Classical Music

The Rest Is Noise: Lubitsch

The Rest Is Noise: Lubitsch



From Lady Windermere’s Fan.

Laughter in the Dark. The New Yorker, Aug. 15, 2022. 

I’m grateful, as ever, to Daniel Zalewski, who edited this article, and to Neima Jahromi, who checked it. Much thanks also to Joe McBride, Dave Kehr, the staff of the MoMA Film Study Center, the staff of the Margaret Herrick Library, Kim Hendrickson at Criterion, and, of course, Nicola Lubitsch.

Thanks to various resources, I was able to view fifty-two of Lubitsch’s extant films. Kino Lorber’s Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin is a particularly precious resource; if you don’t know the movies contained therein, you will emerge with your view of film history substantially altered. My reading list included McBride’s How Did Lubitsch Do It?, Ivana Novak, Mladen Dolar, and Jela Krečič’s Lubitsch Can’t Wait, Henry Nora’s Ethics and Social Criticism in the Hollywood Films of Erich von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, and Billy Wilder, William Paul’s Lubitsch’s American Comedy, Kristin Thompson’s Herr Lubitsch Goes to Hollywood: German and American Film After World War I, Mason Kamana Allfred’s Weimar Cinema, Embodiment, and Historicity: Cultural Memory and the Historical Films of Ernst Lubitsch, Rick McCormick’s Sex, Politics, and Comedy: The Transnational Cinema of Ernst Lubitsch, Hans Helmut Prinzler and Enno Patalas’s Lubitsch, Herbert Spaich’s Ernst Lubitsch und seine Filme, Sabine Hake’s Passions and Deceptions: The Early Films of Ernst Lubitsch, Barbara Verena Ottmann’s The Lubitsch Touch: A Meta-Critical Study, 1923–1947, Jan-Christopher Horak’s Ernst Lubitsch and the Rise of Ufa, 1917-1922, James Harvey’s Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges, Thomas Elsaesser’s Weimar Cinema and After, and Gerd Gmünden’s Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema 1933-1951. Essays of interest include Karsten Witte’s “The Spectator as Accomplice in Ernst Lubitsch’s Schuhpalast Pinkus,” in Thomas Elsaesser and Michael Wedel’s A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades; Valerie Weinstein’s “Anti-Semitism or Jewish ‘Camp’? Ernst Lubitsch’s Schuhpalast Pinkus (1916) and Meyer Aus Berlin (1918),” German Life and Letters 59:1 (2006), pp. 101-121; Gerd Gemünden’s “Space Out of Joint: Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be,” New German Critique 89 (2003), pp. 59-80; Horak’s “Sauerkraut & Sausages with a Little Goulash: Germans in Hollywood, 1927,” Film History 17: 2/3 (2005), pp. 241-260; and Stefan Drössler’s “Ernst Lubitsch and EFA,” Film History: An International Journal 21:3 (2009), pp. 208-228. Samson Raphaelson’s magnificent essay “Freundschaft” appeared in the issue of The New Yorker dated May 11, 1981.


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