How Shall I Tell My Husband?

Original Title: Wie sag’ ich’s meinem Mann? Comedy of manners 1932; 77 min.; Director: Reinhold Schünzel; Cast: Renate Müller, Georg Alexander, Ida Wüst, Otto Wallburg, Georgia Lind, Kurt Vespermann, Paul Westermeier, Gertrud Wolle; Ufa-Klangfilm.

A young woman seizes the opportunity of her husband’s brief absence to embark on a joyride to a seaside resort. However, when her husband catches her and mistakenly believes she is having an affair, she awkwardly resorts to lying and moves in with a friend. Eventually, a happy ending ensues.

How shall I tell my husband?
How shall I begin?

Charlotte, a virtuous and loving woman, finds herself stepping off the beaten path. Her husband, the perpetually nagging Director Oltendorff, has gradually transformed into a hypochondriac and domestic tyrant due to the lack of opposition. During his absence for an important business meeting, Charlotte, urged by her friend Hilde Falk, makes the outrageous decision to embark on a two-day joyride to Heringsdorf in a car. They enjoy two blissful days of sun and sea, but upon her husband’s return, Charlotte must quickly return home, leaving behind her adventurous escapade.

During the journey, Charlotte realizes that her small and elegant handbag has flown out of the car. Distraught, she discovers that her pretty yellow silk pajamas were inside the bag.

Nothing untoward actually happened, you see,
Though it may appear that way.
I was simply not at home.
Yet even the smallest suspicion,
In a jealous man’s mind,
Can lead him to imagine all sorts of things,
No matter what one says,
He fails to hear the truth,
And remaining silent doesn’t help either,
But I cannot go on like this.

Hilde convinces Charlotte not to disclose anything to her strict husband, but Charlotte’s peace is shattered. She must account for her whereabouts during the evenings, so she invents an evening at the opera where Richard Strauss conducted—a magnificent performance! But lies have a way of catching up! The following day, to her horror, she reads that the iron curtain did not rise at the opera house, and the performance had to be canceled.

How shall I tell my husband?
How shall I begin?

The Director, too, experiences a little adventure on the express train, but it’s something he’d rather not discuss. In the adjacent compartment of the sleeping car, there is a charming and alluring brunette named Lissy. She can only fall asleep when the Director assists her by offering his ever-ready valerian. In the morning, the Director and Lissy have breakfast together in the dining car, and the portly Mr. Brickner from Leipzig, a school friend of the Director, mistakes Lissy for Mrs. Director. Everything would have been fine if it weren’t for Charlotte’s yellow pajamas causing trouble. You see, Lissy’s friend, the driving instructor Adolf Schott, finds a blue suitcase on the road and takes it home. Curiosity and suspicion prompt Lissy to open the suitcase, where she discovers the discreet, ominous yellow garment. Jealousy immediately ignites within her. Lissy believes that her beloved Adolf loves someone else, and the yellow nightgown serves as proof. For now, she keeps it for safekeeping.

In her anxiety, Charlotte rushes to the lost and found office, only to find it empty! Shortly after, Schott brings the suitcase to the lost and found office, and Charlotte reclaims it, but to her horror, the yellow garment is missing. She hurries to Schott, who immediately understands the situation; he knows Lissy well. Charlotte must return the garment to its rightful owner. Meanwhile, a catastrophe befalls Charlotte. Her husband discovers that the opera performance never took place, and he possesses the yellow pajamas that Lissy brought to him out of revenge. Charlotte, the supposed sinner, is exposed! The Director assumes the role of judge and prosecutor all at once. However, at that moment, Charlotte’s patience reaches its limit!

A woman like me, modest and meek,
Doing everything as the man desires?
So tender, compliant, and gentle by nature,
Never a trace of a bad mood!
Not a single “no,” not a single “but,” never a raised voice!
What good does it do?
It does no good! Furious, she unleashes her long-pent-up anger upon her bewildered husband and moves in with Hilde. If he wants, let him divorce her. She is now free and enjoying life with Hilde, but…

Now I’m alone, now I’m truly free,
And I was so looking forward to it.
I am so happy and hopeful,
If only my freedom doesn’t betray me.

