"The "Lubitsch-touch" was a trademark even beyond the world of film. Josef von Sternberg, not precisely a friend of Lubitsch, defined the Lubitsch touch as "the basic idea...that someone, regardless of what happened, kept an amused twinkle in his eye and never lost his cool." Lubitsch, a Berliner, whose father tried to dissuade him from a theatrical career, attracted attention at a very early age appearing in comic and grotesque roles, including that of the Hunchback in "Sumurun" under the direction of Max Reinhardt. Lubitsch later made a film of "Sumurun".
He went into the motion picture industry, a field then regarded with social disapproval. He became a director and was soon very successful with comedies, such as "Kohlhiesel's Daughters."
Lubitsch major creative period began after World War I. With films such as "Madame Dubarry" (1919) and "Anne Boleyn" (1920), now considered classics, he became a "humanizer of history". His leading actors were Pola Negri and Emil Jannings. Although filmed in impoverished postwar Berlin, these films could compete even on a technical level with expensive Hollywood productions.
He began to attract attention in America and after the successful run of the film "Madame Dubarry," called "one of the most outstanding films of our time" by the New York Times, he went to Hollywood.
Lubitsch became famous after directing Mary Pickford in "Rosita" in 1923. His next picture, the stylish comedy "The Marriage Circle" (1924), also was a box office success. Film after film revealed his unique cinematographic imagination: "Forbidden Paradise" (1924), "Kiss Me Again" (1925), "Lady Windermere's Fan" (1925), "So this is Paris" (1926). In all these films he developed "this disdainful twinkle of continental wit." With the advent of sound, he also explored new recording techniques in such films as "The Love Parade" (1929) and "Monte Carlo" (1930) with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.
One of Lubitsch's greatest successes was "Ninotchka," (1939) in which Greta Garbo played the lead and which starred such famous Berlin actors as Granach, Bressart and Lorre. "This film by Lubitsch," the New York Times stated, "is worth at least a thousand words more than we can print here."
Many other famous films were to follow, such as "The Shop around the Corner," "To Be or Not To Be," and "Heaven Can Wait." In addition to his activities as a director, Lubitsch also became a producer during the 40's.
Lubitsch died suddenly in 1947. "We shall never again see men like him," stated an obituary. "The world they celebrated has perished," it said. "Even before he himself died, it lived on only in Lubitsch's memory."
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