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Cinematheque to show eight classic comedies by Ernst Lubitsch

November 02
December 14

Where George Gund Building , Aitken Auditorium

Cinematheque to show eight classic comedies by Ernst Lubitsch

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Eight elegant, sophisticated American comedy classics of uncommon verbal and visual wit – all directed by Ernst Lubitsch – will show between November 2 and December 14 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, 11141 East Boulevard in University Circle. The series, entitled “A Touch of Lubitsch,” celebrates the work of one of history’s most exalted filmmakers. Lubitsch (1892-1947) was called "a man of pure cinema" by Alfred Hitchcock and "a giant" by Orson Welles.

“In my 27 years of running the Cinematheque,” said Cinematheque Director John Ewing, “I have never presented a Lubitsch series here. And it’s about time I did. He’s not only one of the greatest comedy directors; he’s one of the greatest directors who ever lived. I think newbies will be surprised by how clever and funny and touching these ‘old’ movies can be.”

Born in Germany, where he joined Max Reinhardt's theatre company before becoming a successful silent screen comedian and director, Lubitsch came to Hollywood in 1922 and never left. But he brought the Continent with him. Lubitsch's American films tended to be set in an idealized, refined old Europe created on the studio backlot ("I prefer Paris, Paramount, to Paris, France," he once said) where attractive, cosmopolitan, well-mannered men and women had time to indulge in the nonstop pursuit of money and sex.

Lubitsch's films (many written by the great Samson Raphaelson) were often cynical, amoral, and risqué, so to skirt the censors' scissors, he had to be discreet in his depiction of taboo subjects. He managed to do this via a virtuosic, often elliptical visual style that used objects (e.g., closed doors) as metaphors, thus slyly suggesting illicit activities rather than showing them explicitly. This ability came to be celebrated as the "Lubitsch touch."

Though Lubitsch was only 55 when he died, he directed 72 films (44 features and 28 shorts) in a career that spanned four decades. The Cinematheque series concentrates on his late studio comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, which include many of his greatest and most famous works—from Trouble in Paradise and To Be or Not To Be to Ninotchka and The Shop Around the Corner (remade as 1998’s You’ve Got Mail). These movies, at their best, are "at once elegant and ribald, sophisticated and earthy, urbane and bemused, frivolous yet profound" (Michael Wilmington). And all will be shown in 35mm prints that should sparkle as much as the wit.

All of the films will show in the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Aitken Auditorium. Admission to each movie is $9; Cinematheque members and CIA I.D. holders $7; age 25 & under $6. Free parking for filmgoers is available in the adjacent CIA lot, located off of East Boulevard. For further information, visit or call John Ewing or Tim Harry at 216.421.7450.

Film Schedule

Saturday, November 2, at 5:15pm
A Touch of Lubitsch
John Ewing introduces

USA, 1942, Ernst Lubitsch
A troupe of Polish actors led by a hammy husband-and-wife team (Jack Benny, Carole Lombard) outwit Hitler and the Nazis in this hilarious (and sometimes heartbreaking) comedy set in occupied Warsaw during WWII. Accused of bad taste in its day, this is now regarded as one of the all-time great screen comedies. The film will be introduced by Cinematheque Director John Ewing at 5:15. 35mm. 99 min.

Saturday, November 9, at 5:15pm &
Sunday, November 10, at 4:00pm
A Touch of Lubitsch
New 35mm Print!

USA, 1939, Ernst Lubitsch
“Garbo laughs” (or so proclaimed the original ads) in this celebrated Lubitsch comedy starring Greta Garbo and co-written by Billy Wilder. Prior to cracking up, Garbo is a severe, no-nonsense Soviet agent who has been sent to Paris to supervise the sale of some valuable jewels for her government. While there she falls for a debonair Western playboy (Melvyn Douglas) who represents everything she hates. With Bela Lugosi. 110 min.

Saturday, November 16, at 5:15pm &
Sunday, November 17, at 4:00pm
A Touch of Lubitsch

USA, 1932, Ernst Lubitsch
In Lubitsch’s celebrated pre-Code romantic comedy, a master thief (Herbert Marshall) and a beautiful pickpocket (Miriam Hopkins), both masquerading as European nobility, join forces to rob a wealthy perfume manufacturer (Kay Francis). This amoral hit was withdrawn from circulation when the Motion Picture Production Code went into effect in 1934, and remained shelved until 1968. “As close to perfection as anything I have ever seen in the movies.” –Dwight Macdonald. 35mm print from the Universal Pictures Studio Archive! 83 min. Dr. Philip Skerry, Emeritus Professor at Lakeland Community College, will introduce Sunday’s showing starting at 4pm.

Saturday, November 23, at 5:15pm &
Sunday, November 24, at 8:15pm
A Touch of Lubitsch

USA, 1933, Ernst Lubitsch
Fredric March, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins star in this Lubitsch comedy based on a Noel Coward play, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht. It tells of two American roommates in Paris, a painter and a playwright, who love the same woman. To help her choose between them, she proposes that she move in with them—but no hanky panky! 35mm print from the Universal Pictures studio archive! 35mm. 91 min.

Saturday, November 30, at 5:15pm &
Sunday, December 1, at 8:25pm
A Touch of Lubitsch

USA, 1937, Ernst Lubitsch
Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, and Melvyn Douglas star in this comedy about the neglected wife of a British diplomat who has a brief, anonymous affair with another man while on vacation in Paris. “Now seems to be one of [Lubitsch’s] best films.” -Andrew Sarris. 35mm print from the Universal Pictures studio archive! 91 min.

Saturday, December 7, at 5:15pm &
Sunday, December 8, at 8:35pm

USA, 1938, Ernst Lubitsch
Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, and David Niven star in this Lubitsch comedy written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who kept a sign in his office that said "How would Lubitsch do it?"). Colbert plays the eighth wife of an oft-divorced millionaire (Cooper) who is determined not to end up like her predecessors. 35mm print from the Universal Pictures studio archive! 85 min.

Friday, December 13, at 9:15pm &
Saturday, December 14, at 7:30pm
A Touch of Lubitsch

USA, 1940, Ernst Lubitsch
James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star in one of Lubitsch’s most beloved masterpieces, about two co-workers in a Budapest shop who don’t realize that they are secret lonely hearts pen pals. If this plotline sounds familiar, it’s because it was reworked in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail. With Frank Morgan. “I think I was never as good as in Shop Around the Corner. Never did I make a picture in which the atmosphere and the characters were truer than in this picture.” –Ernst Lubitsch. 35mm. 97 min.

Saturday, December 14, at 5:15pm
A Touch of Lubitsch

USA, 1943, Ernst Lubitsch
Lubitsch’s delightful late comedy (and the only Technicolor film in our series) stars Don Ameche as a recently deceased dandy and roué who shows up at the gates of Hell and tries to convince the Devil that his sinful life during the Gay Nineties (seen in flashback) qualifies him for eternal damnation. “Five stars (highest rating)…The most joyful fantasy-love story ever filmed.” –Video Movie Guide 1998. With Gene Tierney. 35mm color print from the Twentieth Century Fox studio archive! 112 min. Special thanks to Caitlin Robertson and Joe Reid. FYI, Warren Beatty’s 1978 Heaven Can Wait is not a remake of this film but of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941).

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Aitken Auditorium
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