Original Title: Quick. Circus comedy 1932; 98 min.; Director: Robert Siodmak; Cast: Lilian Harvey, Hans Albers, Willy Stettner, Albert von Kersten, Paul Hörbiger, Karl Meinhardt, Paul Westermeier, Genia Nikolaieva, Käthe Haack, Flockina von Platen, Fritz Odemar; Ufa-Klangfilm.
A young widow falls in love with a celebrated clown who wants to be loved by her as a man. He poses as a variety director, takes on the challenge of his mask and its fame, and ultimately wins the woman.
Eva Prätorius, a 21-year-old blonde woman who is currently staying at Kurhaus Sonneneck, Pavilion Tusculum, has fallen deeply in love. Her heart belongs to a mysterious figure adorned in silk and sequins, a man who captivates the delighted audience every evening at the variety show. This man is none other than “grove Quick,” the renowned king of clowns. Despite never exchanging a word, a mutual sympathy has already begun to blossom between Eva and Quick. Every evening, she eagerly awaits his appearance in the small box at the variety show.
When the tall clown, with his sparkling blue eyes and dazzling attire, sings in his endearing yet flawed German-English, his gaze searches for the pretty young woman in the box. He calls out to her, pleading, “Madam, come and play with me! Why are you so cold towards me? There’s no going back…” And that’s precisely what Eva fears—there’s no turning back once her heart is set on Quick. Her suitor from the Kurhaus, Mr. von Pohl, known as Dicky, repeatedly warns her about the allure of the everyday clown. Dicky finds an ally in Professor Bertram, the head of the sanatorium, particularly when it comes to questioning Eva’s chosen lifestyle. However, the professor, who is secretly head over heels in love with Eva, becomes Dicky’s bitter enemy. The professor subjects Dicky to intense water treatments, hunger, and exercises, causing the unfortunate suitor to express his distress through lyrical poems.
Meanwhile, Quick’s manager, the energetic Lademann, is eagerly trying to secure the highest price for his protege, currently negotiating with Madrid. Despite the jealousy of the dancer Marion, Quick remains unfazed by these matters. His mind is solely occupied with the pretty blonde woman from the box—Eva. Determined to win her over, Quick decides to make a bold move. He emerges from his dressing room without makeup and in civilian clothes, revealing a more vulnerable and charming side. However, Eva fails to recognize him, mistaking him for someone else. She asks the gentleman, whom she believes to be Mr. Quick, if he is still there. The gentleman checks and upon his return, informs her that Quick has already left. This chance encounter leads to further conversation.
Quick introduces himself as Director Henkel from the variety show, and Dicky, ever on the hunt for Eva’s affection, joins the conversation. Quick learns from Dicky that Eva had intended to spend the evening with Quick, referring to him as the “damned monkey.” Feeling the pressure, Quick seizes the moment and promises Eva that he will take her to a place where Quick will also be present. Though reluctant, Eva agrees, leaving Dicky and the professor behind. She allows herself to be led by the false director to the designated place, where she hopes to finally meet her beloved Quick, the man who surpasses all others.
The next day, the kind Director Henkel, who is also Quick in disguise, visits the Kurhaus. He livens things up, interacting informally with the nurses and interrupting Eva’s silence treatment with a declaration of love. He even brings her the cufflinks she had intended to give to Quick. However, despite Director Henkel’s efforts, Eva remains resolute in her desire for Quick alone. Meanwhile, Lademann is pressuring Quick due to the negotiations with Madrid, and their departure is imminent.
In a desperate rush, Quick storms to the Kurhaus, unstoppable even by a bathroom door. As he enters, his vision turns black, but then a cool black Eva rises from a mud bath. The mud has served its purpose, and Quick knows he can finally leave. However, he won’t be leaving alone—Eva insists on accompanying him. Quick devises a plan, knowing a trick is necessary to ensure Eva’s compliance. He is given a special performance at the Kurhaus, this time as Quick himself. Eva’s resistance crumbles in the face of overwhelming passion, and even Dicky, her perpetually hungry knight, is too preoccupied with his newfound poetic connection to pay attention. Mrs. Verlagsbuchhändler Koch from Insterburg has bound him with delicate bonds of poetry, even desiring to publish him with a stiff binding.
