Thursday, March 03, 2016

Her Majesty, Love, William Dieterle, 1931

The dialogue is translated almost verbatim and not always in a smart way from the original, Paul May's IHRE MAJESTÄT, DIE LIEBE (which happens to be one of my favorite german films). Also, Dieterle repeats and sometimes even improves on a lot of May's sight gags. He even steals at least a few shots directly from the earlier film.

Still, Dieterle's version feels completely different. I'll never love this one half as much as the original, but it sure isn't "watered down" or something like that. In fact, it feels quite a bit more permissive than IHRE MAJESTÄT, thanks to both Marilyn Miller's sensual and natural acting (I actually prefer her to Käthy von Nagy... she should've been a huge star...) and Dieterle's maybe equally natural sleaziness, which is evident in most of his precode work and manifests itself in an obsession with his actresses legs, especially.

Also, it is a full half hour shorter despite only eliminating one small subplot and changing/shortening the ending (probably in order to not having to leave the studio). Everything's tied up quite a bit, and still nothing feels rushed - Dieterle's comic book style and First National's economic imperatives work (for the most part) in harmony.

For me, the most important change is the casting of W.C. Fields. His character and especially its showbiz background have a stronger presence in the plot than S.Z. Szakall's in the original, and his perfectly timed and just a little bit showy comedy routines (his proud display of his juggling mastery, especially) strongly alter the tone of the film, eliminating almost all remnances of ethnic humour and transforming it into a meticulously packaged piece of musical comedy.

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