Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise

Overview

"None of us thought we were making anything but entertainment for the moment. Only Ernst Lubitsch knew we were making art."?John Ford

When movie lovers speak of the "Lubitsch touch," they refer to a singular sense of style and taste, humor and humanity, that suffused the films of one of Hollywood's greatest directors. In this first ever full-length biography of Ernst Lubitsch, Scott Eyman takes readers behind the scenes of such classic films as Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), Bluebeard's ...
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Overview

"None of us thought we were making anything but entertainment for the moment. Only Ernst Lubitsch knew we were making art."—John Ford

When movie lovers speak of the "Lubitsch touch," they refer to a singular sense of style and taste, humor and humanity, that suffused the films of one of Hollywood's greatest directors. In this first ever full-length biography of Ernst Lubitsch, Scott Eyman takes readers behind the scenes of such classic films as Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop around the Corner (1940), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and Heaven Can Wait (1943), which together constitute one of the most important and influential bodies of work in Hollywood. Eyman examines both the films Lubitsch crafted and the life he lived—his great successes and his overwhelming anxieties—to create an indelible portrait of Hollywood's Golden Age and one of its most respected artists.

About the Author:
Scott Eyman is the books editor for the Palm Beach Post. His other books include The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930 and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, both available in paperback from Johns Hopkins.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In an entrancing, revealing biography that illuminates the unique chemistry behind 'the Lubitsch touch,' Eyman limns a single-minded director, despised by Hitler, who embodied the classic immigrant experience in Hollywood by giving a European twist to American genres.
Kirkus
Gratifying biography of one of the screen's greatest directors... Distinguished. Written for full orchestra, it captures every subtlety.
Hollywood Reporter
A resoundingly wonderful, first-ever full-dress biography of the inspired filmmaker... Eyman writes with steady brilliance throughout but takes on extra luster when describing the making of Lubitsch's greatest works.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) made elegant, warmly human comedies exuding sexual sophistication, yet in his personal life, notes Eyman, the German-born film director was vulnerable and almost naive. Son of a middle-class Berlin tailor who had escaped the squalor of czarist Russia, Lubitsch moved to Hollywood in 1922 with his first wife, temperamental actress Helene Sonnet Kraus. Her affair with Lubitsch's best friend, screenwriter Hans Kraly, wrecked their marriage, reports Eyman ( Mary Pickford ). Lubitsch's second wife, aristocratic Vivian Gaye, who considered him vulgar, was widely viewed as a gold digger by his friends. As production head of Paramount, Lubitsch encountered a hornet's nest of egos and political intrigue that led to his dismissal in 1936. In an entrancing, revealing biography that illuminates the unique chemistry behind ``the Lubitsch Touch,'' Eyman limns a single-minded director, despised by Hitler, who embodied the classic immigrant experience in Hollywood by giving a European twist to American genres in classics like Ninotchka , Design for Living and Heaven Can Wait. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
After starring in and directing silent films in Germany, Lubitsch emigrated to America, where his success continued until he died in 1947. Lubitsch produced, directed, and was the uncredited co-writer on some of the most stylish and sophisticated comedies ever made, including Trouble in Paridise (1932), Ninotchka (1939), and To Be or Not To Be (1942). Eyman's well-researched biography is successful in showing how Lubitsch was similar to, and different from, the characters in his films. While Eyman is not blind to Lubitsch's faults, his admiration is evident. More detailed notes on the sources would have been welcome; nevertheless, this account is highly recommended.-- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Gordon Flagg
During Hollywood's golden age, film director Ernst Lubitsch was known for the sophistication, understated wit, and sexual suggestiveness of his movies--in short, for "the Lubitsch touch." Starting out in pre-World War I Berlin as an actor in Max Reinhardt's company, Lubitsch became one of Europe's leading film directors and was the first major German director to emigrate in 1922 to the U.S. Moving smoothly into the sound era, he virtually invented the movie musical in "The Love Parade" 1929 and in the mid-1930s was made production head at Paramount--thus the only director ever to run a Hollywood studio. Although audiences' tastes turned in the 1930s from sophisticated satires to screwball comedies, Lubitsch's later films, including "Ninotchka" and "Heaven Can Wait", were among his best. The director lacked the "savoir faire" of his films' characters. His two marriages both ended unhappily, and his other romantic liaisons fared little better. His skills behind the camera and personal charm, however, inspired the loyalty and affection of actors, screenwriters, and other coworkers, many of whom shared their reminiscences with Eyman, whose work is consequently heavy with anecdotes but entertaining and informative.
Kirkus Reviews
Gratifying biography of one of the screen's greatest directors, by Eyman (Mary Pickford, 1992—not reviewed), film critic for the Palm Beach Post. Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) foretold that all his films, as well as those of his contemporaries, would vanish and turn to nitrate dust in the cans—and many did, film seemingly not having the longevity even of flesh. Fortunately, much of Lubitsch's work survives, because, unlike most of his fellow directors, Lubitsch didn't treat his films as just so much entertainment; instead, he patiently bathed them in wit and artistry, and, later, in humanity. A Berlin Jew of Russian ancestry, Lubitsch at 19 was a minor comic actor in the famed Max Reinhardt troupe, training that soon aided him marvelously when it came to directing film actors. Before coming to Hollywood in the early 20's, he'd directed and acted in dozens of silent German features (some of the best of them now lost utterly). A merry, cigar-smoking gnome of immense creativity, he had no rivals but many imitators. He wrote or cowrote (with playwright/screenwriter Samson Raphaelson, Billy Wilder, and others) nearly all his films, basing them largely on Hungarian farces or great operettas, and he invented the film musical whose lyrics and dance numbers not only advance the plot but demand witty camera work. His greatest talkies include The Merry Widow, Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, Ninotchka, To Be or Not to Be, and Heaven Can Wait, while even his misfires and lesser works shine with "the Lubitsch Touch" (a poor phrase, Eyman says). Lubitsch's former collaborator Raphaelson, the author tells us, thinks the director an unsentimental, vulgar man who never read abook but who nonetheless stood topmost among the most boundlessly charming men ever born. Readers driven to seek Lubitsch out in video stores will no doubt agree. Distinguished. Written for full orchestra, it captures every subtlety. (Photographs)
Hollywood Reporter
A resoundingly wonderful, first-ever full-dress biography of the inspired filmmaker... Eyman writes with steady brilliance throughout but takes on extra luster when describing the making of Lubitsch's greatest works.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671749361
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/5/1993
  • Pages: 416

Meet the Author

Scott Eyman is the books editor for the Palm Beach Post. His other books include The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930 and Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, both available in paperback from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents:



Preface to The Johns Hopkins Edition



Prologue

Laughter in Paradise

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Filmography

Bibliography

Index

Johns Hopkins University Press

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