Die Puppe (The Doll)

5/03/2020 19:30.
Cert U

Continuing our annual tradition of screening a silent classic, with piano accompaniment by Andrew Youdell of the National Film Theatre. We meet in St Nicolas’ Church, Market Place, Abingdon.

The Doll is the comedic story of the Baron of Chanterelle’s determination to find a suitable wife for his shy nephew Lancelot, in order to continue the family line. Lancelot finds himself enthusiastically pursued by all the eligible local village girls. Eventually Hilarius, a local doll maker, is called upon to assist but, through a series of events of mistaken identity, his daughter Ossi is the one that Lancelot only has eyes for.

Plus supporting programme.

Dir: Ernst Lubitsch, Germany, 64 mins 1919

Programme Notes

We welcome Andrew Youdell, NFT silent film accompanist for over forty years and long-standing friend of ABCD, who will give us his musical interpretation of tonight’s film

Director Ernst Lubitsch was born in 1892 in Berlin and died in 1947 in Hollywood, California. He left school at age 16yrs to become a theatre and cabaret actor and made his first film as director (also actor and writer) in 1914, of which there appear to be no details. IMDb gives him 74 director credits – The Doll, loosely based on the operetta La Poupée by Audran, Ordonneau and Willner, is his 13th. In the 1920s, he moved to Hollywood and became famous for his work with Greta Garbo, eg Ninotchka (1939) and for films such as To Be or Not to Be (1942) and Heaven Can Wait (1943).

The theatre and film critic Richard Christiansen defined the term, ‘the Lubitsch touch’ as “A long list of virtues – sophistication, style, subtlety, wit, charm, elegance, suavity, polished nonchalance and audacious sexual nuance” ( http://lubitsch.com/the-lubitsch-touch.html ). It can certainly be argued that these traits are to be found in The Doll.

Baron von Chanterelle is ageing and feels the end is nigh. He is without issue and that’s his issue, since he wants his line to continue. So he turns to his rather wimpish nephew, Lancelot, and tries to get him to select one of the village maidens for his bride. Lancelot is horrified and escapes to a monastery. The monks are living ‘high on the hog’, though he is put on bread and water. On discovering the Baron is offering a reward to his nephew for getting hitched, their interest perks up and they persuade Lancelot to try marrying a doll. The doll-maker Hilarius is making a doll in the likeness of his daughter Ossi but the doll is broken. Ossi stands in for it and – you’ve guessed it – that’s whom Lancelot marries. (Ossi is played by Ossi Oswalda, who starred in a series of Lubitsch films of this period, including The Oyster Princess, which we showed here a year ago) Lubitsch is quoted in Herman Weinberg’s 1977 book: The Lubitsch Touch as saying, in 1947, that he regarded this as one of his most imaginative films.

Acknowledgements: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Puppe#cite_note-1

“Everything in a Lubitsch film counts – every gesture, every word, every design choice for every set, every angle, every second. He was absolutely remarkable. And like many of the directors that came out of the silent era, he understood form so perfectly”  Martin Scorsese, http://lubitsch.com/quotes.html.  Do you agree?


  • Bravissimo!
  • A lovely change from the usual fare. Amazing piano playing!
  • Lovely music and a great evening. Thank you Mr Youdell!
  • Both films very good – music wonderful
  • Amazing theatricality!
  • Very strange and experimental. Andrew’s piano accompaniment was great as usual
  • Silly and farcical fairy tale but with innovative and imaginative art direction


A:12, B:7, C:0, D:0, E:0 to give 91% from 73% of those present.