* This series contains spoilers. Please be also aware that my feelings for the German films are the same one has for embarrassing family members: At the same time one is a little bit proud and also just ashamed of them.. *
Ok - let's start: Some classic Hollywood stars made also appearances in German films - can you guess who this lady is?
Yes - absolutely right:
It's Ingrid Bergman - with Hans Söhnker (just btw. "Söhnker" arises from Old High German for little son/ sonny..) in 1938 German film
DIE VIER GESELLEN
(= The four companions/assistants/ journeymen ... )
Here is Miss Bergman on a publicity still from 1938:
~ Isn't she just adorable?? ~
Now - to the movie:
In a nut shell (- probably coconut..):
Berlin, 1934. At the farewell party of a commercial arts academy Stefan Kohlund (Hans Soehnker) proposes to his now ex-student Marianne Kruge (Ingrid Bergman) in a most lovely way - while she is working in the kitchen for the party guests: He tells her that he needs someone to cook for him and to mend his socks..
~ Perfect setting for a proposal, isn't it? ~
She is not really startled – and that he was constantly telling her and her three female co-students during the four years of class that women shouldn’t work and for sure are not able to have success in business - somehow didn't help at all..
Months later Marianne and her three female ex-co-students and still-friends Käthe (which you could vocalise "Kata"), Franziska and Lotte meet again – neither of them was able to get a good job.
So the four girls found their own firm “Die vier Gesellen”. (=> The four companions/assistants/ journeymen.)
~ Käthe, Marianne, Franziska and Lotte - about to find their way into the business world. ~
Everything could be fine. But each of them develops other plans and has to hide it from ambitious Marianne:
Tomboyish Franziska (Ursula Herking) prefers the high arts and gets some help by Professor Lange (Leo Slezak) – finally she'll get her own exhibition.
~ Marianne, Kohlund, Franziska and Professor Lange ~
Smug Lotte Waag (Carsta Löck) is on the hunt for a wealthy husband and finds finally her man in square 45 years old bachelor and tax inspector Alfred Hintze (Erich Ponto).
~ Lovely Carsta Löck - really good in being touchy - and mostly speaking with an accent of Hamburg and around - yay! We are really snotty here in North Germany -aren't we?!?!
(Just by the way: I lived almost 10 years near Hamburg..) ~
Meanwhile sweet Käthe Winter (Sabine Peters) who tries to stay true to Marianne and their firm, fells head over heels for precision mechanic Martin Bachmann (Heinz Wenzel).. ..and gets preggers.. - She finds that out after Martin has left her - because he doesn't want to play second fiddle behind the firm..
~ Well, Käthe - who will you choose? Martin - or Marianne?
- and don't forget:
“Business interest go before private interest.”~
Of course Kohlund appears again – he now is top brass for “XYZ Zigaretten” (a big cigarette-company - invented for this film) and in position to give a profitable job to the girls – but he is still about to make Marianne that what a woman should be: A wife and hausfrau – not a business partner.
Naturally Marianne and Kohlund finally end up together - after the firm went to pieces – and honest: in a rather sweet way he tells her in the last seconds of the film that she should stay the way she is: a strong woman.
~ The End ~
In some parts I really dislike the film - not to speak of my difficulties to understand Hans Söhnker’s voice in this film here and there.. Especially in the beginning and in the end.. - Let me tell you this: I watched this film about 5 times till I finally noticed that he tells her NOT to change!! Boy.. What energy I wasted - just because I was mad about Hans Söhnker.. Wait! I still am! SPEAK UP, SONNY! (haha! Get it? ;"p)
But really: Telling Marianne (without any smile!) how to fix his breakfast as a (second!!) proposal to marriage isn’t my idea of lovely. As is telling her that she only found that firm to make him attracted to her.. OOH BOY!!! After such a proposal your sweet Irene would end in court..
Or Martin who tells Käthe that she never really loved him – because otherwise she would leave Marianne immediately for him and not stay true to the promise she made to Marianne.. Hm…
Ingrid Bergman's character is not much of a challenge for her acting skills.. but a very solid appearance - well: It's Miss Bergman - she was ALWAYS great..
Well - but there are some really sweet scenes – yes, ok… kitschy scenes:
A classic boy meets girl scene of old German films (I saw it in countless German flicks..) with Käthe and Martin:
girl can’t pay for her tram ticket, boy pays, tram “jumps”, boy falls against girl, he blushes and apologises, girl smiles – sweet melody fades in as picture fades out..
Käthe and Martin have a really lovely story (and of course a happy end - including a newly built single room flat..) – and after one of their quarrels they make good in a cinema – which is really cute – and all without words.. (You just hear Zarah Leander, who was a big star in 3rd Reich at that time, singing a song on the screen..) Käthe and Martin have some scenes without any dialogue – which I find very well done.
~ five seconds later she leans her head onto his shoulder and they watch the end of the film.. Aww.. ~
I love Sabine Peters, who looks a bit like a curled doll.. She never had a big career - but she for sure was good in being "the sweet naïve girl".
Another scene I love: Alfred who proposes to Lotte by simply suggesting to pay her taxes.. He is a bit intoxicated because after waiting for Lotte in the rain he caught a cold – and Lotte nurses him by giving him amounts of alcohol..
And in the end of this scene he says with a deep sigh:
"This is soo romantic."
- I am always laughing at that point. - Erich Ponto - who was actually 54 and not like Alfred is supposed to be 42 - is such a cute man.. It might not be romantic - but it makes me want to hug him.
~ Erich Ponto - lovely, humorous man - some of you will know him as Dr. Winkel from THE THIRD MAN (1949) ~
And Franziska.. personated by the marvelous Ursula Herking, a very tartly comedienne.. to me Franziska seems to be lesbian - always making fun of the other girls who are dreaming of men (“You don’t listen when virgins talk of love.”) - and confessing to Professor Lange that Marianne makes her melting away with her sad looks..
There are sources in www who will tell you that all four women marry in the end - so to satisfy the Nazi ideology - but Franziska stays single.. Living for art .. drawing girls..
... think what you want... I am waving the "flag of pride" into her direction!
3rd Reich aspects:
This film was clearly for escapism. There is no one doing the Nazi salute - and for wearing uniforms: if you watch really carefully you can spot the back of a man wearing an uniform of the SS: He is climbing up the stairs of a tramway station - while Ingrid Bergman goes down.. Maybe there are other uniformed men in the scenes which are setted in the streets of Berlin - but it doesn't make any difference to the film.
It runs in the family:
The son of Leo Slezak
later became a popular actor in Hollywood
– ever heard of Walter Slezak?
My favourite anecdote of Leo Slezak, who was a very popular opera singer, is this one:
Once he appeared in opera LOHENGRIN by Richard Wagner in which a swan carries the hero. One time a stage worker started the swan too early which left Leo Slezak alone on stage – he turned to the audience and asked:
“What time’s the next swan?”
And here just for fun and all of you who like dogs - like Leo Slezak did :
Thank you all for listening!