I by Day, You by Night

Original Title: Ich bei Tag und du bei Nacht. Musical 1932; 98 min.; Director: Ludwig Berger; Cast: Käthe von Nagy, Willy Fritsch, Amanda Lindner, Julius Falkenstein, Elisabeth Lennartz, Albert Lieven, Friedrich Gnaß, Anton Pointner, Eugen Rex, Ida Wüst; Ufa-Klangfilm.

A landlady rents a room to two individuals: a waiter and a tired manicurist. Their mutual dislike stems from their rough treatment of each other’s belongings. A chance encounter leads to misunderstandings, a date, and a romance. Misinterpretations and revenge leave them feeling abandoned, leading to mistaken identities and job loss. Eventually, all misunderstandings are resolved, and they reach a mutual understanding.

The widow Seidelbast lives meagerly on the income as a room landlord and the memories of a glorious past on the stage. She often gets annoyed with Miss Grete, who overstays her time in bed in the morning, and Mr. Hans, the night waiter who comes home “too early” because the bed and room belong to him from 8:45 a.m. The widow nostalgically recalls her proud time as Princess Eboli on stage, reminiscing about her triumphs and her marriage to the late Seidelbast as a chaste virgin.

Hans and Grete, the two tenants who alternate in the room, do not know each other and actually despise each other without ever having seen each other. Hans gets annoyed when his Sunday straw hat is maliciously thrown into a corner, and Grete gets angry when her good silk is torn off the hanger and crumpled up in the wardrobe. However, under the protection of the widow Seidelbast, the lives of the two continue. Grete works as a sought-after manicurist in an elegant hair salon during the day, while Hans gathers his strength for his demanding job as a waiter in a fancy wine restaurant.

One beautiful morning, still in his waiter’s uniform, Hans returns home from work and comes across something captivating. He approaches the young woman, who mistakes him for a wealthy night owl due to his elegant attire. They arrange a date, and Hans watches as the girl effortlessly hops into a sleek private car, confirming his assumption that she is a rich girl unsuitable for a poor waiter like him. He contemplates giving up, but his friend Helmut, a cinema operator in the Seidelbast house, encourages him to go to the rendezvous.

The couple meets at the agreed place and impress each other tremendously. Unbeknownst to Hans, the private car Grete boarded belongs to Mr. Krüger, whom Grete was supposed to manicure. Grete, unaware of Hans’ financial status, sees no reason to be economical with her “rich” acquaintance’s wallet. They arrive together at Sanssouci, where the palace and its beautiful tapestries and Rococo furniture capture their attention. Lost in their budding love, they are only startled when the palace staff, accompanied by an assault team, appear to arrest them as intruders. They must quickly take the tram home since Hans has to work, but they make another appointment for the evening.

When Grete wants to put on her finest dress for the evening, she finds it crumpled up in the corner. Out of anger, she pours water on the suit of her perceived enemy. Hans ends up being late for their meeting, and both of them believe they have been stood up. Helmut urges Hans to go to the Krügers and talk to Grete, mistakenly believing her to be Krüger’s daughter. Meanwhile, Trude, Krüger’s actual daughter, is heartbroken as she loves a shy fellow student named Wolf, but her father wants her to marry the wealthy banker Meyer due to a hidden attachment on Krüger’s furniture.

When Hans arrives, Krüger mistakes him for the rich Meyer. Grete, who is currently giving Krüger a manicure, overhears the reception Hans receives as the future son-in-law and is rightfully outraged. Krüger introduces Hans to his daughter Trude, and it is then that Hans learns Grete’s true identity. In the anteroom, Grete encounters the real Meyer, who finds her attractive, especially when a coincidence reveals the attachment mark on the Persian carpet. Filled with anger, Grete agrees to go out with Meyer in the evening. Hans witnesses the sight of his beloved Grete elegantly accompanying the rich Meyer, and to make matters worse, he begrudgingly serves the couple their dinner. Desperate, he seeks solace in alcohol and ends up getting fired.

Staggering, Hans finally reaches the bed of the widow Seidelbast with great difficulty, only to find someone already in it, screaming for help. A fearful and tearful girl’s head emerges from the bedsheet, and the two young people stare at each other, first frozen, and then increasingly friendly. Hans and Grete have found each other in the bed of the widow Seidelbast, this time both at night.

