Lubitsch opens his adroit continental comedy with a close-up of Adolphe Menjou’s toe poking out of a hole in his sock, juxtaposed with a shot of his wife (Marie Prevost)’s drawer full of lovely stockings, suggesting that all is not well in the household. Madame, as it turns out, loves nothing more than to entice away the husbands of others, leaving her own to contemplate his hosiery. The comedy of manners grows into an all-out farce before it comes full circle. Film history has it that The Marriage Circle was inspired by Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris, but the degree of inspiration is a point of debate. As Andrew Sarris pointed out, “what must have impressed Lubitsch was not Chaplin’s style . . . but rather Chaplin’s demonstration that American audiences were not entirely alien to European sophistication and cynicism about what Preston Sturges was later to designate as Topic A.” —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