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girish

Terrific post, Thom. Thank you!

I was fortunate to see a half-dozen Lubitsch silents including The Wildcat and The Doll as part of a retrospective a few years back. I fell in love with these films. So good to see that they're on DVD.

I have Hake's book on Lubitsch but haven't read it yet. I've been meaning to take a week or two sometime and burn through all the Lubitsch that exists on DVD, and simultaneously read Hake and Weinberg's books on him. Also, Superhappyfun.com has a handful of early 30s Lubitsch that I've been meaning to order.

Wish you a Happy New Year!

Thom

Thanks for the encouragement and for the info, G. Looks like you're set up for a perfect mini Lubitsch-fest. If the rest of his silents are anywhere near as playful yet carefully constructed as Die Bergkatze you're in for a treat. Perhaps Hake's book (time for me to start another wish list) sheds some light on why this film wasn't released in the U.S. as part of the flood of Lubitsch and Negri movies that followed Passion.

goatdog

Another great post, Thom! I need to run out and find this film (or if I can find it without running, I'm down with that too).

As for why The Wildcat wasn't released in the States, Scott Eyman's Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise (1993) says the film was "a total financial failure in Germany" and thus wasn't released in the US. Eyman quotes Lubitsch saying later in life "I found the German audience was in no mood to accept a picture which satirized militarism and war." Sounds plausible, but I'd like to hear more about it--make sure to let us know if you find anything else out.

I'm also intrigued by your account of the receptivity of American audiences to German films after WWI. The only thing I've read specifically about the reception of Madame Dubarry/Passion also comes from Eyman, who says there was some effort to hide the film's origins when it was released in the US. He says the NY Times reported it as being an Italian film, and that later First National said it was shot in "Northern Germany with an international cast," leaving its actual nationality in question. However, Eyman doesn't provide a single citation to back up anything in his book (which rankled the historian in me), so there's no way to verify any of this. This is especially galling where he hints that there is evidence that First National opened Passion first in New Jersey in late November 1920, hoping to gauge public reaction to it before opening it in a first-class location like New York. What evidence?!?! I'd like to see it! But I digress. For that reason and because it's indifferently written and there are apparently better books on Lubitsch out there, don't bother with it.

Finally, this quote from good old Sigfried Kracauer seems germane. He dismisses Lubitsch with: "Considering the speed with which Lubitsch exchanged murders and tortures for dancing and joking, it is highly probable that his comedies sprang from the same nihilism as his historical dramas." I consider such versatility a virtue.

Thom

NEWSFLASH: Goatdog nominated for Cinephile of the Year ! ! !

Thank you for tracking down the answer to that particular mystery, Goatdog. Well done. Thanks too for the Kracauer (just got an e-mail, the book is in the mail) quote. I agree with your advocacy of Lubitsch's versatility.

Eyman's comments are food for thought as well. If Eyman's source is the New York Times, then the charge that an "effort to hide the film's origins" likely stems from the October 3, 1920 article "Screen" that refers to Passion as a motion picture imported from Italy and Pola Negri as an Italian actress. A correction/clarification of Negri's true nationality was printed on October 10, and the Times also cleared up the origin of the film: "It is interesting to note now that German films, apparently, are beginning to come to American via France, England, or some other country, if not direct. How long it will be before they come marked 'Made in Germany,' however, is not predicted." On October 12 the Times printed another notice in "The Screen" about the "coming of 'Passion,'" adding that "the film has been imported from Germany, directly or indirectly, by Associated First National." These notices on October 10 and 12 make it clear where it was from. The full Times review in "The Screen," published on October 13, offers the additional information that it "originated in Northern Germany." The reason why it was imported from Italy is unclear, but Kristin Thompson's and David Bordwell's Film History: an Introduction notes that the film was "shown in major cities in Italy, Scandinavia and other European countries in 1920." Since it didn't arrive in the U.S. until the end of that year, and was the first film to break the prejudices against Germany's movies, perhaps First National imported it from a country (Italy) where they already had a distribution deal in place. Without additional information, the accusation that First National was trying to hide the film's origin looks doubtful. Besides, the newspaper revealed the film's origin to the public anyway and they, as I noted in the post, attended in record numbers, and therefore must not have really cared about whether it was made in Germany or elsewhere.

Thanks again for reading, solving The Wildcat mystery, and adding so much to the post!

Brian

This write-up makes the film sound so wonderful! Did you notice that Michael Atkinson listed it among his favorite previously-unreleased DVDs of 2006?

I'm all the sorrier that I'll in all likelihood miss the film due to Sundance. I bought my tickets yesterday, and though I didn't buy any for the festival's last weekend, it was mostly because I heard that wait listing was a lot easier at that point. There's still a chance I'll bail on the Utah scene in time to be back in the Bay for a Friday night Lubitch double-bill. But it's about a 2% chance, I'd guess.

Thom

Brian - I'm glad others are writing about this release 'cause that means lots of people may see a film they might have overlooked. If you don't see the double-bill you can always set up a Lubitsch home theater night or something. My advice is to enjoy Utah/Sundance and don't worry about missing out on anything while you're away. :)

Corominas

Great post, thank you!
I don´t know this film, but i drow watercolours about Nosferatu, M, or the Golem. :-)

Joe Thompson

Thom: This sounds like a movie worth looking for. Lubitsch had a scary amount of talent. "To Be or Not to Be" has always been one of my favorites: "What he did to Shakespeare we are doing now to Poland."

Regards,
Joe Thompson ;0)

Thom

I haven't seen To Be or Not to Be, Joe, but it's in contention for my 1942 post. This movie is Lubistch at play. And as I mention in the post, Negri and company predict the chaos of the Marx bros. here too. A lot of slapsticky fun in a romantic comedy framework. Maybe I should've titled this silent screwball?

AR

Wow, I have never heard of this (but I honestly don't know Lubitsch at all either), but now I must see it. Silent comedy and German Expressionism are favorites of mine, so it's definitely up my alley. Thanks for highlighting this weird little rarity!

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