41 Great Directors: Ernst Lubitsch

“I let the audience use their imaginations. Can I help it if they misconstrue my suggestions?”

What Got This Director Here?
: Body of work.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: Shop Around the Corner.

What Did I Watch: To Be Or Not To Be/Heaven Can Wait.

Where Does He Fit: To Be Or Not To Be is not only deeply ballsy, it’s also confusing in all the right ways. When you legitimately have trouble telling apart the real Nazis from the fakes until they start throwing around punchlines, it’s all powerful stuff, but watching these actors come very close to dying for their country for the sake of their own narcissism is undeniably powerful, and the stuff in the middle with the thriller material is top notch too. The only thing worth dying for: art that makes fun of fascists to the point of enraging them. Shame it didn’t go over as well on the home front to boot.


Lubitsch seemed to be hitting the sweet spot in the early 40s, with Shop Around the Corner and To Be Or Not To Be being his best work and his most impressively thorny respectively. Heaven Can Wait might honestly be the ideal blend of the two, a Technicolor dream of heaven and hell (his only color film, sadly) with character actors stuffing the project to the gills with ideal line deliveries. Films about marriage are my soft spot, I think, but this also tackles the big themes of To Be Or Not To Be with the light touch that was occasionally lacking. Don Ameche may be a bland leading man, but he was very good at selling frothy comedy a la Midnight, so good for him on really pulling this together somehow despite being kind of boring and not at all believable as someone who could go to hell beyond his infidelities.


Most Valuable Asset: Cheery smut.
Most Excited For: Lady Windermere’s Fan.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes.

Coming Up Next: Retroactive favorite Jean Vigo.


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