Johnny Steals Europe

Original Title: Jonny stiehlt Europa. Comedy thriller 1932; 106 min.; Director: Harry Piel; Cast: Harry Piel, Dary Holm, Alfred Abel, Margarete Sachse, Walter Steinbeck, Hermann Blaß, Carl Balhaus, Charly Berger, Kurt Lilien, Wolfgang von Schwindt, Gerhard Dammann, Hans Wallner, Fritz Spira; Piel-Ariel-Tobis-Klangfilm.

“Europa” is the name of a horse seized from a young man at the very moment he is selling her to an American woman. Determined, he steals her back, outwitting a race fixer and his cohorts by substituting another horse. Through a triumphant victory in a race with “Europa,” he not only reclaims the mare but also wins the heart of the American dollar lady.

Jonny Burck, a young sportsman who once saw glorious days, has become a victim of circumstances through no fault of his own. However, he managed to save his last possession, the precious mare named “Europa,” from the clutches of his creditors and hides her in a miserable little stable. Here, he lives with Monk, his loyal jockey, and the clever dog “Greif,” and they all share in the care of “Röschen,” as Europa is called in private life.

During the nights, the horse is secretly trained as it is intended to participate in the “Grand Prix” of Nice. However, a gang of race fixers, led by “Director Dievenak,” has a strong interest in ensuring that Europa doesn’t run. The Dievenak syndicate has deceived numerous small craftsmen and traders by falsely claiming that Europa’s victory would bring immense profits to the syndicate. They accept bets on the horse, which they naturally have no intention of placing but rather keep for themselves. To avoid having to pay out anything, they need to eliminate Europa just before the race starts.

Jonny learns about the Dievenak syndicate’s plans and remains cautious. When the young American woman, Ursel Mailing, makes a crude offer for Europa, he sells her the horse. He almost breaks his word because the Dievenak syndicate has seized Europa and is trying to auction it off. However, Ursel Mailing wins the bid, and Jonny steals Europa right under the eyes of all those involved in the auction. He is determined to prevent the syndicate from getting hold of the horse, as he is well aware that these swindlers want to destroy it.

However, Ursel becomes highly suspicious of Jonny due to the theft and secretly follows him. He has taken the horse to southern France, accompanied by Monk and Greif, and hidden it in a cellar of ruins. On the train, he encounters Ursel and tries to convince her that he stole Europa solely for her benefit, taking her with him to the ruin. To his utmost horror, Europa is missing; Monk is found tied up in the cellar, and Greif must free himself. Naturally, Ursel believes that Jonny has deceived her and leaves disappointed in her car to meet her father in Nice.

A wild chase for the missing horse ensues, and with the help of Greif, they manage to wrest Europa from the clutches of the criminals – agents of the Dievenak people. Jonny takes the horse to Nice to prepare it for the race. Ursel learns that the horse has been found. Meanwhile, Ursel and her father receive the dreadful news that the well-guarded stable has been attacked, and Europa has been killed. Since then, Jonny and his companions have disappeared. The Dievenak people triumph, thinking Europa is dead, and their scheme has succeeded. To their utmost horror, however, the miracle horse starts the race. Jonny was clever enough to have a similar horse ready for the criminals and to safeguard the real Europa. It goes without saying that Europa wins, Ursel and Jonny reunite, and they share ownership of the horse.

j-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 166 (July 16, 1932)
Jonny is Harry Piel. Europa is not Europe. Here, Europa is familiarly dubbed Röschen, and it is clear that Europe does not currently resemble a little rose. This fact should be kept in mind when witnessing the magnificent and spirited mare, Harry Piel’s Röschen-Europa, galloping. Just like Europe, she vibrates and simmers with the same intensity, but amidst all that speed, she still finds time for affection and warmth. She nuzzles Harry with the same temperament that propels her over fences and planks at the sound of Harry’s whistle. Greif, the black wolfhound with kind and bright eyes, shares Harry’s heart. They are two rivals who get along well, both companions and animals of the indebted Jonny. Through the persona of Harry Piel, Jonny finds a new start by riding on the back of his pressing creditors, so to speak. This trio, comprising the dog, horse, and Jonny, almost seems like a symbol. It demonstrates that even when one has hit rock bottom, there is still a chance to rise again, as long as one remains alert and ready to take action. And that’s Jonny!

Harry Piel relies less on sensationalism, knockouts, and the incredible and implausible stretching of things. He is no longer a “leapfrog” like in the sensational and detective films of the past. He has found a new, composed style, and that’s why he is the only one who has managed to hold on and retain his large following. Unlike many others who were once heroes of film series as strong young men, Piel has not fallen by the wayside, where they brought their opponents with their indestructible bicep displays by the dozen. Piel has fought not only against his enemies as a film hero but also against himself. This is worth noting. It is important to take his films as they are, without measuring them against standards that are applicable to other film genres. The genre Piel represents has undoubtedly been simplified and improved by him.

In this film, Piel contentedly relies on the friendship of his animals, which naturally drives the entire plot. It is almost more idyllic than dramatic, with the dramatic knots being tied in a lyrical manner. Despite having no time, he takes his time to retrieve “Europa,” which was abducted from him through the intrigues of his creditors. Such scenes are embraced by the audience with great enthusiasm. They leave a stronger impression on the viewers than the bravado displayed in the driverless, downhill freight truck. The less strength is exerted, the more powerful these strong young men appear!

The race scenes glide by playfully, with “Europa” in the lead captivating the viewers in a whirl of images effectively captured by Ewald Daub. This elicits applause time and time again. Alfred Abel, unseen in films for a long time, makes an appearance, and one wishes to see his fine profile more often. Dary Holm portrays a dollar-secure lady from Los Angeles, playing her role without pretension or an operetta-like portrayal of America. Carl Balhaus, as Jonny Piel’s jockey, exudes joy in his agility, captivating the audience despite the tropical temperatures.