Thea Roland

Original Title: Das Abenteuer einer schönen Frau. (Thea Roland. Frau Thea, schickt sich das?) Romantic comedy 1932; 89 min.; Director: Henry Koster; Cast: Lil Dagover, Hans Rehmann, Margarete Kupfer, Paul Bildt, Ernst Senesch, Margot Walter, Walter Steinbeck, Olly Gebauer, Kurt Vespermann, Fritz Odemar, Theo Lingen; Georg Witt-Aafa-Tobis-Klangfilm.

An independent sculptor resists marriage and children, initially rejecting the idea. She meets a London police officer and develops a growing affection for him. Misunderstandings lead to their separation, but two years later, he returns to Berlin and discovers he has a son with her. After resolving the misunderstandings, she decides to sacrifice her independence and marry him in London.

Thea Roland, a sculptor, epitomizes the modern career woman, staunchly preserving her independence. However, perceptive individuals like Professor Maschke see beyond her facade and discern her underlying maternal nature. The professor advises her to marry and have a child, to which Thea responds with laughter, finding the idea amusing.

Later, Thea embarks on a quest to find a model for her new sculpture. She seeks an athlete with a tall, broad-shouldered, and muscular build. Failing to locate a suitable model at the exchange, she turns to a boxing school as a potential source. It is there that she finally lays eyes on Jerry, a boxer who fits her requirements. Unfortunately, he misunderstands her intentions and hastily avoids her. Infuriated by his rudeness, Thea follows him to his hotel to confront him. Being an Englishman and a London police officer with limited command of the German language, Jerry fails to grasp Thea Roland’s true intentions. Nevertheless, he is captivated by her resolute demeanor and decides to pursue her, eventually finding himself at her apartment.

From this point onward, Jerry’s acquaintance with the sculptor deepens. Initially, Thea wants nothing to do with this rough and uncouth man. However, she eventually relents and accepts his invitation to attend a boxing match. There, she witnesses Jerry’s triumphant victory over his opponent. The following day, Jerry must return to England. Despite a celebratory gathering at the boxing club on the eve of his departure, Jerry opts to spend his final evening with Thea instead.

As the day of departure arrives, a chain of unfortunate events fuels Thea’s suspicion that Jerry’s affections lie with another woman. Overwhelmed by disappointment, she doesn’t even bid farewell to the man she believes has betrayed her.

Two years pass, and Thea becomes the mother of an adorable boy. Speculation swirls regarding the child’s father, yet Thea remains tight-lipped on the matter. One day, Jerry returns to Berlin and reconnects with Thea. It is then that he discovers he has a son, filling him with unbridled joy. However, Thea remains exceedingly aloof towards Jerry. In her eyes, he remains a carefree individual who took advantage of a convenient opportunity before vanishing abruptly. A bitter struggle ensues as they vie for custody of the child, whom Jerry deeply loves but whom Thea aims to keep away from him. Eventually, the misunderstandings that strained their relationship are finally elucidated, prompting Thea to willingly relinquish her cherished independence, follow Jerry to London, and marry him.

Lotte H. Eisner’s review in Film Kurier No. 272 (November 18, 1932)
Yesterday, this film achieved success due to three key elements, evident from the applause that erupted in the middle of scenes: a well-thought-out screenplay by Hans Wilhelm, Kosterlitz’s weightless direction focused on dialogues, and, above all, the captivating charm of Dagover.

Hans Wilhelm presents the story of a beautiful sculptor who seeks a model at a boxing school and finds love in a simple manner. Unlike the typical operetta reality that pairs a prince with a shop girl, this film, based on the Callias novel, depicts an incident that could happen in real life. The audience doesn’t question the inevitable outcome when the mismatched couple falls out of their first love. Instead, the film portrays a situation where an uncomplicated man knows only one consequence: to marry the woman who carries his child and give her “an honest name.”

Wilhelm’s storytelling is filled with visually evocative scenes that bring a sense of lightheartedness to the film. There are no unnecessary fillers or awkward scenes to develop the plot, and nothing can be removed from the engaging storyline. Sometimes, Wilhelm implies things between the lines, challenging the viewer to think along, such as the scene where boxer Rehmann improvises a shadow boxing match to win back his beloved. Another poignant moment occurs when, due to a chain of circumstances, Dagover is mistaken for a departing lover by a flower girl who refuses to let go of her money. These moments are never contrived solely for intellectual viewers; Wilhelm maintains accessibility, simplicity, and conciseness in the dialogue. Words are spoken only when necessary, and the humor arises naturally without exaggeration.

Kosterlitz, chosen by Wilhelm as the director, is known for his work on the Angel films, and one can sense his evolution from being an author in his direction. The screenplay was meticulously completed with every detail before entering the studio. Visually and tonally, everything is in harmony. Kosterlitz expertly explores the visual elements and captures the subtle resonance of moods, developing the process through the image. For instance, a scene like the chase, which has been seen several times before, gains authenticity through its natural immersion in small street scenes, providing immediacy and life. Kosterlitz employs a similar approach with sound, even in supporting roles, emphasizing the delivery of lines, with each turn of phrase carrying its weight and requiring a unique expression. The resulting nuance in speech exceeds imagination.

Dagover’s performance is magnificent, moving with grace and possessing a sovereignty of speech that captivates. Her superior charm is revealed in the subtle undertones and vibrations of her voice, adding lightness to the dialogue. She fully embodies her role as a grand dame and an enchanting woman, creating a blend that cannot be replicated. Dagover’s presence on screen, guided by Kosterlitz, is a delight for both the eyes and ears. Rehmann, alongside her, brings a natural and fresh portrayal, somewhat lanky like never before. His endearing awkwardness as a big, heavy man is evident, as is his delightful helplessness in the presence of a small bundle of joy. This serves as proof of the transformative power of direction in an actor’s performance. With more such roles for Rehmann, he could achieve the variation of a young German Bancroft type that our film lacks.

The supporting cast, including Margarete Kupfer, the astute Paul Bildt, Ernst Senesch, Heidemann, Walter Steinbeck, and others, are excellently chosen. Margot Walter particularly shines in her occasional comedic moments. The film’s success owes a great deal to the meticulously crafted sets by Jack Rotmil, the subtle sound engineering by Fritz Seeger, the charming music composed by Mackeben, and Baberske’s enchanting shots of Dagover captured by the camera. These elements are presented with great form, without unnecessary softening, effectively conveying emotional content.

With this Dagover work, Aafa-Film has introduced a film of a new genre, one that remains accessible to the public while maintaining sensitivity in its form. Therefore, under the careful guidance of Georg Witt, this film, which delighted audiences at the Primus-Palast and the Ufatheater on Kurfürstendamm yesterday, is poised to receive widespread acclaim in all cinemas.