Die Kleine Mutter


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card turned up in my searching because Mary and her kid compatriots are dressing poor long-suffering kitty in this checked cloth regalia. Poor kit! Why do we love to dress them up so much? In fact, as I have discussed in Pictorama previously, there is something irresistible about it, at least for some of us. Wonder if Dr. Freud ever wrote about that!

This film was originally and more famously known under the original US release title Through the Back Door. Die kleine Mutter appears to be the German language version of this 1921 silent. Interesting that the original title makes reference an issue about class and money, and the German title focuses on a somewhat smarmy aspect of Mary caring for these war orphans she picks up along the way.

I don’t know the whole story, but I just watched the film and this scene does not appear. Therefore the scene was either specific to the German version, or it never made it into the film at all. Most likely the former I think. One does, however, see the kids and I think a tablecloth with this checked pattern fabric – but no kitty outfitting. Too bad! Kit belongs to a wealthy New York family – Mary’s mother who abandoned her as a small child and thinks she is dead. As I mentioned, the kids are some WWI war orphans Mary has gathered up as part of her retinue. The story is a bit complicated, but you are really in it for the visuals and the fun of it.

There is a cat theme running through the film, so I am not surprised that there was another cat scene shot. First in Mary’s childhood Belgium there is a fine looking white cat, short hair, wearing a large bow that gets into considerable trouble – a chase scene, and is responsible for a few plot points. The fluffy Persian has a smaller part in New York. In addition, there is a wonderful, huge Great Dane with her in the beginning of the film and a hot scene with a highly skilled mule who made us laugh out loud.


Famous shot from Through the Back Door, not in my collection – I wish!


Some other highlights include an early appearance for a young Adolphe Menjou. Perhaps most notable though is the gorgeous photography by Charles Rosher. The first half of the film is comprised of one stunning landscape after another – much of my beloved diffusion lens used to create cunning little portraits and visual vignettes. The other highlight, again in the first half, is a series of capers with Mary playing her younger self, getting into all sorts of trouble. Clearly some influence on the Little Rascals, where some of the gags were clearly grabbed up later. The film is available on Youtube at Through the Back Door and I thank this eBay find for introducing me to it. I say there are worse ways for you to spend some time on this chilly Sunday in March!


A scene grab off of Youtube posted on the internet



Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As those of you who have encountered me on Facebook know well, Lilian Harvey (German film actress best known for her early musical films) is one of my obsessions. I love the pre-war, early sound musicals she starred in, am amazed at how much faster the Germans developed in the sound era. Her films are not easy to see in English translation, although they are all there for the most part. Her popularity in Germany never fully diminished and many of her movies are available, tantalizingly widely available in German. Kim and I were lucky to see a number of her films, and others from the period, during a satisfyingly long festival at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. It played over the course of several months and we devoted as much free time as we could to seeing as many as possible – we were never disappointed. (The excellent catalogue, Weimar Cinema 1919-1933 is still available on Amazon.)

The other great thing about Lilian Harvey – and I will just touch on this briefly because there are a number of future posts to be done about it – is that she seemed to have a deep personal affection for wonderful stuffed animals, black cats and Felix in particular! Unlike many of the other photos I have shown of Felix and actresses (such as Mistinguett – Felix Goes to the Dogs and Felix Makes the Picture Better) you get the decided feeling that you are seeing Lilian among her very own stuffed animals. Here is another photo from the collection of Tom Conroy which he sent to us a while back. I’ve included details of Felix and Bonzo from the photo.


During the Weimar Cinema festival we also saw a truly outstanding film (sans Lilian) called Abschied and it was directed by Robert Siodmak. It is the first sound film made by UFA and the mix of music and sound in it is fascinating and really thoughtfully and beautifully done. (In fact, Kim dubbed it one of the best films he has ever seen.) It is about life in a boarding house and one of the characters is a piano player and it is his playing that informs much of the sound track of the film. Leaving Germany, Siodmak finds his way to the United States, as does Harvey briefly, although he sticks and she does not. He goes onto make films such as Phantom Lady and The Spiral Staircase.

Shown in the photo above, hot off of eBay, we see them together, on the set of a film called Quick. In addition to the reproduction and credit information (it is a UFA film) it merely reads as follows: dans le nouveau film Ufaton “Quick” dans la production Erich Pommer Mise en scene par R. Siedmak. Direction de la production: M. Pfeiffer Supervise par Andre Daven. Below is a reproduction of the poster and a brief description of the film. I see it with changeable English titles here: Germanwarfilms.com (a site that now seems to go by the more politically correct name rarefilmsandmore.com) with a tiny snippet, in German, that you can view. I will report back after I acquire it!


Quick – 1932 Lilian Harvey plays Eva, a young girl taking some time in a health spa and spending her evenings in the town’s vaudeville theatre enamoured by a heavily made-up clown called Quick. Quick takes a shine to her and tries to woo her without make-up and masquerading as the theatre’s manager. Unable to resolve her feelings for Quick and the theatre manager, Eva is angered when she finally learns that they are one and the same.