Sog.: dalla pièce omonima (1932) di Ladislaus Bus-Fekete. Scen.: Anna Gmeyner. F.: Eugen Schüfftan. M.: Jean Oser. Scgf.: Ernö Metzner. Mus.: Marcel Lattès, Herbert Rappaport. Int.: Jean Gabin (Charles Boulla), Janine Crispin (Marie de Ferstel), Mauricet (signor Binder), Margo Lion (signora Binder) Vladimir Sokoloff (signor Berger), Milly Mathis (la cuoca Poldi), Michel Simon (signor Podeletz), Peter Lorre (il mendicante), Catherine Hessling (Pola), Pauline Carton (la sarta). Prod.: Georges Root per Société des Films Sonores Tobis. DCP. D.: 80’. Bn.
Du haut en bas is adapted from a play by Hungarian author Ladislaus [László] Bus-Fekete (whose Birthday, a slice-of-life story in six chapters had been adapted by Ernst Lubitsch as Heaven Can Wait). It is a comic tale of life in a Viennese apartment building with its tenants and its landlords, and a special concern for the trials and tribulations of Marie, a young woman fallen on hard times, struggling in a world both socially stratified and dominated by men.
We are introduced to Charles Boulla, a successful football-player; Pola, a neighbour who is in love with him; to Podeletz, a lawyer who has been disbarred and Madame Binder, a wealthy lady with an appetite for serial marriages; to her dim-witted fourth husband; to a bad-tempered janitor, a shy beggar, an alcoholic streetsweeper, a generous cook and of course Marie herself, a doctor’s daughter now seeking work as a house-servant.
Still a freshman actor, Jean Gabin here plays Charles Boulla, the footballer with a taste for the good life and for the ladies, and he steals the show. Michel Simon is remarkable as a tenant who cannot pay rent but can talk the talk. And Peter Lorre is engaging as a suspiciously elegant tramp. And then there are Margo Lion, Pauline Carton, Milly Mathis, Vladimir Sokoloff, Mauricet and Jeanine Crispin, a little known actress in the lead.
The truth is that the film, produced by the French subsidiary of Tobis, a very German company, is not German at all. Nearly all the actors, from Gabin to Pauline Carton and Michel Simon are French. The music, the cinematography, the costumes are all by German refugees fleeing the Nazis, including cameraman Eugen Shüfftan, composer Herbert Rappaport, production designer Ernö Metzner (originally from Hungary) and others.