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Oyster-king Quaker cannot be impressed anymore. He is so rich that he even has a special butler holding his cigar while he is smoking. The only thing Quaker would be impressed by is if his daughter Ossi were to marry a real prince. He makes an offer to the poor prince Nucki, who sends his friend Josef to get a clear idea of the woman. Written by
Ernst Lubitsch helped open the American market to German cinema with "Madame DuBarry", re-titled "Passion" there, and the director himself emigrated to the US early in the 1920s to direct Mary Pickford and where he continued to have a successful career. "The Oyster Princess", released the same year in Germany as "Madame DuBarry", makes fun of the director's would-be new homeland. Although tongue-in-cheek, the film shows that a rich aristocracy with their excessive luxury exists in the US and wasn't peculiarly part French or European historyan aristocracy created by industry. All that's missing is the traditional title, which is just what the oyster princess in the film seeks through marriage. Victor Janson is especially amusing as the fat, lazy and straight-faced oyster king of America, who is no longer impressed and who has herds of servants to do every small task for him. Besides the American parody and absurdity, much of the film's comedy and plot stem from mistaken identity, which was also the case in Lubitsch's other early comedies: "The Merry Jail" (1917), "I Don't Want to Be a Man" (1918-20) and "The Doll" (1919), as well as others.
The 35mm restored print from the F.W. Murnau Foundation is vastly superior to the copy I'd seen years ago on video; through it, Lubitsch's already-by-1919 polished filmmaking is more apparent (although, of course, lesser so than his later work). There's a triptych shot of dancing feet, some good visual comedic timing through editing, reaction shots and detail close-ups of characters, and some good staging throughout. Even the keyhole shots and the jump cuts during the unison waiting at dinner look okay. An extended fox trot sequence stands out, especially for being a musical dance in a "silent" movie. Although by, at least, the end of the silent era, musical numbers were becoming common despite the lack of synchronized sound; additionally, Lubitsch made musicals once the talkies came. The humor is sometimes broad and very unsubtle, and the filmmaking isn't always technically perfect, but this is an appealing and amusing early effort by Lubitsch.
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