Once You Give Away Your Heart

Original Title: Wenn du einmal dein Herz verschenkst… (Der Vagabund vom Äquator.) Comedy 1930; 84 min.; Director: Johannes Guter; Cast: Lilian Harvey, Igo Sym, Karl Platen; Ufa-Klangfilm.

In the port city of Borneo, an orphan smuggles herself onto the ship of a shipowner, with whom she soon falls in love. When one of the shipowner’s competitors attempts to deceive the girl into stealing a secret contract, she instead becomes his wife.

A steamer moored in the port of Sumatra has the enterprising steward Bobby showing movies onboard. Dolly, the blonde daughter of a plantation overseer, visits the cinema. Unfortunately, after the film, she is visibly unhappy. Oh, this longing for “European” living and love conditions! She has no time to dwell on it, as the steamer of shipowner Bruns is about to depart for the voyage home. She sneaks into the ship’s hold and awaits the events to come. The things that happen to her first aren’t very pleasant, but what can she do when the steamer is already sailing on the open seas?

When the steamer docks at Hamburg harbor, Dolly harasses Bobby until he lets her escape the ship. As she wanders in the city, she causes a lot of trouble. Eventually, she falls into the hands of Brun’s rivals, who intend to exploit her naivety and use her as a tool for their sinister plots, luring her with various temptations. They did not know that she idolizes Brun, and so, of course, she foils the competition’s evil plan and saves herself on Brun’s steamer. Her greatest wish is fulfilled, as she becomes the wife of the shipowner, who would not permit unmarried women on board.

E.J.’s review in Film Kurier No. 17 (January 18, 1930)
Lilian Harvey’s star film is already a hit, as evidenced by the impressive box office numbers in Szczecin. Now, it is being released with a much-anticipated musical score. Lilian is a source of joy and laughter for all. The young girls and old men alike are entranced by her endearing personality, mischievousness, agility, and mimicry. After her performance, everyone is left with a sense of joy and applause rings out throughout the theater.

Robert Liebmann, the screenwriter, takes Lilian Harvey on a wild ride – from having her panties sewn shut to calling the fire department. It all begins in Tenerife with a humorous plantation cintopp performance. There is a great deal of parody to be found here. Robert Liebmann is bravely venturing away from the usual, and it is admirable that he does so without resorting to the most exaggerated situations. As a sailor’s boy, Lilian shows herself to be quite extraordinary; she sweeps around the deck, a mischievous Klabauterfräulein, falls into the tar barrel, slipping on soap, and cleans the ship’s fan high up in the air – and can make a delicious coffee. After a trip to Europaland, where they indulge in caviar, champagne, and a sensual, movie-star-like glamour, the good coffee brings about a brutalization that can only be found in a fairy tale from Kintoppania. Documents are stolen and all sorts of mischievous behavior occurs. Fortunately, the men in this world are not evil, granting diamonds, dresses, and pearls from their inexhaustible purses.

Lilian Harvey is a Peter Pan of farce, known as “Wildfire” [“Wildfeuer“]. She is a young, limber girl who can have fun with even the most moderate props. Production manager Stapenhorst and director Guter provide very pretty props to ensure the farce proceeds without any accidents. Fritz Arno Wagner is behind the camera and Jacek Rotmil and Heinz Fenchel are the set designers. The overall result is good Ufa class. The ensemble of stars around Igo Sym, Harry Halm, Alexander Sascha, Karl Platen, Rudolf Biebrach and many others are unfettered and loose. Schmidt-Gentner’s sound film music has variety, suspense, and an unhurried flow, even though it works with an old-fashioned illustration. Willy Rosen’s song has a competitor in the film, Schmidt-Gentner’s song “Love Comes to Us Secretly” [“Heimlich kommt zu uns die Liebe“]. Whether it is wise or not, the competing tunes do not disturb. However, one should not allow every film actor to sing. The orchestral sound is quite satisfying and has many dynamic charms, although it relies almost exclusively on the full tone of the string orchestra for effect. These parts have the usual Schmidt-Gentner momentum and will be particularly pleasing in sound film cinema.