After only a few short films, Lubitsch quickly graduated to directing his first featurette and starring as young Sally Pinkus, a narcissistic prankster and terrible student whose mischievous—and often sexually motivated—antics finally pay off in the retail world. As a manipulative salesman and corporate ladder-climber, Lubitsch animates his shoe store adventures with a witty, renegade, slapstick exuberance that would eventually be drawn with much finer strokes in his later work. While many have criticized this cycle for its reliance on Jewish stereotypes to entertain, others have noted a more complicated, subversive take on the perception of Berlin’s Jewish population: on the one hand, as assimilated, successful merchants, and on the other, as deviant outsiders. Lubitsch synthesizes both in the film’s sly ending.
By this time a successful director in Germany, Lubitsch alternated between blunt comic farce and elegant drama, a manic output perhaps reflecting the deepening chaos and upheaval in Berlin. Another in the Lubitsch’s series of “Sally” films, Meyer From Berlin is a comic relative of sorts to von Stroheim’s Blind Husbands, released the same year in the US. Like von Stroheim, Lubitsch also stars as a wayward lothario at a mountain resort, but in his case using jokes and goofy antics to try to seduce a married woman before her husband or his wife catch on. Sally Meyer’s foolish charms are also unwittingly aided by his mistaking the Austrian Alps for the Bavarian, so he remains confidently mis-attired in Lederhosen and an absurdly tall feather in his Tyrolian hat throughout the chase.