Lucky Kids


Director: Paul Martin
Year: 1936
Rating: 7.5
Country: Germany

What a lovely charming 1930's romantic screwball comedy this is. It has the feel of a quintessential Hollywood production with all the traditional screwball trademarks in place - meet cute couple, comic relief friends, rapid fire witty repartee, conflict brought on by misunderstandings, cacti instead of a hanging blanket dividing any nocturnal activities, an eccentric millionaire and a chaotic fairy tale ending. Not to mention one delightful musical number that springs out of nowhere like a shot of happy juice (this features in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds). As American as apple pie - or make that strudel - because this is a German film and the original title is Glückskinder. Produced by the famous UFA Studio, it not only does a terrific imitation of a Hollywood screwball comedy but has the conceit to set it in New York City and make the characters American - three of the main characters working for that perennial 1930's screwball institution, an American newspaper.

All this done under the shadow of Nazism, but there is not a trace of Hitler anywhere to be seen. It seems strange to us now but not all German films from this period were propaganda; they had a vibrant film industry that produced many comedies and musicals (as well as propaganda of course). The two leads here appeared in 12 comic films together and the actress was in a number of light operas. They are both great and the chemistry is palpable. Lilian Harvey was half British and half German - spoke both languages and tried her hand in Hollywood in a few films in the early 1930's without finding the success of a few other foreign actresses. But she has a light touch and reminded me at times of Carole Lombard. She was one of the good Germans - wanted nothing to do with the Nazis and so moved to France to appear in films and then when Hitler invaded that country, she moved to the USA. Willie Fritsch was a handsome leading man and stayed in German films through the war until the 1960s.

It begins with a wonderfully droll set piece in which three reporters try to pass on the duty of reporting in Small Claims Court to one after the other finally settling on novice Gil Taylor (Fritsch), who they sucker into going and then celebrate their ingenuity. In court a woman (Harvey) is up on vagrancy charges and is about to be sentenced to jail when Taylor stands up and says he knows her in order to save her and in the following interrogation by the judge they both dig themselves in deeper - till they end up having no choice but to get married right there and then. It builds from there and is constantly amusing with the two friends adding their share of the humor, a missing heiress and a millionaire who plays with trains. And in the middle of this is this almost unspoken sexual tension and desire that grows between the couple, cacti be damned!

I would love to see more of these 1930 German comedies as well as their musicals - there was a documentary titled Hitler's Hollywood that shows clips of some of these films and they look wonderful. I don't know how many are out there. This film went through an extensive restoration. I don't know if there is a big enough market to make it profitable to do this and there may well still be a certain distaste in bringing out films from this period.