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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘To Be or Not to Be’, 5 December 2013

To Be or Not to Be 
directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
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... My Nazis are different,’ Ernst Lubitsch said in reply to critics who hadn’t liked his film To Be or Not to Be. The critics thought he was failing to be funny about what shouldn’t be laughed at anyway, the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Lubitsch – we can read his response in the material accompanying the recently issued Criterion DVD version of the film – thought the critics had failed to see how even Nazism could become a routine, a home for stock figures and therefore mechanical, ridiculous ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shop around the Corner’, 6 January 2011

The Shop around the Corner 
directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
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... and graceful, but you don’t leave the world of displacements and associations behind. The film, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop around the Corner, now completing a run at the BFI, is all about associations and displacements. Where are we, for example? A title card says we’re in Budapest, and the film is based on a play, Parfumerie, by Miklós ...


Michael Rogin, 20 August 1998

Celebrity Caricature in America 
by Wendy Wick Reaves.
Yale, 320 pp., £29.95, April 1998, 0 300 07463 8
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... run baseball floating in the air, unmistakably baseball and unmistakably Ruth. And Henry Major’s Ernst Lubitsch, Will Cotton’s Theodore Dreiser, Hirschfeld’s Bojangles Robinson, and more and more, all well-known and all made new. That shock of the familiar, the celebrity instantly recognisable by the trademark logo that the artist reinvents ...


J. Hoberman: Did the Jews invent Hollywood?, 7 March 2002

Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War Two 
by Steven Alan Carr.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £42.50, July 2001, 9780521798549
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... by the autumn enrolled some four thousand members – including such celebrities as Eddie Cantor, Ernst Lubitsch, Boris Karloff and Dorothy Parker. In newsletters and radio broadcasts, at meetings, demonstrations and banquets, it called for a boycott of German products and vociferously supported the Spanish Republic and thus, for Breen, who sympathised ...

Say thank you

Clive James: Witty Words in Pretty Mouths, 23 May 2002

Fast-Talking Dames 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 365 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 300 08815 9
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... of any of it. The screenwriter, Billy Wilder, was remembering pre-Hitler Europe and the director, Ernst Lubitsch, was remembering his visits to Moscow. Garbo could barely remember the boat from Sweden, and her idea of a threatening mass movement was too much fan mail. But when it comes to the movie stars, keeping your wits about you is hard work, because ...

It’s me, it’s me, it’s me

David Thomson: The Keynotes of Cary Grant, 5 November 2020

Cary Grant: The Making of a Hollywood Legend 
by Mark Glancy.
Oxford, 550 pp., £22.99, October, 978 0 19 005313 0
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Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise 
by Scott Eyman.
Simon and Schuster, 556 pp., £27.10, November, 978 1 5011 9211 1
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... for its revelation of awkwardness in a cinema celebrity. Eyman has also written excellent books on Ernst Lubitsch, Cecil B. DeMille and John Ford, and about the moment when sound changed the art and business of pictures. I think this is Eyman’s best and most heartfelt book. And the reason these two biographies are so compelling is that the uneasy cut ...
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... produce a feature with music and incidental dialogue. On the advice of their top contract director Ernst Lubitsch, the brothers paid $50,000 for the rights to Samson Raphaelson’s The Jazz Singer which, though dismissed by Hearst’s New York American as ‘a garish and tawdry Hebrew play’, had run for a season on Broadway with George Jessel in the ...

Where am I in all this?

Michael Newton: Pola Negri, 19 February 2015

Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale 
by Mariusz Kotowski.
Kentucky, 322 pp., £29.95, April 2014, 978 0 8131 4488 7
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... signs of returning interest, there is a new Masters of Cinema version of her most important film, Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame DuBarry (1919). In the greater world, her most lasting achievement may be that she invented and popularised the practice of painting toenails red. (Adolphe Menjou thought her feet were bleeding.) She remains an exemplary ...

The Khugistic Sandal

Jenny Diski: Jews & Shoes, 9 October 2008

Jews and Shoes 
edited by Edna Nahshon.
Berg, 226 pp., £17.99, August 2008, 978 1 84788 050 5
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... or conclusive answers.’ Cultural studies leaves no stone unturned. There is an analysis of Ernst Lubitsch’s first full-length film, made in 1916, long before he got to Hollywood, called Schuhpalast Pinkus (‘Pinkus’s Shoe Palace’), which is discussed by Jeanette Malkin in terms of the split between the Berlin Jews and the ...

Turnip into Asparagus

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, 5 June 1997

Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya 
edited and translated by Lys Symonette and Kim Kowalke.
Hamish Hamilton, 555 pp., £30, July 1996, 0 241 13264 9
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... in Europe. In fact, Pasetti was more a gambler than a singer, and he and Lenya, like a couple in a Lubitsch comedy, worked the casinos from Baden-Baden to Monte Carlo. Whenever another ‘sure’ system failed and they were in need of financial assistance, Weill helped them out with rabbinical equanimity. In the end Lenya and Pasetti parted much less amicably ...

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