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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,’ ErnstLubitsch 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 ...

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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... be easy, because you haven’t seen it in a long time. It is easy, because the film is fast and funny and graceful, but you don’t leave the world of displacements and associations behind. The film, ErnstLubitsch’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 ...


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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... unmistakably, the showman George M. Cohan spinning his cane, Paolo Garretto’s Babe Ruth as home run baseball floating in the air, unmistakably baseball and unmistakably Ruth. And Henry Major’s ErnstLubitsch, 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 ...


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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... deeply suspicious of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League which, launched during the summer of 1936, had by the autumn enrolled some four thousand members – including such celebrities as Eddie Cantor, ErnstLubitsch, 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 ...

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 contemporary politics so sophisticated that it amounts to the prophetic. But she didn’t think of any of it. The screenwriter, Billy Wilder, was remembering pre-Hitler Europe and the director, ErnstLubitsch, 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 ...

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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... Is a Dream in Cinema, and he saw to it that a few of her movies are now available on DVD. Among other signs of returning interest, there is a new Masters of Cinema version of her most important film, ErnstLubitsch’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 ...
18 July 1996
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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... successful: a second programme opened in October, a third in February. Now the Warners were ready to produce a feature with music and incidental dialogue. On the advice of their top contract director ErnstLubitsch, 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 ...

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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... have been Cabbalistic symbols protecting the dead against demons. Either way, ‘there are no definite or conclusive answers.’ Cultural studies leaves no stone unturned. There is an analysis of ErnstLubitsch’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 ...

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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... or of jealousy. He talks to Lenya as if Pasetti were a sort of cousin with whom she was travelling 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 ...

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