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Film / The Doll

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Four amusing acts from the toy box.

Lancelot: "I will not marry a woman!"
Monk: "You don't need to marry a woman: you can marry a doll!"

A 1919 German Surrealist Romantic Comedy Silent Film. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Baron Chantarelle (Max Kronert) is dying. Fortunately, his line rests secure in the hands of his nephew Lancelot (Hermann Thimig), whom he has promised will inherit his fortune. However, he will only do so if Lancelot - who just Cannot Talk to Women - gets married. Despaired by this dilemma, Lancelot flees into a cloister to get away from his Unwanted Harem of suitors. He is approached by the monks, who seem to have the perfect solution to his troubles: buy a Robot Girl from the toymaker Hilarius (Victor Janson) and present her as his bride.

Meanwhile, Hilarius' apprentice (Gerhard Ritterband) has run into a few problems of his own. The dancing doll made by the toymaker in his daugther Ossi's image has been damaged, and Hilarius will surely punish him if he finds out. Fortunately, Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) has agreed to stand in for the automaton while it is repaired.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong??

The plot was adapted from the story Milner, by Ernst Lubitsch and Hanns Kräly, which was based on the French comic operas La poupée de Nuremberg, (The Nuremberg Doll) and La poupée, (The Doll), both loosely inspired by the E. T. A. Hoffmann story The Sandman. The film was one of many collaborations between Ernst Lubitsch and Ossi Oswalda, and was generally well recieved, but got some flack for its' portrayal of Catholicism. Lubitsch himself would later call it "one of the most imaginative [films] that [he had] ever made."

No relation to the Glowacki novel.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Deviation: There are several differences between this film and the original operas it was based on.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. There's nothing wrong with the actual doll (aside from being easily breakable) but everyone involved probably think this trope is in effect when Ossi starts acting out while disguised as it.
  • Balloonacy: Hilarius grabs a handful of baloons and takes to the sky to catch up to Lancelot and Ossi. Even wierder, the baloon salesman doesn't seem to have any problems staying on the ground while holding the same baloons.
  • Corrupt Church: The monks are a bunch of gluttonus, greedy perverts who are more than willing to participate in The Con for their own gain.
  • Covers Always Lie: theatrical poster, which portrays Ossi as lying in a box, being approached by a teddy bear and two other dolls, giving the impression that the film is about Living Toys and not a normal girl pretending to be a Robot Girl. More accurate posters, based on actual scenes from the film, were later made.
  • Disease Bleach: Hilarius' hair gradually turns white (and even messier) through the magic of Stop Motion when he learns what happened to his daughter. It turns back to normal when he lears that she is safe.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Completely Averted. The actual doll shows no signs of intelligence, while Lancelot and Hilarius dismiss every one of Ossi's breakings of character as mere malfunctions. The moment Ossi shows undeniable emotion is also when Lancelot realises that she's not a doll at all.
  • Double Vision: Presumably used when Ossi and the Doll are both onscreen.
  • Dueling Works: British director Mayrick Milton also adapted La poupée into a movie the year afterwards. While neither has remained especially mainsteam, Lubitsch's film has still recieved the most attention, so it's probably safe to say that he "won."
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: This is what finally makes Lancelot realise that Ossi is a real girl.
  • Emo Teen: Hilarius' apprentice, played by the 15-year old Gerhard Ritterband. He's very emotional, poetic and prone to suicidal behaviour.
  • Everyone Chasing You: Lancelot gets chased around town by dozens of women, his nanny, and even his dying uncle (who constantly has to stop to take his medicine.)
  • Fat Bastard: All of the monks.
  • Fun Personified: The Doll is meant to be this, something Ossi has to become quite a Stepford Smiler to copy.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Hilarius has an insanely spiky one, resembling a jester's hat.
  • Jerkass: Most of the Baron's relatives. They start fighting over his belongings at his supposed deathbed, before he's even died. Then once they break an exensive wase, they blame him for it, as he hadn't entrusted it to anyone in his will.
  • Kid-anova: The Apprentice very much gives off this impression. He is shown to have a crush on Ossi, her automaton Doppelgänger and even her mother. He kisses all of them too, because he doesn't want any of them to feel left out.
  • The Man in the Moon: Shows up in cartoon form to express his disappointment of the lack of affection between Lancelot and his "doll." He gets happier once they get more intimate.
  • Market-Based Title: The film was released in Sweden as "Nürnbergerdockan" (The Nuremberg Doll), a story it has less in common with than The Doll. The title was likely chosen because Swedish audiences were more familiar with The Nuremberg Doll, and because it sounded more memorable.
  • Match Cut: The movie begins with Ernst Lubitsch himself building up a model of a house on a hill, complete with two small figurines representing Lancelot and his nanny. We then cut to a shot of the real actors exiting an identical looking full-size house.
  • Meaningful Name: Hilarius is actually a real name (more specifically, the name of a Catholic Pope) but the similarity to the English word "hilarious" was probably not a coincidence.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Ossi is - for all intents and purposes - sold to Lancelot by Hilarious (without the knowledge of either of the men.) It still works out well in the end.
  • Playing Gertrude: Played for Laughs. Little kids are cast as the older siblings of Lancelot's lovesick pursuers, all of whom seem to be in at least their late teens.
  • Protagonist Title Fallacy: Much like with Coppélia, the eponymous doll has fairly little screentime. However, Ossi spends the bulk of the movie impersonating it.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Again, this is what Lancelot thinks Ossi is.
  • Robot Girl: The titular doll, of course. However, Hilarius has dozens of them in his workshop, which are marketed "to bachelors, widowers and misogynists."
  • Robot Me: Hilarius has built a "doll" (read: automaton) in his daughter's image.
  • Rule of Funny: The only rule this story follows.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: A very early example. It's set in the town square, rather than a hallway, but fits the spirit of the trope otherwise.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Ossi plays this up with Lancelot while posing as the doll, mostly to be a Troll. There are times however, where she seems to genuinly be bothered by his behaviour.
  • Talking Animal: The Coachman gives directions straight to one of his horses, who responds with an understanding nod. Later, the same horse outright complains that he and his buddy are "too tired." (Or perhaps the Coachman Speaks Fluent Animal. It's... not entirely clear.)
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Played With. The Apprentice often talks and acts like a middle aged poet, but is still treated like an annoying child. As a result, he comes across like a pretensious kid who takes himself way too seriously.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Hilarius is perfectly fine with beating his young apprentice for misbehaving. He's bordering on being an Abusive Parent, as while they are probably not related by blood, the Apprentice does consider him a parental figure.

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