Magazine article The New Yorker

The View from Abroad

Magazine article The New Yorker

The View from Abroad

Article excerpt

Hollywood has always been a haven for immigrants with talent. One of the greatest, Ernst Lubitsch, arrived there from Germany in the early nineteen-twenties, not pushed by political turmoil but pulled by money. American wealth is at the heart of his 1938 comedy, "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife," one of the offerings in "The Claudette Colbert Collection," a six-film set from Universal.

Gary Cooper stars as a self-made tycoon vacationing on the Riviera who meets cute with Colbert in a department store when he tries to buy only a pajama top (she offers to buy the bottom). Colbert is the daughter of a penniless aristocrat (Edward Everett Horton), whose wiles turn out to be as refined as his manners. The story--about a noble family that's down on its luck and is willing to sell off its daughter to a wealthy but uncouth commoner--is straight out of Henry James, but Lubitsch (working from a script co-written by another European immigrant, Billy Wilder) turns it into an elegantly eroticized version of "The Taming of the Shrew," with results that are as funny as they are subtly grotesque.

In 1944, for his second American film, Douglas Sirk--born Claus Detlev Sierck, also a German emigre--cast his gaze eastward. …

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