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Edwin E. Reed
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
Today, those who love the films from Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and 40s are no doubt familiar with director Ernst Lubitsch and his famed 'Lubitsch touch'. He was able to create a wonderful and almost magical romantic-comedy atmosphere that was tough to beat and he became one of the country's top film makers after leaving his native Germany. However, gaining the touch was NOT an immediate thing--it took him years to hone his craft--working from a dance hall performer to director of low-brow comedies to a true craftsman. This is NOT a criticism--just the observation that even the greatest film makers didn't just receive a gift from the gods--it took hard work to build up to that point in their careers.
"The Oyster Princess" is a magnificent example of an early Lubitsch film before he developed the famed touch. While it has evidence of cleverness, the film also is about as low-brow as you get--and certainly, unlike the touch, far from subtle.
The film begins with a spoiled young rich girl (Ossi Oswalda) throwing one of the lamest tantrums in film history. It's supposed to be comical, but to me it was way too broad--like a cheap burlesque performance--even for a silent film. She's mad because another spoiled daddy's girl just married a count and she wants to marry a member of the royalty, too. Daddy promises her a prince and goes about trying to get her one--even if it's a poor one in need of cash. The film is a not too subtle jab at the 'nouveau riche'--industrialists who thought they could buy respectability and social standing even though, at heart, they and their kids were clods! While there were a few moments that were a bit funny, the overall effect is cheap--not a quality film you'd expect to see from Germany's UFA studios (a real class act). And, the only reason I gave it a score as high as 5 is that I liked Lubitsch's crazy surreal touches--like the four uniformed black men who slavishly took care of the boss as well as the way the household staff marched about like the folks in "Duck Soup"--but sadly, there was way too little of these sort of touches. Not a bad film at all...just not a particularly outstanding one and lousy over the top performances abounded.
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