W. H-s’ review in Film Kurier No. 281 (November 29, 1932)
Ludwig Berger achieved great success with his operetta Walzertraum (previously known for his melodiously aromatic dream, Der verlorene Schuh). This new film promises to replicate that success.

In the final act, our heroine whispers with a broken heart but a smiling face, reminiscent of her previous performance: “To live once more before it’s over…” With a broken heart yet a smiling face, she adorns herself in a charming evening gown and ventures into an elegant nightclub, where various captivating events unfold, ultimately leading to the closing of the curtains.

The number of times the charming Käthe v. Nagy and Willy Fritsch take their bows at the end is too numerous to count. By the tenth or twelfth bow, one can confidently depart. The world continues to revolve on its familiar axes, and the Laughing Clown motif moves the audience to applaud with gusto.

Without a doubt, it will be a resounding success, a tangible triumph. In the soft, barely audible background, one can still perceive the delicate, bittersweet whispers of the long-ago Der verlorene Schuh, who, although not a commercial success at the time, was a German fairy tale told even more beautifully than by the Brothers Grimm.

In a rented room, two individuals share a single bed: a daytime sleeping manicurist and a nocturnal waiter at a nightclub. (If the roles were reversed, it would not be an operetta but a moral tragedy.) This presents a multi-layered problem, encompassing both aesthetic and hygienic concerns. As the manicurist habitually oversleeps and the night waiter returns home too early, one frets about when the mattress will be thoroughly aired.

Nevertheless, it is a delightful, complete, and readily available comedic motif conceived by Hans Szekely and Robert Liebmann. It offers much, and one eagerly awaits the moment, after an hour and a half, when the two are no longer simply alternating in the bed. Additionally, the second motif, wherein he believes she is wealthy while she thinks he is, well, one must delicately say it belongs to the land of once upon a time.

Moreover, a touch of spiced irony graces the pretentious grandeur of cinema operettas. Behold! The modest yet decent people contrast with a cinema film featuring a heroic tenor, a resounding pseudo-Gitta Alpar, and countless pages, maids, and gilded servants. The humble room of our two kind-hearted protagonists in the squalid back house stands in stark contrast to the gilded halls, sleeping chambers, and marble staircases crafted by Otto Hunte in the “film within the film.” Cinema emerges as a societal narcotic. And when the story veers too closely to a film-like situation, the charming Käthe v. Nagy simply remarks, “Just like in the movies!” Look there, look there!

It is an extraordinarily brilliant idea, exemplifying a social conscience and executed with business acumen. The discerning audience will relish the social irony, while those less demanding will revel in the cinematic splendor, blissfully unaware. The creators deserve the Pour le Mérite of films—a merit in terms of pure box office revenue. In this state of suspended tension between irony and warmly embraced misinterpretation, one can’t help but ask, like the dear Lord in paradise, “Adam, where are you, actually?”

The film is skillfully directed, acted, guided, and edited by Berger, demonstrating his adept and seasoned hand. It flows smoothly and pleasantly, akin to the fine sheen of a poured glass of good wine.

As mentioned earlier, Käthe v. Nagy captivates with her charming portrayal, exhibiting a multitude of nuanced performances. Around thirty percent of these nuances are truly essential, another thirty percent are delightful, thirty percent simply sweet, and the remainder contributes to her star quality. Her dresses are elegantly simple, reminiscent of the attire adorned by the poor manicure girls at the Becker fashion salon on Tiergartenstraße. Her gestures are embellished with perfected theatricality, enabling viewers to fully experience the pangs of jealousy felt by her friend, who appears uncertain whether he is dealing with an innocent girl or an experienced film actress. Willy Fritsch exhibits commendable courage, appearing not only dashing but also appropriately disheveled in certain scenes. One can confidently assert that he appeals to girls aged fourteen to fifty—and also to women. Falkenstein delivers magnificent moments, and the unnamed castle caretaker of Sanssouci delivers the film’s most outstanding supporting role. The photography by Friedel Behn-Grund and sound by Gerhard Goldbaum are impeccable. Werner Richard Heymann, whom we regard as the finest German film composer, once again creates an elegantly captivating hit song.

In summary, it is an unequivocal box office success. Literary critics can succinctly summarize their judgment in one sentence: it is an undeniable commercial triumph. A Pommer production of Ufa, with production management by Max Pfeiffer.