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Jacques de Baroncelli
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If you want to see a delightful musical comedy and with Lilian Harvey at her best, look no further than 1938's 'Capriccio.' Imagine a French costume picture reminiscent of a Mozart comic opera about a woman (Harvey) posing as a man to escape an arranged marriage, causing amusing situations a la 'Viktor und Viktoria' while advised by her dead grandfather who also relates the story, and this comes close to describing the film's crammed plot. Besides the operetta-like score there's a bit of anachronistic jazz music that somehow works well to add more laughs to the confusion and commotion. Everything about this film including the humorous songs & dance numbers rival the best of any Hollywood equivalent of that era. We watched this yesterday and were swept away by its inventiveness. Paul Kemp who almost stole 'Amphitryon' from his co-stars is almost as good here. One of several memorable bits edited for maximum comic effect concerns an anxious mother's attempt to marry off her daughters. What's most interesting is that the director, Karl Ritter, was known for making mostly military-propaganda films like 'Stukas' so how he made a musical comedy this entertaining is a mystery. A comprehensive description is presented on the website below where you can see a clip from this very good quality disc: "The film was hated by Hitler and Goebbels, but the director was powerful and it was released to glowing reviews and an enthusiastic public. After a very short time in theatres, it was pulled out of circulation." I can't find their reasons for disliking this film because it makes fun of the French but maybe not enough to suit their propaganda needs. Maybe they disliked the farcical jabs at the institutions of marriage and courts, nuns and convent girls, and almost everything else in society, especially character actor Aribert Wäscher's portrayal of a bloated, boozing government official being duped by everyone. Or as my wife said it simply, Hitler and Goebbels had no sense of humor. I suspect the main reason 'Capriccio' had a short theatrical run was to punish Harvey for her defiant activities a year earlier. According to Wikipedia: "As she was still in touch with her Jewish colleagues, Harvey was placed under close observation by the Gestapo. Nevertheless she pushed the career of her protégé, director Paul Martin, performing in his screwball comedy 'Glückskinder' (1936)... In June 1937 Harvey had helped the choreographer Jens Keith, prosecuted under Paragraph 175 for his homosexuality by posting bail for him. Released from custody, Keith escaped to Paris; this led to a stern interrogation by the Nazi authorities. In 1939, Harvey was forced to leave Germany herself, leaving her real-estate fortune, which was confiscated." Anyway this film is one to watch over & over because you'll miss some of the verbal & visual jokes the first time and maybe second while you're laughing. You can order a good subtitled copy at: rarefilmsandmore.com
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