The Testament of Cornelius Gulden

Original Title: Das Testament des Cornelius Gulden. (Nur Du bist schuld!) Farce 1932; 84 min.; Director: Emerich W. Emo; Cast: Magda Schneider, Georg Alexander, Ida Wüst, Theo Lingen, Jakob Tiedtke, Julius Falkenstein; Itala-Tobis-Klangfilm.

The tenants of a tenement building unite to save an elderly man from a planned assault set up by his greedy nephew, who is after his inheritance. Grateful for their heroic act, the old man names them as his heirs. However, the nephew resorts to various schemes in an attempt to drive them out of the building, hoping to claim his rightful place as the tenant. Despite his relentless efforts, the tenants stand firm. Eventually, a young woman living in the building unexpectedly falls in love with an American who had covertly taken a room as an ordinary agent.

What does a nephew do when he suddenly loses his uncle’s favor and is excluded from the will? He tries to impress his uncle. Following the advice of the versatile director of the “Institute for Advice and Help in all Life Situations,” he orchestrates a small attack on his uncle, intending to appear as the heroic savior at the right moment and free his uncle.

The attack on Mr. Cornelius Gulden takes place in front of 17 Mahrenholtzstraße, but the nephew fails to show up. He waits in vain in the wrong alley. Fortunately, at the same time, Tommy Quint, a kind-hearted, wealthy young man, is escorting the young Flox Winter, who lives in 17 Mahrenholtzstraße, back home. Tommy, being a skilled boxer, attempts to fend off the attackers who had targeted old Gulden with a few well-aimed left hooks. The fight in the dark street awakens the entire house of 17 Mahrenholtzstraße, and all the tenants participate in the battle from their windows.

Thanks to the residents of the house, old Gulden is successfully rescued from grave danger, and he appoints them as his heirs in his will. Through the fight, Tommy not only becomes acquainted with Flox but also manages to rent a room from her mother. However, an elegant Tommy as a tenant in this neighborhood raises suspicions, and Flox is skeptical about his source of income. A misunderstanding leads Flox to mistake the newly furnished gentleman for a traveling salesman of perfumes. Despite the initial confusion, Flox, who is already interested in Tommy, is willing to help him, as the perfume salesman Quint seems to have little to do at the moment.

Tommy agrees to Flox’s help, but during his first attempt as a perfume representative, he embarrasses himself horribly in front of her. Determined to rectify his mistake, Tommy arranges a little comedy with his friend Bobby Liechtenstein. Bobby purchases large quantities of perfumes, powders, and lipsticks from Quint, who appears with Flox as his secretary. The comedy succeeds until Bobby makes a blunder at the end, and Flox realizes that they have been deceived. The budding love between Tommy and Flox seems irreparably broken.

Strange things start happening in 17 Mahrenholtzstraße. The house becomes haunted, causing all the residents to be in a state of excitement and feeling unsafe. Ghostly occurrences rumble on the upper floor, thick smoke emanates from the stoves, water pipes dispense ink instead of water, stair railings break, and eventually, a burst water pipe floods the entire house. In the chaos, Tommy wakes up first and rushes to Flox’s locked room, rescuing her from her floating bed. In the dimly lit corridor filled with water, they reconcile.

Together, Flox and Tommy investigate the haunting in 17 Mahrenholtzstraße and discover its source. However, their investigation leads to their arrest as a law-abiding police officer catches them on the street wearing their night attire. They spend the night at the police station.

Meanwhile, unaware of the will of the deceased old Gulden, the residents of 17 Mahrenholtzstraße plan to terminate their leases. Edgar Magnussen eagerly anticipates buying the house and becoming the sole tenant and intended heir as stated in the will. But just in time, Flox and Tommy are released from custody. They clarify the misunderstanding at the notary’s office, and in the end, the will of Cornelius Gulden brings happiness not only to Flox and Tommy but also to the tormented tenants of 17 Mahrenholtzstraße.

-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 261 (November 4, 1932)
Once again, a film plot receives an original touch by incorporating a quirky testament. What would the writers of all faculties do without this possibility? The nephew of wealthy Cornelius Gulden aims to improve his shaken chances of inheritance by staging a small robbery comedy. The plan goes awry – the good uncle is indeed attacked, but the nephew who was supposed to save him is nowhere to be found. If it weren’t for the tenants of 17 Mahrenholzstraße who were on the spot, who knows what the hired robbers would have done to him? Shortly before his death, Cornelius Gulden designates the helpful tenants as universal heirs. The nephew, upon learning of this, tries to drive out the tenants and become the sole tenant. However, the heroes of the film, the resourceful Tommy Quint and his love-interest Flox Winter, intervene and help the tenants get their money while ensuring the villains enjoy an extended stay behind bars.

Walter Wassermann and Walter Schlee adapted these events from a novel by Ludwig von Wohl. The story is a bit thin for a full-length film, but what is a producer to do these days? Truly great material doesn’t just grow on trees. Some clever ideas filled in the gaps, and amusing details added color to the otherwise bland parts.

Director E. W. Emo has made the most of the material. He guides his stars, Georg Alexander and Magda Schneider, with a steady hand, although he doesn’t quite capture the atmosphere of the tenement house. The humor applied in that aspect only scratches the surface of everyday life.

Schneider looks charming, and her presence has an inner musicality that captivates every scene. Alexander knows how to charm and displays his range of facial expressions.

Alongside them, there are many commendable performances. Ida Wüst portrays a lively “advisor for all life situations.” Theo Lingen makes the nephew sufficiently unsympathetic. Julius Falkenstein breathes life into a character somewhat neglected by the writers. Jakob Tiedtke makes the eccentricities of the deceased appear understandable. Hedwig Wangel delivers a simple mother role. Also included are Paul Henkels, Else Reval, Kurt Lilien, Albert Paulig, Leo Peukert, Erich Kestin, Fritz Odemar, and the boxer Samson-Körner.

Stransky provides the whole film with delightful melodies. Willy Goldberger was in charge of the camera, Max Heilbronner handled the production design, and Paganini was responsible for the sound.

In conclusion, the performers receive warm applause.