The next morning, when Quick appears once again as Director Henkel, Eva remains unyielding in her coolness. It is at this moment that Quick decides to take drastic action. He bribes his old friend Clock and presents Eva with Clock, perpetually drunk and dressed as Quick in civilian clothes. Clock, feeling awkward, thanks Eva for the cufflinks but then demands the money for… Furious, Eva storms off to the variety show, determined to confront the impostor. It is there that she encounters the real Director Henkel, leaving her uncertain about who the true Quick is and where he is. Standing in the box, she suddenly witnesses a figure sparkling in a swing, rushing toward her. Strong arms embrace her as Quick exclaims, “Madam, come, play with me. Why are you so cold towards me?”
Halfway defeated, Eva shouts for Quick to let her go. But Quick refuses, proclaiming that he has no intention of doing so. He removes his mask, revealing himself as the Quick of her dreams—neither the clown nor Director Henkel. Eva’s eyes flicker with recognition and longing. Before her stands the real Quick, and the audience erupts in applause, believing it to be a part of the act. In an instant, Eva finds herself on a slide, sliding down into Quick’s outstretched, strong arms, where she will spend the rest of her life.
And so, esteemed audience, what do you say to this fate? Behold—here’s Quick!
j-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 187 (August 10, 1932)
Quick is the story of the famous clown who hides a serious (yet cheerful) face beneath his laughing mask. Quick is the tragicomic character that exemplifies the fate of many, which feels particularly relevant in today’s world where outer facades and masks easily find followers. The difference, of course, is that behind such facades lies nothing more than empty slogans and songs (to put it in the language of the stage).
The song that Quick performs every evening in the grand variety show, accompanying it with somersaults from the stage to the orchestra and up to the galleries, is merely a contractual obligation. Singing is not his true desire in life; rather, he wants to say the simplest words in the world to the young lady who often appears in her box seat (words that other people often emphasize with a tremor of the nostrils).
Quick denies his “profession” and tries to win the woman’s heart under his director’s name. He wants to be loved for himself, without the trappings of fame, which are least trustworthy when carried by a clown. (Because Quick rhymes with moment. One hour, it’s over! The one he loves says so herself.)
Hans Albers takes on a dual role with triple impact: as the bringer of fun, the fair-weather entertainer for others, as the bearer of his role, which puts him momentarily in the spotlight. And as the bearer of his own private person, unknown to anyone, allowing him to imitate Quick without being recognized. And finally, as the embodiment of both characters at the same time, as a hybrid, half illusion, half reality.
Here, as an intermediary figure, where he continues to sing his clown song as a civilian, Albers is particularly defined, although the contours of both characters are actually blurred. But they flow back together into the contour of the comical-tragic human being that seldom appears in the film repertoire of the actor Hans Albers. (So, we probably won’t always see him as the triumphant daredevil with bombs anymore?)
Albers infuses this character with the freshness of his nature, his temperament; he doesn’t whisper tragic arias. It comes straight from the heart when he doesn’t understand why the beloved woman constantly eludes him, why the conquest of her heart is not quick at all. Until he has to bring her down from high above, where she is raised amidst the machinery of the grand stage.
The effective finale: he, the soaring skyward, flies across the stage on the slide, with the woman as the jewel of the ring, encircled by his biceps.
The woman is Lilian Harvey, with a very charming “windblown” hairstyle, as it is called in professional jargon—a tightly gathered crown of hair, with numerous small curls combed forward (in the past, when only one curl was worn, combed onto the forehead, it was called a “sixpence”), which appear as capricious as she is—a whirlwind alongside Quick, a mischievous presence in the midst of this “spiny” sanatorium, where everyone is at odds with each other rather than sitting down for a proper meal.
The outward contrast between her and Albers is already quite striking—the petite, energetic rebel revolting against all the rules of the sanatorium, next to the broad rebel revolting against the orders of his “general manager,” played by Paul Hörbiger, earning our amusement.
The fresh temperament of this star couple is the driving force behind the film. The images flow, glide, and move effortlessly; they gain warmth from Hans Müller’s all-too-cool screenplay; they are enriched by the nuances of the two performers’ personalities. Director Siodmak has little to do; the film sometimes slips away from him, so to speak. As a result, we miss some pauses, but we are rewarded with scenes of fresh immediacy and atmospheric depth, where the director and cameramen (Günther Rittau and Otto Baeker) create a decrescendo.
The audience orchestrates this film, which unfolds as an extended duet between Harvey and Albers, with a multitude of voices. The scale of mirth sparkles in half and full tones.
The Quick song (written by Liebmann, composed by Heymann) resonates within this scale of mirth, just as Hans Albers’ broken English is warmly embraced.
In the end, applause for Lilian and Hans!