Deep down, Charlotte longs for her husband, and he cannot live without her either. However, both stubbornly cling to their positions. Johann, the gentle and clever servant, takes action. He bridges the gap between the empty home and Charlotte, who sits with Hilde and reminisces about her husband through a telephone call. Schott visits the Director and tells him how he found the suitcase, thereby clearing Charlotte’s name. Johann’s trickery succeeds as well. Charlotte enters the apartment under the pretense of retrieving her passport, claiming she intends to embark on a car trip abroad with Hilde and two gentlemen. She appears fabulous, elegant, and chic. The Director’s steadfast principles regarding women’s education begin to waver. Then, the portly Brickner appears, and Hilde learns about the encounter in the dining car from him. She sends Brickner away but relays the stout man’s greetings to the Director—without mentioning Lissy. Now, the couple no longer has any accusations against each other. A second honeymoon awaits them.

One is tender and loving, doing their best,
The other refrains from seeking other affections, etc., etc.

Georg Herzberg’s review in Film Kurier No. 247 (October 19, 1932)
Marriage remains one of the most captivating subjects in life, on stage, and on the silver screen. People genuinely enjoy discovering that others also have their share of worries and conflicts.

Renate Müller finds herself grappling with the film’s titular question. Without her strict husband’s knowledge, she embarks on a two-day trip to Heringsdorf with her friend. Heeding the advice of her wise companion, who has been through multiple divorces, she conceals this harmless excursion. But as we all know, one lie begets a larger one, and before long, she becomes entangled in a web of contradictions. Like any novice in the art of deception, she faces a stroke of misfortune, and the entire charade unravels within a few hours. HE rages, relishing his one-hundred-percent righteousness, even though he has legitimate cause for concern over certain nocturnal events in the sleeping car… but that’s just how men are.

The once-compliant wife, who often had the upper hand in the marriage and remained silent, suddenly explodes when she finds herself in the wrong. That’s just how women are. Naturally, order is eventually restored, and the curtain falls on a sun-soaked tableau of marital bliss.

Screenwriter Heinz Gordon, an experienced practitioner of the old school, crafts the script based on an idea by Dr. H. Rosenfeld and F. Adam. Although the film begins somewhat conventionally, it quickly gains momentum and surprises the audience with a series of highly original twists that breathe new life into this fundamentally familiar story.

Director Reinhold Schünzel also finds his stride after a slow start, maintaining the pace until the very end. He pushes Renate Müller to deliver a magnificent and captivating performance, allowing her to unleash a scene of conflict that is both marvelous and intoxicating.

Since the news broke that Georg Alexander is engaged in England, we have witnessed this exceptional artist excel in numerous grateful roles. Once again, he strikes the right chord as a man who has it all but feels a sense of diminishment. And how diminished he becomes later on, as Director Oltendorff.

No Ufa comedy would be complete without the duo of Ida Wüst and Otto Wallburg. Her smile, his babbling—they both emerge triumphant.

Paul Westermeier exudes confidence in his portrayal of a driving instructor. He deserves more challenging roles. Curt Vespermann turns a supporting role into a masterpiece. Author Gordon himself assumes the role of a fortunately unemployed divorce lawyer. Georgia Lind reveals herself as a comedic snake, all without adhering to the prescribed bathing attire. Oh, the wonders of censorship!

Gertrud Wolle elicits laughter as well, but she must be careful not to become too rigid in her gestures. Rufolg Platte rounds off this delightful ensemble.

The musical score is provided by Theo Mackeben, with Felix Joachimsohn as a resourceful lyricist by his side.

Master Carl Hoffmann skillfully handles the camera, while Carl Heinz Becker is responsible for sound, and Werner Schlichting contributes to the appealing set design.

This Stapenhorst film holds its own alongside Das schöne Abenteuer. It received thunderous applause throughout, with ovations for the cast at the end.

It is safe to assume that theater owners will derive as much joy from this film as the thoroughly entertained audience did yesterday.