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The Doll (1919)

Die Puppe (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Fantasy | 6 April 1920 (Finland)
Because the Baron of Chanterelle wants to preserve his family line, he forces his timid nephew Lancelot to choose one of the village maidens to wed. Lancelot flees to a monastery to escape ... See full summary »

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

E.T.A. Hoffmann (story), Hanns Kräly | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Max Kronert Max Kronert ... Baron von Chanterelle
Hermann Thimig ... Lancelot
Victor Janson Victor Janson ... Hilarius
Marga Köhler Marga Köhler ... Dessen Frau
Ossi Oswalda ... Ossi - His Daughter
Gerhard Ritterband Gerhard Ritterband ... Der Lehrling
Jakob Tiedtke ... Der Briar
Josefine Dora Josefine Dora ... Lancelot's Maid
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lapitski Lapitski
Paul Morgan
Hedy Searle Hedy Searle
Arthur Weinschenk Arthur Weinschenk
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Storyline

Because the Baron of Chanterelle wants to preserve his family line, he forces his timid nephew Lancelot to choose one of the village maidens to wed. Lancelot flees to a monastery to escape the forty eager maidens. When the gluttonous monks discover that the Baron is offering a large sum for the marriage, they suggest Lancelot marry a mechanical doll instead. The doll maker has just finished making a replica of his daughter Ossi, but his assistant accidentally breaks it and convinces the real girl to mimic the doll. Lancelot buys her, thinking she is a doll, and takes her back to the monastery, where they are wed. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Fantasy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Germany

Release Date:

6 April 1920 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

The Doll See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2000 restored) | (copy with French titles at Brussels Musée du Cinéma)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Connections

Featured in Der Fall Metropolis (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Artificial Doubling
1 May 2010 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

"The Doll" is a delightful feature--the best I've seen of director Ernst Lubitsch's German films. The deliberately artificial and often theatrical settings--flat backdrops, fake trees and people in horse costumes included--by Kurt Richter saliently add to the picture's enchantment and fairytale-like narrative. "The Doll" is similar in this approach to Maurice Tourneur's 1918 films "The Blue Bird" and "Prunella." Like "The Blue Bird," "The Doll" has a few moments that seem reminiscent of the feéries of early-cinema pioneer Georges Méliès, such as the Moon's facial expressions and the stop-motion animation to change the doll maker's hair. Highly-artificial theatricality was also adopted for "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920), although in a very different way. Lubitsch begins the film well by appearing in front of the camera to introduce and arrange the mise-en-scène in miniature--a scene that then fades to the actual set and beginning of the story proper.

In it, the baron's nephew doesn't want to marry a woman, so he purchases what he believes is a life-size doll to be his wife. Meanwhile, a real woman, the doll maker's daughter, is pretending to be that doll to hide that the doll maker's apprentice broke the doll that was based on her appearance. So, the nephew thinks he's fooling everyone, when he's the one being fooled. It's a simple narrative, briskly plotted, and very well enacted. The inherent sexism isn't lost on Lubitsch either, as a humorous advertisement offers the doll maker's product to widowers and misogynists alike. Additionally, there are a few light sex jokes throughout. Ossi Oswalda is wonderful, cute and funny, with her various expressions and movements, including the dancing, as she plays the character masquerading as a lifeless doll. Her performance significantly helps make this photoplay entertaining. The slapstick and subplot antics between the wacky-looking doll maker and his young apprentice are even amusing and appreciated.

Dancing and a comedy chase make their way into this and other Lubitsch films. The themes of mistaken identity or masquerading as acting and doubles also underlie the humor of several Lubitsch comedies, in Germany and America. His three earliest comedies that I've seen ("The Merry Jail," "I Don't Want to Be a Man" and "The Oyster Princess") all play with these ideas in different and self-reflexive ways, with characters pretending to be someone else. The girl isn't only doubled as a doll; her image is literally doubled photographically during a dream scene. Moreover, the theme of fakery extends further in "The Doll": the dolls are fake, a real woman fakes being one of them, which is supported by the fake appearance of much of the film's production design. The entire production coalesces to firmly establish the film's world as fantasy. The sets and designs of Lubitsch's German films seem to have always been impressive, but in some of them, it feels that they overwhelm their plays, or that the narratives and characters were never equal to the grand décors, but in "The Doll," it all fits together.


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