Sweet Little Secret

Original Title: Ihr süßes Geheimnis. Popular comedy 1932; 91 min.; Director: Frederic Zelnik; Cast: Hansi Niese, Hans Marr, Else Elster, Paul Heidemann, Grit Haid, Lia Eibenschütz, André Mattoni, Karl Etlinger, Teddy Bill, Harry Hardt; D. L. S.-Tobis-Klangfilm.

The owner of a clothing store has a lot of worries with her sons-in-law. The first is constantly at the racetrack, the second had to be replaced with a deserving employee after he proved to be unsuitable as a husband. The third, having failed his medical exams, pretends to go on an African trip to continue his studies, but becomes the father of twins during his absence, which the mother-in-law temporarily takes care of. In the end, everything ends well.

Berlin is in the throes of a thrilling end-of-season sale! The renowned salon “Wiener Chick” has earned a stellar reputation for its exceptionally elegant designs that surpass even the most discerning fashionista’s expectations. The cheerful, effervescent personality of the store’s manager, Frau Hansi Aichinger – a native Viennese – helps make the experience complete.

Frau Hansi is an exemplary mother of three daughters, and her sons-in-law, Alois and Johann, who both work in her business, have a tendency to be extravagant. Despite this, she manages to successfully juggle her roles as both a businesswoman and a mother.

Alois is a quintessential playboy, having an affair with the beautiful Lola from the revue, while Johann is more enthusiastic about horses and turf. This places a tremendous burden on Frau Hansi, who 25 years ago decided to follow her heart and marry Professor Hugo Aichinger. Hugo is a cheerful, jovial nature, but unfortunately has no understanding of the fashion business and is occupied with his scientific studies in his observatory on the top floor. This leaves Frau Hansi to manage the business all on her own.

Frau Hansi has a close bond with her youngest daughter, Liesel. One day, the Stocking King Kargel arrives and proposes marriage to Liesel, causing a great commotion in the house. Unbeknownst to Frau Hansi, however, Liesel and Kurt Pointner, a young medical student, have been in a secret romance. When Frau Hansi discovers this, she quickly ushers the Stocking King out of the house, her only thought being to ensure her daughter’s happiness.

Frau Hansi is hosting a joyous celebration, eagerly announcing Kurt Pointner’s engagement to her daughter Liesel, unaware that Kurt had failed his exam just an hour before. To avoid public embarrassment, Kurt and Professor Aichinger secretly decide that Kurt should disappear for a few months to prepare for the exam. Geheimrat Kühnemann, a renowned bacteriologist, had promised to send Kurt to Africa to study tropical diseases and employ him if he passed the exam, so Kurt takes an emotional farewell from his family and seemingly sets off to Africa. In reality, he disembarks at Halle and steams back to Berlin, where Professor Aichinger discretely lodges him in the suburbs.

The weeks pass, and still no news from Kurt. Anxious, Hansi and Liesel turn to the professor, who attempts to divert their attention by painting a rosy picture of the jungle and the often unreliable postal connections of Africa. All the while, he is trying desperately to conceal the truth.

Hansi is shocked to learn from Liesel that her love affair with Kurt was not so innocent after all. Frau Hansi feels like a mother and is even more devastated when she hears of the sinking of the steamer “Albatross,” on which she believed Kurt had departed for Africa with all its passengers. In a panic, she goes to Geheimrat Kühnemann and is surprised to find out that Kurt had not left at all. This news is a great disappointment for her, for it is now clear that the ‘scoundrel’ who had been avoiding her had simply abandoned Liesel.

Frau Hansi strives to conceal the fact that her husband’s son, Kurt, is preparing for an exam from the unsuspecting Professor Aichinger. In her deep maternal concern to protect Liesel from any shame, she makes a strange decision and lies to him, saying she is feeling maternal again and intends to take Liesel away on a trip for a few months. The professor is overjoyed, prouder and happier than ever at the thought of his late-in-life fatherly joy before the silver wedding; a rare grace of providence.

Hansi strives to keep the fact from her husband as she takes Liesel to the Riviera, determined to settle the score with her two sons-in-law. Meanwhile, Hermine has uncovered Alois’ infidelity and filed for divorce, and she and the first clerk, Mr. Anderle, have begun to form a delicate romantic bond. The professor and Kurt are happily betting on whether it will be a boy or a girl, and Hugo’s expectations are surpassed when he sees his wife with two beautiful babies in her arms, her face beaming. Finally, Kurt passes his exam and rushes into the arms of his Liesel.

The professor forces Kurt to return home in tropical gear, making him look like a proper African explorer, to avoid any embarrassment. Liesel is overjoyed, but Frau Hansi’s barrage of funny questions reveals the scam, driving Kurt and the professor to desperation. They confess, and Frau Hansi reveals her sweet secret.

Professor Aichinger sadly gives up his dream of fatherhood, only to find out it was actually grandfatherhood! However, Frau Hansi, cheerful for the young couple’s luck, comforts him: one should always look at the world, this great zoological garden, through rose-colored glasses, for only then does it appear sometimes as cheerful and amusing.

-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 107 (May 7, 1932)
Hansi Niese’s sweet secret is now revealed to her large community.

She is allowed to reveal her golden heart once more, beating steadily in her proud chest. Once again, she is the mother of mothers for this film, launching on Mother’s Day.

She occasionally grumbles half-heartedly, for deep down she can be quite stern towards an unwelcome son-in-law. A capable businesswoman, she also works hard as a wife, looking back on the past with a bit of sentimentality. As a mother, she sometimes gets a bit fussy – especially when two daughters and two sons-in-law take her money, which is how it should be.

The strongest effect of Niese is when she is allowed to tell a shy story, a little bit of lies for the family, not knowing what to say. Or when she gives an aside, something grumpy yet never losing her sense of humor.

Frederic Zelnik crafts a solid family story of the Niese, based on Michael Feuerstein’s play and Jacques Bachrach’s adaptation. He brings it to life with an effective role for Niese.

Around her, the others: Hans Marr, discreet and sympathetic; Harry Hardt, Teddy Bill and André Mattoni well-placed; Paul Heidemann and Bela Shalmon providing comic relief; and Grit Haid, Lia Eibenschütz, and Else Elster representing the daughters.

Camera operator Carl Drews and set designer Robert Neppach collaborate to create the set, while Karl M. May and Marc Roland compose the music, with Grete Walter. Dr. Johannes Brandt has written the lyrics and soon the Niese-Schlager from the far-off rosy light will become a sensation.

The screening of this film evokes much applause and many laughs, appealing to mothers’ hearts and family souls.