Screening on Film
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Melvyn Douglas.
US, 1937, 35mm, black & white, 91 min.
Print source: Universal

Despite being made in the era of the screwball comedy, Lubitsch’s adaptation of Melchior Lengyel’s play quiets the original’s laughs down to a knowing smirk. The masked reactions of Lubitsch’s polite characters caught in an uncomfortable love triangle belie more colorful pasts and passions. Within what is considered a transitional work before hitting his stride, Lubitsch begins to patiently tamper with assumptions and judgments, appearance and identity, through subtle ironies—exhibited everywhere from Marlene Dietrich’s array of enigmatic smiles to the set design. His discreet social commentary manifests by undercutting dramatic scenes of aristocrats with the comic versions already played out by servants; allowing women of both classes a certain sexual liberation; and transforming the titular object of desire into a more complex being than either man is willing to initially behold.

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That Certain Feeling... The Touch of Ernst Lubitsch

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