The Oyster Princess (Germany, 1919):
(Dir Austernprinzessin)

Slender as it is, I like this antsy little Ernst Lubitsch comedy far better than that same year's Madame DuBarry, the UFA succès d'estime that cemented his reputation as filmmaker and caught the attention of Mary Pickford across the Pacific. Introduced smashing her room and demanding a husband, Ossi Oswalda plays the Oyster Princess, the spitfire daughter of bored magnate Victor Janson. The agency sends for ruined prince Harry Liedtke, who sends flatmate Julius Falkenstein to check her out. Identity switcheroos, impromptu marriages and female boxing matches follow. The social satire is much more haphazardly structured (and less savage) than in Lubitsch's later pictures, though the film crams considerable dexterity in its brisk running time, particularly in some Falkenstein skipping/Oswalda bathing/Janson snoring parallel editing, and a foxtrot wedding sequence that, like the Charleston soirée in So This Is Paris, uses silent-movie craft to visualize musical rhythm. And the theme of adultery, central to much of the director's work, crops up in nascent form -- while the groom luxuriates in his first decent meal in days, the impatient, freshly-wed Oswalda loses no time in finding a new lover (though the mistaken identity arc conveniently circumscribes the coupling's transgression). In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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