21 February 2018

Die Austernprinzessin (1919)

In his early European films, director Ernst Lubitsch alternated between escapist comedies and large-scale historical dramas, enjoying great international success with both. A triumph was Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919), featuring Ossi Oswalda. It is a sparkling satire caricaturising American manners.

Ossi Oswalda in Die Austernprinzessin (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 611/1. Photo: Union / Ufa. Publicity still for Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Ossi Oswalda and Harry Liedtke.

Victor Janson in Die Austernprinzessin (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 611/2. Photo: Union / Ufa. Publicity still for Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Victor Janson.

Victor Janson, Ossi Oswalda and Harry Liedtke in Die Austernprinzessin (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 611/3. Photo: Union / Ufa. Publicity still for Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Victor Janson, Ossi Oswalda and Harry Liedtke.

Julius Falkenstein and Ossi Oswalda in Die Austernprinzessin (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 611/5. Photo: Union / Ufa. Publicity still for Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Julius Falkenstein and Ossi Oswalda.

A miracle of screen acting and directing


Ossi Oswalda plays a spoilt American heiress, the daughter of Mister Quaker (Victor Janson), the oyster-king of America. Quaker cannot be impressed anymore. He is so rich that he even has a special butler holding his cigar while he is smoking.

Ossi throws a jealous fit because the daughter of the 'Shoe-cream king' has married a count. Quaker promises his daughter he will find her a real prince. He makes an offer to the impoverished prince Nucki (Harry Liedtke) who lives in a one-room apartment.

Nucki sends his friend Josef (Julius Falkenstein) to get a clear idea of the woman. Josef introduces himself under the guise of the prince's name! Mistaken identity in place, the film's madcap humor takes off from there.

Ernst Lubitsch made this wonderful, a bit surrealistic comedy when he was only 27. His co-writer is Hanns Kräly who became an Oscar winner later on for his writing on Lubitsch's films. Highlighta here include a meticulously choreographed 'foxtrot epidemic' and a mass boxing-match among a group of billionaire's daughters.

Gerard Lenz at IMDb: "Ossi Oswalda (...) somehow manages to be tempestuous, spiteful, spoiled, endearing, lovable and sexy at the same time. A miracle of screen acting and directing. Stemming from 1919, the film reflects the coming of a new age of relative sexual freedom, female self-determination and the resignation of the aristocracy as the determining force of Central European society after the defeat of the World War."

Victor Janson in Die Austernprinzessin (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 611/6. Photo: Union / Ufa. Publicity still for Die Austernprinzessin/The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Victor Janson.

Ossi Oswalda
Ossi Oswalda. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 529/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Ossi Oswalda-Film.

Ernst Lubitsch, Ossi Oswalda
Ernst Lubitsch and Ossi Oswalda. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 337/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Zander & Labisch.

Sources: Gerard Lenz (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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