Already evincing elements of the “Lubitsch touch,” The Doll proved to be yet another enormous success in Germany. Unwilling to marry just to inherit his uncle’s estate, Prince Lancelot flees to a monastery where financially ailing monks devise a plan to make everyone happy. One trip to a dollmaker and an ersatz wedding later, Lancelot brings his mechanical bride—a playfully robotic Ossi Oswalda—back to the friary. Obviously enjoying working within a stylized fairytale world of cardboard backdrops, men in horse costumes and stop-motion animation, Lubitsch himself regarded The Doll as one of his most imaginative films. It will be screened here as a tinted and restored 35mm print from Filmarchiv Austria.
An eye-opening early comedy of sexual identity showcases Lubitsch’s witty direction of actors. “The German Mary Pickford,” Ossi Oswalda, plays a teenage tomboy in one of her first major Lubitsch roles. Her unladylike indulgence in drinking, smoking and playing poker results in the appointment of a legal guardian, the attractive Dr. Kersten. Rather than submit to new rules, she simply dons convincing drag, and soon the two “men” are smoking cigars, drinking and getting a little too cozy in the back seat of a cab. I Don’t Want to be a Man is an unjustly neglected short film Lubitsch made right before directing his first feature, The Eyes of the Mummy.