Silent Saturday: The Doll (Die Puppe)

1919 romantic comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Despite his rich uncle's wishes for him to get married and continue the family line, shy Lancelot resists and eventually flees to a monastery. When the monks find out that the uncle is offering up a large sum of money if his nephew marries, they convince him to marry a doll. A mix-up at the doll factory might mess up everybody's plans though. Oh, snap!

This delightful Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy is the second of his I've watched for my Silent Saturdays, and I enjoyed this one, which focuses on a simpler story, more than The Oyster Princess. There's a refreshing buoyancy here, and it gave me the same sort of feelings I got when I first fell in love with silent comedies. The quirkiness is ahead of its time, it's filled with pitch-perfect comedic performances, and the silly scenario is goofy enough to fall in love with.

I loved some of the little touches in this. There's a cute opener with somebody (Lubitsch, maybe?) assembling a little tabletop stage with a house, little trees, and some characters, giving the whole thing the sort of vibe you'd expect from a fairy tale. I described that poorly, so here's a picture:

There are paper suns and moons and the use of people in horse costumes instead of actual horses which give it more of this artificial quality, and the kinds of exaggerated characters you'd expect to love in a silent comedy like this also help give it that breezy feel. Lubitsch isn't afraid to take a satirical jab or two either as he gives us some of the most comically greedy monks you're ever likely to meet.

I really thought this movie was legitimately funny. I'm not sure I laughed audibly, but I know I watched the entire movie with a giant smile on my face. And since I watched this while sitting in front of a women's bathroom, you can bet I got some pretty strange looks. But the doll maker's (Victor Jansen) changing hair, a Keaton-esque chase scene through the streets, those monks, the funny performance of Ossi Oswalda, some darker humor with an apprentice character who is either a child or a little person and who might be completely superfluous. There's just a lot to smile at here.

Ossi Oswalda really is great in sort-of dual roles. She plays the daughter, and she plays the daughter pretending to be a doll, and she's just cute as a damn button. She gets some great slapstick moments, mostly at the wedding ceremony. That includes a great dancing scene.

My type of woman! Add her to the list of silent film stars who I would like to sleep with if I had a time machine.

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