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November 30: The Lubitsch Touch

November 30, 2013
code.Ernst_Ernst Lubitsch, a successful film director in the Weimar Republic who redoubled his success in Hollywood after 1922 and then again as silent films gave way to talkies, died in Hollywood of a heart condition at age 55 on this date in 1947. In Germany, he made his international reputation with both comedies and large-scale historical productions such as Madame Du Barry, Anna Boleyn, and Carmen (all of which were retitled for American distribution). In the U.S., he became famous for sophisticated comedies such as Ninotchka, with Greta Garbo, The Shop Around the Corner, with James Stewart, and the anti-Nazi To Be Or Not To Be, Jack Benny’s only big-screen hit. Lubitsch also directed musicals such as The Love Parade, Monte Carlo, and The Smiling Lieutenant. These and his numerous other films, wrote critic Michael Wilmington, “were directed by a man who was amused by sex rather than frightened of it — and who taught a whole culture to be amused by it as well.” The great Billy Wilder, director of Some Like It Hot, had a sign over his door that read, “How would Lubitsch do it?” To see Lubitsch’s silent classic, Madame Du Barry, in its entirety, look below. To see a clip of Greta Garbo in Ninotchka, look below that. “Nobody should try to play comedy unless they have a circus going on inside.”—Ernest Lubitsch