Ernst Lubitsch

Filmmaker

Born: 28 January 1892
Died: 30 November 1947 (heart failure)
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Best known as:

The director of Ninotchka

 

Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born filmmaker who had great success in Hollywood from the 1920s through the 1940s as a specialist in sophisticated comedies of manners. Originally a cabaret performer in Berlin, Lubitsch got his foot in the door at the studios of Bioscope in 1912. After five years as an actor in mostly comedies, he sparked his great career as a director with 1918's The Eyes of the Mummy. His 1919 historical drama Madame Dubarry was one of the first hit foreign films in the United States, and in 1922 Lubitsch moved to Hollywood. His string of hits earned him a special Oscar in 1937, and he became known for the "Lubitsch Touch" in his comedies -- a sophisticated, cynical commentary on social manners, as told through understatement and suggestion. Lubitsch made comic scenes about sex sound as though it maybe wasn't really about sex, with a wink that said, yeah, it really IS about sex. He had artistic freedom at Warner Brothers studios in the '20s and early '30s, and in 1935 he became the production manager for Paramount Studios. He oversaw his own movies as well as other Paramount productions, increasing his influence in early Hollywood. His best known films include The Marriage Circle (1924), Ninotchka (1939, starring Greta Garbo), The Shop Around the Corner (1940, starring Jimmy Stewart), To Be or Not to Be (1943) and Heaven Can Wait (1946). Production on his final films was delayed due to Lubitsch's health problems after 1944. After a series of heart attacks, he died in 1947 at the age of 55.

 

Extra credit:

 

Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner, from 1940, was remade (more or less) as 1949's In the Good Old Summertime, with Van Johnson and Judy Garland, and then again as 1998's You've Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

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