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Ernst Lubitsch






Ernst Lubitsch, son of the Jewish tailor Simcha (Simon) Lubitsch and his wife Anna née Lindenstaedt, is born in Berlin on January 28th 1892.

After secondary school (Gymnasium), he begins an apprenticeship in a fabric firm, also working as bookkeeper for his father.

Ernest Lubitsch and Max Ehrlich are second cousins by marriage (Ernst's aunt, Regina Lubitsch née Baum, is the first cousin of  Max's mother, Therese Ehrlich née Hartwig). So the two boys,  born the same year, grow up as friends.

It is not known whether Ernest Lubitsch first communicated his interest in the stage to Max Ehrlich or vice versa. Probably they simply shared this passion and reinforced it in each other. But starting in 1910, both of them are enrolled in the same class at Max Reinhardt's acting school at the German Theater (Deutsche Theatre).



While in acting school, Ernst Lubitsch does cabaret appearances, specializing in slapstick comedy. Thereafter, from 1911-1918, he is a bit part player in the cast of the German Theater (Deutsche Theater) .

But, already in 1913, he makes his film debut.

Since he is unable to find suitable parts in the theater, together with friends, he writes a series of one act plays which he directs and in which he also plays the leading role.

In 1917 Ernst Lubitsch, with his small staff, begins working as a director at the newly founded Universum Film AG. This company soon goes on to become UFA, the movie industry giant.

As of 1918, Skillfully applying to film the production style that he learned from Max Reinhardt (i.e. large scale productions with enormous stage sets), Ernst Lubitsch produces the future film classics: Eyes of the Mummy Mâ (Die Augen der Mumie Mâ) followed by Passion (Madame Dubarry);  the latter in fact becomes Germany's first box office hit in New York and the United States.

Following this success, in 1923 he moves to Hollywood, producing a series of social comedies whose themes are largely drawn from European literature. But as a result of the strong censorship which characterizes Hollywood at the time, he develops his  famous "Lubitsch Touch", a technique based on irony, insinuation, second degree references and indirect commentary, which goes on to deeply influence all of America's film comedy.

In 1929, with his first sound film The Love Parade, Ernst Lubitsch takes the Operetta film genre to new heights. Never done before, he creates, not a stage production adapted to film, but a true film operetta artfully exploiting the visual possibilities offered by this media (special effects, moving cameras, etc.) as well as a true marriage between image and sound, using music as a sort of satirical commentary about the image.

Named Head of Production at Paramount in 1935, by 1936 he has his own production group.

Other Lubitsch classics, include: Ninotschka staring Greta Garbo, To be or not to be and his final film in 1943 Heaven can wait.



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                                 Last modified: January 5th 2012