Ernst Lubitsch on the Plight of Film Comedy

The Film Comedy

Ernst Lubitsch on the Plight of Film Comedy

Artur Vieregg, Lichtbild-Bühne no. 28, July 12, 1919

Why do we have so few film comedies? And why do we have so few theatre comedies? Both questions have the same answer: Because we have so few good comedy authors. But that is not the only reason.

It is doubtless of interest to know what a well-regarded representative of German comedy thinks about this issue. He had the following to say:
“The main cause of the plight of film comedy is the indifference with which film comedies are treated in German film factories. Those people are beholden to the frankly barbaric idea that comedy is a lower art form than the drama. As a result, dramas are sold for higher than comedies are. So comedies are expected to be made cheaply.
What audiences think is entirely misunderstood. As the theatre has proven often enough, a comedy, a farce, or an operetta bring in considerably more than a serious play. Our film people ought to get that through their thick skulls and kindly make the effort to produce film comedies with greater care and invest more in them.

It is no wonder, with such a low level of comedy production, that our comedies are less popular than other pieces. On the other hand, really well made comedies are just as successful as equally well made dramas.

But the good will of manufacturers is hardly enough for making comedies; that requires a very special talent. I would almost go so far as to say that it is harder to make a comedy than a drama.

The text of a comedy alone is incomparably harder. It ought not to be perceived as unnecessary ballast, but must augment the humor of the performance. Writing this text demands a particular agility. I have often encountered writers of stage comedy who were incapable of coming up with even a single humorous intertitle.

Our film manufacturers ought to take all of these observations to heart and resolve to put the production of comedies on equal ground with that of serious films, especially where compensation for comedy scripts is concerned.”

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