Thursday, July 08, 2010

"the Lubitsch Touch"

For some nine decades, scholars, critics and fans have described German émigré Ernst Lubitsch's skill as a comedic director with the phrase "the Lubitsch Touch." But what exactly is the "Touch"?

"Everybody has been trying to define that for so many years," says Rick Jewell, professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts. "I would have to say it all distills down to wit. There was a very special wit in the Lubitsch films. It was a visual wit, but it was also a wit in terms of the performances, which he clearly shaped. Of course, the obvious, was the verbal wit, which he can't take full credit for because of the wonderful writers he worked with."

Los Angeles audiences can get the "Touch" beginning Friday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new retrospective, "Laughter in Paradise: The American Comedies of Ernst Lubitsch." Among the classics being screened are his 1932 masterwork, "Trouble in Paradise"; his 1939 classic, "Ninotchka," (above), which marked Greta Garbo's first comedy; 1940's exquisitely beautiful romantic comedy "The Shop Around the Corner," which is the favorite of many of Lubitsch admirers; and his last completed film, 1946's "Cluny Brown."

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