When I Was Dead (Als ich tot war)Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Ernst Lubitsch, Helene Voß, Louise Schenrich.
Germany, 1916, DCP, black & white, silent, 40 min.
German intertitles with English subtitles.
DCP source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
Starring Lubitsch himself in the lead role, this marital farce unfolds at a breathtaking pace. He plays a young husband who, after a long night out playing chess, is kicked out by his wife and her unpleasant mother. Assumed dead after the discovery of a suicide note, he reappears in disguise when his mother-in-law and “widow” hire a new butler. Though rudimentary compared to the marriage comedies he would make in even just a few years, When I Was Dead is now treasured as one of Lubitsch’s earliest extant works. It was believed to be a lost film until, in 1994, a print was found at the Slovenian Cinematheque in Ljubljana.
While Lubitsch’s first screen appearance in the hit comedy The Perfect Sixty-Six (1914) is unfortunately lost, his second collaboration with director Carl Wilhelm survived. The quickly made sequel—subtitled The Story of an Apprentice—develops a screen persona that made Lubitsch as popular in Germany as Max Linder in France or Harold Lloyd in the US: his presumably Jewish antihero, a country boy, rises to success in the big city—usually by marrying the daughter of the clothing store owner. Notable in The Pride of the Firm is the before-and-after shot wherein the old and the new Siegmund Lachmann—the country boy and the suave businessman—are both greeting and talking to the audience.