Abenteuerfilme), the only one available to me, DER FLUG UM DEN ERDBALL (THE FLIGHT AROUND THE WORLD, 1925). Richter produced her own films and her husband, Willi Wolff, directed them. Pordenone director Jay Weissberg speculated that she’s not better-known because she didn’t work with the big-name German directors, and so few of her films were preserved, but added the fact thats she was Jewish, and she and Wolff got out of the Fatherland in 1933 (emigrating to America but not making any more films there) — it seems to me possible that the Nazis actively tried to destroy her work, the way they went after Dietrich’s. (Langlois rescued the negative of THE BLUE ANGEL, allowing some forgettable travelogue to be cremated in its place, with the connivance of an S.S. man who was a big Marlene fan.)

Pordenone chose a different genre for streaming, MORAL, a sophisticated comedy with a musical theatre/smalltown theme. Guest-starring the Tiller Girls, a British variety act very popular in Germany, MORAL is intermittently very amusing and looks great. Wolff delivers some nimble touches — there’s a flurry of shocked reaction shots like a THIN MAN denouement, and a relay of embarrassed walks, where one character runs into another and reverses course, and the other guy, retreating in likewise embarrassment, runs into a third and the whole thing repeats. Quite fresh.

(My late friend Lawrie Knight directed the Tiller Girls, in a later incarnation. Not sure what the film was for. Day one went well, but on day two the girls were all bruised around the backside area. “What caused it?” I asked, naively. “Fucking!” Lawrie chortled. Some fortunate make-up artist had his work cut out for him.)

THE BLUE ANGEL, or rather its source novel, Henirich Mann’s Professor Unrat, seems to be in the mix here, as schoolboys pass around a postcard of Richter’s mildly saucy act under the (blue) nose of their despotic schoolteacher. Or maybe that was just something that happened so regularly in Germany that it was bound to make it into several media representations by sheer ubiquity.

You can see, perhaps, why Richter didn’t get into Hollywood movies — I don’t know what her English was like but her face is strong-featured, her build sturdy. But her ironic smile and her scintillating wardrobe exert charm.

I also watched a discussion about FILIBUS, a film which seems to cast a spell over all who see it. I didn’t learn all that much, except about the historical confusion as to who the star is and the mystery around who made it and whether it may have been a serial at one time. But my own enchantment with the film was confirmed by others who felt similarly, including the restoration team led by Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi.

Mr. Puffy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 8, 2020 by dcairns


Charles Puffy… wait, that can’t be his real name? Nope, he was born Károly Hochstadt but changed it to Károly Huszár, then had it changed to the unflattering Puffy for his brief four-year stint in Hollywood.

“America is the true country of exaggerations. For me, who wasn’t just there as a visitor, but who worked and lived there the country always seemed like the huge pumpkins and pickles shown in the shop windows which are ten times bigger than real pumpkins and pickles. Everything there is overgrown and huge. Everything is exaggerated to the limits. Everything. Nature, the lives of people, the needs of people, everything, everything. Children are like adults, but when they grow up they remain the same they were in childhood and then they look like children. Please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want to say that every American is naive and childish. That’s not true. There are a lot of great, educated, very intelligent and wise people there. Just like everywhere else. But the average American, most of them is a big, naive child. Naive in cruelty and naive in goodness.”

puffy short

He’s in DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER and in THE BLUE ANGEL on either side of his Hollywood career.

For some reason the IMDb lists his place of death as Tokyo, but it seems likelier he perished in the Holocaust.

The Sunday Intertitle (for some reason on Saturday): Under the Sea

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on February 3, 2018 by dcairns

AEGIR, billed as “A Festive Film,” is in fact a German propaganda effort from 1918, though it tries to be festive by taking a fantastical, mythological view of the war. Aegir, our protagonist, is sort of the Norse Neptune, though of lower rank. And the guy playing him here, one Wilhelm Diegelmann, looks a lot like the heavy-set, slo-mo beard guy who’s the most disappointing element of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Curiously, his face is made up a nice dusky shade, but his torso is a gleaming white: nobody thought to powder his moobs.

(Diegelmann would go on to work for Lubitsch several times and appears in THE BLUE ANGEL.)

Aegir is having a great time because the U-boats are sinking lots of ships and sending their supplies to the bottom of the sea where he can enjoy them at his lavish aquatic banquets, served up by mermaids on wires.

Eventually he visits his benefactors, leading to the odd sight of a topless man with a trident standing on the deck of an actual for-realz Unterseeboot. He even sits down to a glass of “fine English whisky” (there’s no such thing) he’s had retrieved from  torpedoed wreck.

The movie resolves into a tour of inspection of the mighty German navy, month or maybe days before its total surrender. Aegir dons a flying jacket and boards a sea plane, his pallid, sinewy legs a pitiful spectacle as he tries to manoeuvre his unwieldy trident into the cockpit. There’s a sentence you don’t see every day.

There’s a visit to Berlin, then to a German destroyer. Everyone is pleased to see the mythical jötunn or demi-god. I expect he makes a nice break in the routine.

Aegir urges Germany, in the form of the movie camera observing him, to buy war bonds, “~ and let a happy peace be the reward for your steadfastness!”

Germany immediately surrenders.