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Two peasant children, Mytyl and Tyltyl, are led by Berylune, a fairy, to search for the Blue Bird of Happiness. Berylune gives Tyltyl a cap with a diamond setting, and when Tyltyl turns the... See full summary »
Edwin E. Reed
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High-spirited young Ossi Oswalda is the bane of her uncle and governess' existence. She insists on playing poker and smoking and talks with strange men on the street. When her uncle leaves to take up a new job, she looks forward to enjoying new freedom. Her hopes are dashed when her new guardian Dr. Kersten proves to be strict and unyielding. Frustrated with her cloistered life, Ossi sneaks out on the town dressed as a young man. She finds that being a man has its own disadvantages when she discovers she is not given the same gentle treatment when she is masquerading as a male.
The film was released in the US by Kino Lorber as part of the box set "Lubitsch in Berlin" in 2007 with English intertitles. It was also released in the UK by Eureka's Masters of Cinema series as part of the box set "Lubitsch in Berlin: Fairy-Tales, Melodramas, and Sex Comedies" in 2010 with German intertitles and English subtitles. See more »
Four of the earliest romantic comedies from Ernest Lubitsch that are available, "The Merry Jail" (1917), "The Oyster Princess", "The Doll" (both 1919) and this film, "I Don't Want to Be a Man", all base much of their humor around situations of mistaken identity. A character masquerades as someone else and absurdity and amusement ensue; in this case, our tomboy protagonist dresses and pretends to be a man for a day of drinking. Lengthy analysis could and probably has been written about the homosexual overtones of the scenes of the male lead repeatedly kissing and touching a woman he believes to be and appears to be a man.
Lubitsch's style was already fairly polished by this time, which is especially evident in the nice 35mm transfers of these films available on home video. The up and down camera movements for seasickness stand out as the most gimmicky technique. What I especially appreciate here, however, is some good comedic visual timing with amusing title cards. For example, in one scene, an intertitle states, "The poor child will be so miserable", which is followed by a shot of the "poor child" dancing zestfully. Overall, even if these early comedies by Lubitsch aren't exceptionally funny and their humor often broad, they're short and well paced; generally, I find them more enjoyable than his ponderous, early dramatic, costume spectacles with Pola Negri.
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