Born January 29, 1892 in Berlin,Ernst Lubitschwas a German-born American film director, known for his sophisticated mannered comedies and romantic comedies.
Lubitschhe was born into a Jewish family; while some sources give her date of birth as January 28, 1892, others — particularly her daughter — state that she was born a day later. He worked in his father’s clothing store in Berlin while performing at night. In 1911, at the age of 19, he joined the company of stage director Max Reinhardt.Lubitschplayed minor roles on stage until shortly before World War I, when he began acting in short silent film comedies in the ethnically stereotypical but understanding role ofMeyer, a well-meaning Jewish bungler. In the process, he became one of the most popular comic actors in Germany and began writing and directing the films ofMeyer.
In 1915,LubitschHe had started directing feature-length comedies and soon left Reinhardt to pursue film full-time. In 1918 he directedDie Augen der Mumie Ma(The eyes of the mummy), his first film with Pola Negri and Emil Jannings, with whom he would work regularly. The elaborate costumbristas dramas ofLubitschin the early post-World War I period they were among the first German productions to be shown abroad. Some of the most notable films wereMadame du barry(1919; also released as Passion),Anna boleyn(1920; also released as Deception),Sumurun(1920; One Arabian Night) andDas Weib des Pharao(1922; The Pharaoh’s Loves).
After directing Norma Shearer and Ramon Novarro inThe Student Prince in Old Heidelberg(1927),Lubitschsigned a production contract with Paramount, his first film wasThe Patriot(1928), with Jannings as the mad czar of Russia, Paul I, and with Lewis Stone as the earl who schemed against him. Then,Eternal Love(1929), starring John Barrymore.
During the 1930s, Paramount produced some of the most luxurious and sophisticated films in the film industry.Lubitschhe was possibly the studio’s most respected director. His films were considered prestigious projects that were not always great commercial successes but which gave the studio a reputation. As a result, he was also given freedom for creativity, often producing his own films and having the privilege of final editing.Lubitschhe was also the first director to introduce songs as a natural part of the plot.
Lubitschwas one of seven credited directors who handled segments of the 1932 filmIf I Had a Millionbefore turning your attention toDesign for Living(1933), another sophisticated masterpiece with an erotic tinge.The Merry Widow(1934) reunited Chevalier and MacDonald under the auspices of producer Irving Thalberg and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in a sparkling version of the Franz Lehár operetta, with new lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, among others.
The daring political comedyTo Be or Not to Be(1942), from a history ofLubitschand Lengyel, it was another highlight of his career.
Heaven can wait(1943), the first film byLubitschUnder a new producer-director contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, it was a bittersweet period comedy in which a womanizer (Don Ameche) re-enacts a life of romantic misdeeds for a skeptical Satan (Laird Cregar) as he awaits admission to Hell. This charming but sad fantasy, with a clever script by Raphaelson, earned himLubitschanother Oscar nomination for best director.
Lubitschreceived a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1947, then began work atThat lady in ermine(1948), a musical with a script by Raphaelson. However, after directing the early stages of the film, he died of a heart attack.