A Blonde Dream

Original Title: Ein blonder Traum. Modern musical 1932; 102 min.; Director: Paul Martin; Cast: Lilian Harvey, Willy Fritsch, Willi Forst, Paul Hörbiger, Trude Hesterberg; Ufa-Klangfilm.

A runaway acrobat forgets about her obsession with the film industry while living with two friends, both window cleaners. It is only when both of them fall in love with her and she becomes unwittingly caught in their rivalry that she makes an unsuccessful attempt to pursue a film engagement once again. Eventually, one of the friends steps aside, and she ends up with the other.

“Somewhere in the world,
there’s a little bit of happiness,
and I dream of it every moment.
Somewhere in the world,
there’s a little bit of bliss,
and I’ve been dreaming of it
for a long, long time.”

Everyone dreams of happiness during their strenuous daily work, especially the two young window cleaners, Willy I and Willy II. They ride through life with their ladder on their backs and get along brilliantly—except for the moments when they occasionally fight, particularly when one of them has helped the other’s sweetheart climb up with the help of the ladder. Alongside them, there’s also Jou-Jou, a little blonde girl whose exhausting job involves being a projectile in a traveling circus, and Ilse, a magazine seller who still awaits her long-awaited someone. Together, they all sing and say:

“I yearn so much, I dream so often,
One day, happiness will be close to me.
I yearn so much, I’ve hoped,
One day, that moment will come.
I wait for it day and night,
I’ll never give up hope.”

The longing of the two Willys takes on a very specific, charming, but frighteningly blonde form when they see Jou-Jou at the American Consulate while cleaning windows. She’s about to be thrown out by the pompous doorman. Chivalrously, the two men shield Jou-Jou from the imposing doorman, who fails to understand that Jou-Jou must become a film star since the great Merryman promised her so in writing (for a fee of 25 dollars). Jou-Jou sadly laments her plight to the two men; she’s all alone in the world and doesn’t want to keep flying through the air in the circus. She longs to go to America, become rich, famous, and great. Her only companion is Buffalo, the faithful dog, a peculiar mix of poodle and polar bear, destined by fate to be a doormat. Something must be done about this!

The Willys agree on that. Jou-Jou and Buffalo must first join them on the bumpy field outside the city, where the window cleaners live in two old railroad cars, looked after by “Scarecrow,” a man who surely has no money but plenty of warmth. A chicken named Aunt Frieda and a goose named Aunt Ida complete the select circle on the bumpy field. Scarecrow, the old people’s expert, takes fatherly care of little Jou-Jou and senses the danger she poses to the friendship between the window cleaners, given her beauty and blondness. And that’s exactly what happens!

Jou-Jou gets a particularly beautiful old decommissioned express train car as her separate home, but the two Willys dream of marital bliss, and an old friendship is in danger of breaking apart. Scarecrow warns Jou-Jou, and sadly, she realizes that she must leave her beloved home again. But then, a stroke of luck from heaven! The newspaper announces that the great Merryman is in Berlin. Now everything is fine because he will take Jou-Jou to America, just as he promised, and then she’ll be rich and able to help the Willys too.

So off they go to Merryman with Buffalo. This time, Jou-Jou fights her way desperately to Merryman. She learns that her Merryman was a swindler, but that doesn’t faze her because she must leave, no matter what, for the sake of her two benefactors. The real Merryman finally succumbs to this violent attack and hires her, mainly to get rid of her. But now Willy II steps in and disrupts the wheel of fortune. The good-hearted young man realizes that he was about to become a scoundrel who would trap an old friend in a situation where he could have broken his neck.

Willy II knew that his friend’s ladder was faulty but still let him climb up. And when Willy II almost had an accident himself because Willy I had playfully switched the ladders, Willy II knew what he had to do. Courageously, he steps forward to Merryman and delivers a thunderous speech against the damn film industry. Merryman is delighted because he needs precisely that speech to keep all the annoying visitors away. He hires Willy II, who will now deliver that speech daily in three languages, and sets Jou-Jou free.

And Willy II, the new secretary-general of the great Merryman, gives Jou-Jou’s union with Willy I his blessing. The blonde dream becomes a reality.

“Somewhere in the world,
my path to heaven begins,
somewhere, somehow, someday.”

Georg Herzberg’s review in Film Kurier No. 226 (September 24, 1932)
How many sound films have depicted a poor little girl or a poor young man rising to wealth and happiness through fairytale-like strokes of luck (which in the movies are usually considered the same thing)? And how often have critics wielded their pens against these delightful illusions? This is what Erich Pommer also wondered and decided to turn the tables.

Walter Reisch and Billy Wilder set out to create characters with reversed fortunes. There’s a pretty girl who is desperately eager to go to Hollywood and is believed to become a famous happy ending celebrity for two thousand meters, but ends up staying at her home kitchen. And there are two confident window cleaners—one of them goes to the movies, not as a star, but as someone who turns away persistent people, while the other faithfully sticks with leather rags, ladders, and bicycles, earning 65 marks a week plus a 15 percent marriage allowance.

The writers and director Paul Martin have created a lovely, amusing film, filled with delightful ideas and pleasing music, and featuring rightfully popular actors. However, it hasn’t become a folk play. It has been skillfully constructed—the setting, characters, and events—all top-notch made in Babelsberg. But there is no trace of Berlin’s popular culture, which is a factual observation. A folk play cannot be crafted; it must be created from within.

Paul Martin has an eye and a sense for cinematic possibilities. He composes a caravan idyll to the last note, imaginatively portrays a dreamlike journey to America on the Atlantic seafloor aboard a Pullman car, and convincingly depicts the thousand anxieties of an aspiring actress who must audition and sing.

The film’s strong success at its premiere yesterday is primarily due to the cast. Lilian Harvey, Willy Fritsch, and Willi Forst in the opening credits—countless admirers of these three audience favorites have been eagerly waiting for that. To make matters even better, an adorable dog plays a grateful and important role in the film. It also delivers the final punchline, which elicits spontaneous applause.

Lilian Harvey, the actress bound for Hollywood, parodies her trip to America in this film. It has a special charm to know that this little blonde personality, with her obsession for dancing and her headstrong nature, has hit the jackpot that remains undistributed in this film. Harvey does all sorts of things again: she rides a bike and dances on a tightrope, she is selflessly tender, her dance before the almighty Hollywood director is more emotionally gripping in its convulsive perplexity than many words could be. Paul Martin makes her dance for her life, so to speak.

The two Willys can unfold undisturbed. The director ensures that neither of them falls short. They are both likable, Fritsch in his bourgeois decency and Forst as a carefree brother in all situations. When they stroll through the streets side by side, they create a beautiful image of loyal friendship, as Pommer once used as a guiding theme in Die Drei von der Tankstelle.

Paul Hörbiger once again has the opportunity to achieve great success with a supporting character. He portrays a type from a Berlin allotment garden colony, with an accordion in hand and wise words on his lips. The younger generation can learn once again from Trude Hesterberg how to perform a chanson. Also, C. Hooper Trask, Hans Deppe, and Wolfgang Heinz.

Werner Richard Heymann, our most successful sound film composer, has provided a series of atmospheric melodies that effectively underline the story. The technical aspects are Ufa-standard: Günther Rittau, Otto Becker, and Konstantin Tschet behind the camera, Fritz Thiery as the sound engineer, and Erich Kettelhut with many delightful ideas in production design.