The title is difficult to translate. In Germany, it is or was a well-known quote from Proverbs 19:16: He that keepeth the commandments, keepeth his own soul safe and secure; but ein mann auf abwegen "A man who despiseth his ways" shall perish. Now the his could mean God's ways or his own ways. I think it's pretty plain from the text that the author is indicating God's way. But that's not the way that Germans of all persuasions Lutherans, Catholics, you name it take it. They interpret it to mean the man's own ways. So I would suggest: A Man Who Despised His Role or A Man Who Despised What He Was Doing or A Man Who Went Wrong. They are all pretty weak titles, I admit, but if you can suggest something better SYNOPSIS: When the Swedish oil magnate, Percy Pattersson (Hans Albers), disappears without a trace, a journalist, Nils Nilsen (Werner Fuetterer) maintains that Pattersson fled because his newest projects would have turned out badly and his whole enterprise was facing ruin. Pattersson's daughter, Ingrid (Charlotte Thiele), is naturally upset and demands that Nilsen retract his accusations. She persuades Nilsen to help her track down her father and face him directly. In the meantime, however, Pattersson has sought out his friend, Marcella's uncle, Raymondo, at his lakeside retreat and through an hilarious accident on the lake in which he was forced to cover his nakedness with a rain barrel, he has encountered the love of his life, the appropriately named Lisaweta (Hilde Weissner).
COMMENT: Politically, Selpin was treading on thin ice with this one. It is not too great a stretch of imagination to see Pattersson = Hitler, Lisaweta = Eva Braun, the dumb detective = Goering. The costumer has obviously gone to considerable trouble to emphasize Weissner's peculiar (though nonetheless attractive), S-shaped figure. And as for Pattersson, he simply dominates the movie. Only Raymondo (= Goebbels?) stands up to him. Scenes in which Pattersson is not present are few and far between and are either given short shrift (the whole sub-plot involving the chase by daughter and journalist hardly exists) or are still dominated by Pattersson anyway (the boardroom set in which the players are consistently dwarfed by the largest portrait ever seen in a movie it stands at least 40 feet high).
Whether this political angle is deliberate or not, it's certainly true that Albers is allowed to totally overpower all the other players in the movie, except Weissner and Waldau, and very briefly the lovely Hilde Sessak, who is forced to play the end of her big scene with Albers with her back to the camera. She should complain! At least we know it's her! On the other hand, the gorgeous Charlotte Thiele is so obscured by both deep shadows and a very weird camera angle in her initial scene that I didn't even recognize her! But you could plainly see Albers all the time and hear him loud and clear. And as for the lovely Gloria Lilienborn and her troupe, I actually missed them altogether the first time through! Of course, Selpin no doubt had a political angle for throwing the whole movie into Albers' lap. He knew and he knew that Goebbels knew that Albers had a Jewish girl friend, Hansi Burg, and that Albers was secretly meeting her in London. To expose this relationship and during wartime at that would have done enormous damage to the Nazi cause so long as Albers remained far and away Germany's top movie star. But if his ratings should slip, then Goebbels might be tempted to expose him. (To a certain extent, Goebbels' hands were also tied by the fact that Hitler was a keen movie fan and a longtime admirer of Albers whom he often praised as the Aryan ideal. Hitler's reaction to news of betrayal was unpredictable. There was at least a 50/50 chance he would kill the messenger).
Nonetheless, even aside from its possible political angles and the deliberate, way-over-the-top build-up that Albers received from the script, director, photographer, wardrobe man, etc., Ein Mann auf Abwegen is still a most entertaining movie, produced on a grand budget. I'm going to take another look at it my third! right now.
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