Original version with subtitles
Frank Borzage arrived at Universal in 1933, expecting to begin production on a remake of the musical Show Boat (which the studio had first filmed in 1929). But as pre-production dragged on, Borzage found himself re-assigned to a project originally intended for James Whale – an adaptation of Hans Fallada’s best-selling novel of life during the Weimar Republic, Little Man, What Now? (It would, of course, be Whale who eventually filmed the new Show Boat in 1936).
Hervé Dumont, in his monumental biography of Borzage, writes that it was Margaret Sullavan, Universal’s brightest new star (thanks to John Stahl’s Only Yesterday), who insisted on Borzage because she had so fervently admired his just-completed No Greater Glory. It was, as Dumont writes, a “providential meeting” between the director and the actress who would become his muse of the sound era, starring in The Shining Hour (1938), Three Comrades (1938) and The Mortal Storm (1940).
It is Sullavan’s tender resolve that drives this story of a pair of newlyweds encountering the dire poverty of the inflation years. Sullavan’s husband is played by the soft, strangely passive Douglass Montgomery – another of Borzage’s gentle dreamers, in the line of Charles Farrell (7th Heaven) and Spencer Tracy (A Man’s Castle), though this time one who seems less other-worldly than simply incapable. The film unfolds, not in great melodramatic waves, but as a series of minor incidents, as the young husband drifts from job to job, his wife prepares for the arrival of their child, and political unrest grows in the streets of Berlin. As Dumont observes, “This results in a story neither happy nor hopeless, but infinitely moving in its inimitable mixture of realism and romanticism, in its delicate touch and the magnetism of Margaret Sullavan”.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Hans Fallada. Scen.:William Anthony McGuire. F.: Norbert Brodine. M.: Milton Carruth. Scgf.: Charles D. Hall. Mus.: Arthur Kay. Int.: Margaret Sullavan (Emma ‘Lammchen’ Pinneberg), Douglass Montgomery (Hans Pinneberg), Alan Hale (Holger Jachman), Catharine Doucet (Mia Pinneberg), DeWitt Jennings (Emil Kleinholz), G.P. Huntley Jr.(Herr Heilbutt), Muriel Kirkland (Marie Kleinholz), Fred Kohler (Karl Goebbler), Mae Marsh (la moglie di Karl Goebbler), Donald Haines (Emil). Prod.: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. 35mm. D.: 98’. Bn
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