I Don’t Want to Be a Man is a wonderful and eye-opening early comedy of sexual identity; in addition to showcasing Lubitsch’s witty direction of actors and predilection for risqué situations, it also shows how early on the director developed milieu as a comic and dramatic force. Tomboy Ossi Oswalda, who boldly indulges in drinking, smoking, playing poker, and similar unladylike activities, is placed in the care of a male guardian who vows to “cut her down to size.” Chafing under his reign, she decides to go all out and live like a man, in convincing drag; the two “men” smoke cigars, drink, and wind up a little too cozy in the back seat of a cab. —BAM/PFA
b. Jan. 29, 1892, Berlin. d. Nov. 30, 1947, Hollywood. The son of a prosperous tailor, he was drawn to the stage while participating in plays staged by his high school, which he quit at 16. To satisfy both his own urge to act and his father’s desire that he take over the family business, he began leading a double life, working as a bookkeeper at his father’s store by day and appearing in cabarets and music halls by night.
In 1911 he joined Max Reinhardt’s famous Deutsches Theater, where he rapidly advanced from bit parts to character leads. To supplement his income, he took a job in 1912 as an apprentice and general-purpose handyman at Berlin’s Bioscope film studios. The following year he began appearing in a series of film comedies, emphasizing ethnic Jewish humor, in which he played a character named Meyer. He became very successful as a comedian and soon began writing and directing his own films. Gradually, Lubitsch abandoned acting to concentrate on directing… read more