cover image Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise

Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise

Scott Eyman. Simon & Schuster, $27.5 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74936-1

Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) made elegant, warmly human comedies exuding sexual sophistication, yet in his personal life, notes Eyman, the German-born film director was vulnerable and almost naive. Son of a middle-class Berlin tailor who had escaped the squalor of czarist Russia, Lubitsch moved to Hollywood in 1922 with his first wife, temperamental actress Helene Sonnet Kraus. Her affair with Lubitsch's best friend, screenwriter Hans Kraly, wrecked their marriage, reports Eyman ( Mary Pickford ). Lubitsch's second wife, aristocratic Vivian Gaye, who considered him vulgar, was widely viewed as a gold digger by his friends. As production head of Paramount, Lubitsch encountered a hornet's nest of egos and political intrigue that led to his dismissal in 1936. In an entrancing, revealing biography that illuminates the unique chemistry behind ``the Lubitsch Touch,'' Eyman limns a single-minded director, despised by Hitler, who embodied the classic immigrant experience in Hollywood by giving a European twist to American genres in classics like Ninotchka , Design for Living and Heaven Can Wait. Photos. (Nov.)