Classic Movie Legend Tribute: Ernest Lubitsch


Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Ernst Lubitsch, born January 28, 1892!

I want you to do me a little a favor. Read the following loglines from three different classic films:

“A stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.”
“An old roué arrives in Hades to review his life with Satan, who will rule on his eligibility to enter the Underworld.”
“During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier’s efforts to track down a German spy.”


Some pretty heavy stuff, am I right? I mean, death, political intrigue, and Nazis; those are all the things that make the greatest of dramas. And Ninotchka, Heaven Can Wait and To Be or Not to Be are all remembered as some of the greatest dramas to come out of the classic movie era. Oh, wait. My mistake, they’re all remembered as some of the greatest comedies to come out of classic Hollywood.

You see, that is great thing about birthday boy Ernst Lubitsch. He had the uncanny ability to take heavy, dark subject matters and find the inherent comical elements that exist within that reality. The amazing thing about Lubitsch wasn’t that he could simply make serious subjects hilarious; rather, it was that he did so using a lethal cocktail of sophistication, wit, and a slight splash of cynicism.  His humor didn’t rely on making the audience laugh AT the subject matter. No, his craft was far too elegant for the lowest common denominator. The beauty of the “Lubitsch Touch” was that it commented on the subject matter itself and the humorous situation inherent in such sadness.


Ninotchka (1939, Ernst Lubitsch director)


Heaven Can Wait (1943, Ernst Lubitsch director)


To Be or Not to Be (1942, Ernst Lubitsch director)


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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