Our story begins on a busy Berlin street where a well-dressed young man Ferdi (Willi Forst) is strolling along the avenue, and when he stops to light a cigarette in front of a shop, a young woman leaving the shop drops a few packages. Ferdi assists her in picking up her parcels and engages her in a conversation. While strolling with her down the street, Ferdi abruptly snatches the young lady’s purse. He eludes the young lady and the people pursuing him by running through a courtyard. Ferdi takes the money out of the purse, discards the purse and leaves in a taxi that was waiting for him.
At that time, Erni Gottlinger (Marlene Dietrich), the daughter of a wealthy contractor, is celebrating in a café with a group of her admirers and her father, Mr. Gottlinger, is entertaining a lady friend in his office at the construction site. That evening, the notorious Café Electric, a gathering place for the lower elements of society, is crowded with prostitutes and pimps. Among the patrons is Ferdi. Also in the café is Erni who is frolicking with a group of her admirers. Ferdi, ever alert for an easy mark, strolls over to the table and asks her to dance. When the dance is over (The Black Bottom), Ferdi asks to see her again. Erni ignores him, but, before the evening is over, she leaves Ferdi her telephone number.
Also among the regulars that evening at the café is Hansi (Nina Vanna), one of Ferdi’s former lovers who, due to dire circumstances, is a prostitute. When Ferdi notices an admirer give Hansi a sum of money, he demands it. When Hansi refuses to give him any money, another former lover of Ferdi’s offers him money but he rejects it saying, “It’s not much.” As Hansi turns away, he lifts her money purse out of her pocket book.The next evening a bored Ferdi telephones Erni who is about to leave for the theater with Max (Igo Sym) who works for her father as an engineer. Accepting Ferdi’s offer, Erni informs Max that she has to visit a sick friend.Erni leaves for a rendezvous with Ferdi, and Max strolls through the streets of Berlin and stops in at a sidewalk café. A few minutes later, he is joined at his table by Hansi who’s looking for a customer, but Max ignores her. Hansi strikes up a conversation by seeking a match for her cigarette. At the same time, Erni is being wined and wooed at the café by Ferdi.
When Max asks to see Hansi again, she nods towards a hotel. He ignores the proposition, and she informs him that she can be found any evening at the Café Electric. They depart, and, in the meantime, Ferdi takes Erni to bed. In the morning as Erni is dressing, Ferdi tells her that he has to pay a large gambling debt and doesn’t have the money. Erni promises to get him the $500. She goes to her father’s construction site and asks Max for $500. Max tells her to wait in the office. Erni notices the keys to her father’s strong brox on a desk and Max enters the office as Erni is rifling the strong box of money and a ring. Erni refuses to return the stolen goods and tells Max that she needs it for a good cause. Mr. Gottlinger returns from his business trip with his lady friend the next day and finds that money and his ring are missing from his strong box and the suspicion of theft falls on Max and an office clerk. The events rush to judgment when Ferdi, back in the Café Electric, makes another play for Hansi and, as a token of his admiration for her, gives her the ring he received from Erni as a token of his affection. On a surprise visit to Ferdi’s apartment, Erni notices a woman dressing behind a screen. When Erni starts to make a scene, Ferdi tosses ehr otu of his apartment and tells her he will see her at the Café Electric that evening. That afternoon Mr. Gottlinger makes an appointment to entertain a business client at the café and, coincidentally, Mr. Gottlinger, Max, Hansi, and two detectives, who are seeking Ferdi and have been informed he will be at the café by a discarded girl friend. As Ferdi arrives with Erni, Mr. Gottlinger notices the stolen ring on Hansi’s finger! —stummfilm.at
Gustav Ucicky was one of the more successful and respected directors in Austria and Germany from the 1930s through the dawn of the ‘60s. Proficient in numerous genres, he was at his best in drama. Ucicky was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1898 and, by sheer chance, entered the movie business at the age of 17. One day in 1916, he and his friend Karl Hartl turned up at Sascha Films (the first large movie studio in Vienna) looking for work — and were hired. Ucicky was employed as a camera assistant, which meant that, in his first months, he did little more than haul cameras and film canisters around the lot. He eventually became a camera operator and gained experience working in documentaries before shooting his first feature in 1919. Over the next five years, he worked on some of the studio’s most prestigious movies, including Sodom and Gomorrah(1922), and worked with some of the top directorial talent of the day, including Mahail Kertesz, later better known in Hollywood as Michael Curtiz… read more