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Title: The Lubitsch touch : a meta-critical study, 1923-1947
Author: Ottman, Barbara Verena
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 0948
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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The idea of the auteur as the sole creator of a film has, from its inception, been of central importance to Film Studies. In this regard, we will resituate these debates in the context of a historically unique case study; that of the 'Lubitsch touch.' Ernst Lubitsch (1892–1947) bears the distinction of having been a director central to two national cinemas – early German film and classical Hollywood. Yet as an auteur, Lubitsch is a paradox. Arguably, his 'signature' was written over his films with such distinction that they soon became associated with the so-called 'Lubitsch touch.' However, theoretical debates about authorship have never focused on Lubitsch. What is more, while the 'Lubitsch touch' has acquired a central position in the writing on Lubitsch, it has never been questioned, let alone investigated, in terms of how, as a concept, it came about or in what ways it has informed our understanding of this key director. Here, we will therefore consider the author, rather than as an actual person, as a cultural and period specific construction in order to place the ‘Lubitsch touch’ at the centre of our research study. It is necessary to approach the term through para-textual rather than textual analysis. Thus, this project relies upon a large variety of material comprised of historical newspaper reviews, portraits and interviews, posters, press books and trailers. Focusing on the period 1923 – 1947, we will examine how the 'touch' was first introduced and defined, and explore the arguments that have emerged on the basis of critical and commercial negotiation. In taking a historiographical approach, we will place Lubitsch’s films in the context of multiple discourses, such as those of national cinema(s), genre, continental sophistication and self-censorship, collaboration and stardom and the workings of the studio system. The 'Lubitsch touch,' precisely because it is contested territory, offers a site of negotiation for various key discourses and then as now foregrounds what is implicit in the construction of every author. The example of Lubitsch will therefore enable us to examine the extent to which criticism and historiography have contributed to our idea of a text as the work of a single creator, but the implications of this thesis on Lubitsch and his 'touch' will reach out not only beyond the Golden Age of Hollywood, but also beyond the field of Film Studies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures