Saturday, 31 May 2014

Through a glass slowly… Temptations of a Great City (1911)

The science fiction writer Bob Shaw came up with a concept called “slow glass”: a dense material through which light would take so long to pass that past events could be viewed as live many years later. Leaving aside the physics – which, frankly, I must – this is not unlike the experience of watching silent film, only the light stops as it hits the celluloid only to be unleashed at a later point, after development, by fresh energy from the projector.

The end result is almost the same, as you watch the real lives of actors and directors unfold as they perform their photo-plays and, when the print is a well-preserved as this one, there’s an eerie sense of human connectivity.

Danish cinema in the pre-war years was amongst the most technically-proficient in terms of cinematography, narrative approach and design. They also had some marvellous performers who already grasped the fundamentals of understated naturalism required to act convincingly well on the big screen.

I’ve already raved many times about the supernatural Asta Nielsen and in this film there is Valdemar Psilander, a male star who – domestically at least – rivalled her in popularity. Psilander has an easy charm and whilst he’s not quite the intensity of his compatriot still catches the eye in August Blom’s morality tale.

Valdemar Psilander
He plays Aage Hellertz a young man wasting his time and money on a lifestyle he can’t afford. As the film opens his widowed mother (Augusta Blad) is trying to rein him in after learning of his latest debt but, after taking his telling off, he can’t help but wonder how his colourful friends are getting on. Blom shows us a double exposure of his vaudeville singer friend Stella (Thora Meincke) with his friends as Aage gives in to temptation and arranges to see them.

A long night follows as the boys watch Stella perform from a private box – another clever composition from Blom – and then head off for a long and expensive supper. Aage’s money runs out and his friends desert him, leaving him to square the bill. Luckily form him, the waiter (Holger Hofmann) is an enterprising soul – a hospitality worker yes but also a self-styled capitalist. He arranges to loan Aage the money at favourable terms.

Aage visits his offices the next day to arrange the deal and is immediately taken with the waiter’s daughter Anna (Clara Pontoppidan, here as Clara Wieth) who he impetuously kisses. The two arrange to meet and she comes to his apartment for dinner. A good time is had by all until Mother arrives back and, appalled at this impropriety, sends them both from her house.

Clara Pontoppidan and Valdemar Psilander
Aage sets up house with Anna – presumably they marry? – and falls back into his habit of spending what he hasn’t got, buying her splendid hats and jewells. His old friends come visiting and there’s a face-off between Stella and the young interloper Anna who proceeds to burn up the living room floor with some elegant dancing… not just a waiter’s daughter it seems but classically-trained?

Stella’s nose duly out of joint she departs with the rest of the old crew. But it won’t be so easy for Aage to escape the debts of the past and as due date approaches for the bill he becomes increasingly desperate considering suicide before deciding to forge his mother’s signature on a promisory note.

Anna struts her stuff, Stella gets miffed...
But even this only buys him a little more time and as the moment nears when the note must be presented to the bank, Aage, prompted by Anna, goes to see his mother… Shocked and disappointed yet again in her son she refuses to help forcing him into the desparate act of trying to steal from her…

Spoilers… Aage’s attempted robbery is one of the visual highlights of the film as he is tracked up the stairs by the janitor who then alerts a policeman. But as Aage is about to take the money from his mother’s sitting room, her image appears in the corner mirror and you know the game is quickly up - such inventive use of the space by Blom and great work from cinematographer Axel Graatkjær.

Will Mother forgive Aage and how will he square his debt with Anna’s father... all collide in the finale which I won’t reveal.

Temptations of a Great City is a fine example of the high-level Danish technique of the time albeit a relatively slight story. It is still an involving experience and this is down to the performers… Psilander acts well as the young man detached from his own responsibilities and, to an extent, that’s how he seems with his emoting.

Clara Pontoppidan
Clara Pontoppidan gives a compelling portrayal with her Anna a woman of determination and invention (and quite some moves on the dance floor). She went on to feature in Carl Dreyer’s Leaves from the Book of Satan as well as Benjamin Christansen’s Haxan.

I watched the Danish Film Institute’s Psilander set which comes with two other films which further showcase the actor’s range. There’s also a very effective accompaniment from Mr Neil Brand which underpins the story well with some lovely romantic lines.

It’s available direct from the DFI and also via the BFI – shop or online - plus the usual but it's cheaper from the German Edition FilmMuseum. Don’t miss out on a crystal clear window into the pre-war world of expert Danish film making!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Un-coded messages… Skyscraper Souls (1932)

The BFI has been hosting a sequence of films made between 1930 and 1934: the period between the announcement of the Hays Code and its more rigorous enforcement. These films show the progress from stilted talkies to more slickly-recorded slices of post-depression life. Because of their frankness and directness they feel like an unfinished bridge between the romanticism of late period silent films and post-war noir…  They feature people more like ourselves and we’ve simply more in common with these characters than the earnest, airbrushed leads that followed.

Dwight Buildings and diminutive neighbour...
Yet, amongst all the hoopla about naughty, haughty, “pre-code” were these disparate movies a deliberate attempt to make (without) Hays before the sun stopped shining or merely a reflection of the desperate times when people wanted escapism with a realistic edge? When the going got tough audiences wanted stories not just of love but of survival.

Skyscraper Souls is one of the more interesting examples, addressing the business moralities that helped create the Great Depression in the first place and which continued to impact the ordinary cinema goers.  Based upon the novel Skyscraper by Faith Baldwin, the story was adapted for screen by C Gardner Sullivan and Elmer Blaney Harris and directed by Edgar Selwyn (who once missed a fatal trip on the Titanic in order to see a play…). Not surprisingly, the narrative feels “bookish” with an involved plot and a cast of dozens.

Now that's a grand entrance...
The majority of the action takes place in a huge skyscraper – markedly higher than the Empire State Building – owned by Mr David Dwight (Warren William) who runs the bank and pretty much everything operating within the tower. Times are hard for Mr Dwight as he has had to refinance in order to keep things afloat and he has re-mortgaged the building on the basis of a loan he can’t repay. Whilst his fellow directors consider his future he looks for third parties to rescue his investment, even though he has fifty million in the bank he could use himself.

Warren William and Verree Teasdale
Dwight is married or rather semi-divorced, long-distance, to Ella (Hedda Hopper) who is almost a paid employee…  whilst he is having an affair with his secretary Sarah (Verree Teasdale).

A pretty new secretary starts, Lynn Harding (Maureen O’Sullivan, not so long after meeting Tarzan) who Dwight interrupts getting changed… she catches his eye even though he assures Ella that her legs are better (they aren’t).

Norman Foster and Maureen O’Sullivan
Lynn is being pursued by a rather insistent/borderline-annoying young man called Tom (Norman Foster - laterly a director and also husband to Claudette Colbert, improbable as his screen persona here would make that seem…) who pesters her from the lift to the landing. For some reason she starts to find this attractive but, whilst Tom’s pushy,  she’s not putting out, having set her sights on marriage and security.  Tom also wants to marry but he’s only clearing fifty a week with a small saving of $1,800. Clearly people valued any kind of financial security at this time and recent history gives an unpleasant glimpse of the truth of such uncertainty.

Jean Herscholt and an off-the-shoulder Anita Page
One of the senior secretaries is Jenny LeGrande (the ace Anita Page) who acts as counsellor - knowing the workings of this Tower of Babel better than most. A gentleman  jeweller, Jacob (Jean Herscholt) carries a large flame for Jenny – he doesn’t look like her usual squeeze but still hopes to provide her with the security and love they’re all looking for….  Is he just another obsessive/possessive old man or someone more paternal: in this world of the avaricious surely someone has to be motivated by love?

Dwight invites Lynn to work late on typing copies of reports and, whilst Tom pesters her with sandwiches and other advances, she is called up to the boss’ apartment on the top storey. On arrival she finds a party in full swing and Dwight soon gets her tipsy on champagne. His pursuit is interrupted by the older Charlie Norton (George Barbier) who takes a shine to the bright young thing… Manny glasses later Lynn has disappeared only to turn up in the morning innocently curled up in one of the spare beds.

Warren William and Maureen O'Sullivan
Tom gets jealous and the clear implication is that she’s made an investment decision based on an exchange in kind prior to fiscal remuneration… but it’s not so and she’s been misjudged. Tom’s a fool for not trusting her: actually Tom’s just a fool full stop.

Meanwhile, Dwight is up to dastardly dealings with  Charlie Norton; arranging a further investment that, unbeknownst to the latter, he aims to maximise his profits at everyone else’s expense through insider dealing and price manipulation so complex the plot doesn’t bother really explaining how it works.

Tom joins in the seeming gold-rush after being tipped off by Sarah and it seems he can’t fail to make a killing – enough to persuade Lynn to marry him? But she’s also got her eye on the big boss as he looks to line her up as a replacement for poor Sarah who he’s about to pension off with a nice home in the country and an annual stipend for her silence.

No spoilers: The stocks rise and then they crash… Tom loses his savings along with so many others including most of Dwight’s colleagues. He’s won and doesn’t care who lost but it’s never over till the greedy banker bounces…

Warren William is undoubtedly Skyscraper Souls’ star turn with an appropriately domineering screen presence for a man who’s building all around it. Reputedly his roles dried up once the Hays crack-down came but I find it hard to believe that a change of style would account for an actor of such obvious abilities.

Maureen and Anita
Maureen O’Sullivan is suitably sympathetic as the vulnerable and yet ambitious Lynn although you have to question her taste in men: the not-so-wise-cracking Tom and then the boss offering her a career leg up that couldn’t possibly come free from reciprocation. Anita Page energises every scene she's in - a little underused in my humble opinion - and acts the part with a heart believably well.

The film is often compared with Grand Hotel with events taking place almost entirely in one place, here Dwight’s Tower giving a self-contained claustrophobia to events as well as being a statement on the world of David Dwight… a monument to his ambition.

Skyscraper Souls is available on Warner Archives’ Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7 series along with Employees’ Entrance (1932) which also featuring William, this time as the CEO of a large department store… maybe he did get typecast but he is even more convincing in that film as the face of calculating, amoral capitalism.

I can see how these films' sexual openness could upset the establishment but it’s also clear that they were politically very pointed: for a few years after the crash greed wasn’t good but that was never going to be a sustainable message in the land of the free.  Indeed, how quickly are we now acceding to the idea that punitive austerity is necessary along with any measure that favours commerce over compassion: we don’t all care to be considered and some would prefer the certainty of easy answers over serious, open-ended debate. 
Free market finance at work
Of course, film isn’t censored in the way it used to be but how many recent mainstream films have there been that really question our capitalist process and how many more are there with a main purpose of simply disorientating us into deep-engagement super-heroic fantasy?

Ahem… anyway, you can order the set direct from Warners or through Amazons: good value with four films for the price of two and Bettie Davis too!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

New wave… The Mender of Nets (1912)

How many art movements have started and been at their creative peak, with a reasonably small group of people working and collaborating in close proximity? From the aesthetes squeezed into Le Deux Maggots or The Fitzroy Tavern to the rockers in Sun Studios, the Cavern or CBGBs… there were “scenes” involving a few dozen who changed their artistic worlds over coffee, beer and the odd fight.

It’s inevitable that every big bang starts with a singularity and then expands outwards gathering mass from the closest objects before establishing a broader, “universe”? So it was that the second full decade of film saw a new wave of American artists working closely together to improvise and innovate the form towards the structure which would go on to form the basis for the mainstream for years to come.

Charles West, Mabel Normand and Mary Pickford
D.W. Griffith was at the centre of things working with ground-breaking cinematographer G.W. “Billy” Bitzer along with some of the actors who came to define the art of motion picture performance. In The Mender of Nets – made early in 1912 – he worked with two of the most naturalistic: Mabel Normand and Mary Pickford. Whilst Normand was a straight-faced, instinctive, comedian on a par with Roscoe Arbuckle (and later Charlie), Mary had only Lillian Gish who could possibly rival her subtle and uncanny understatement.

Recognising this, Mary gets a lot of “face time” in Nets… the film begins and ends with her sitting against a stunning cliff-face backdrop and you strain to catch every nuance of expression… always to be rewarded with a glimpse of real hope, love and pain… even in a story of relative predictability.

Mary plays the eponymous net-mender who sits against the seaside backdrop until she is joined by a couple of fishermen, one of whom, Charles West, proposes to her. Mary celebrates her engagement with her father – holding out the ring and admiring it as you do but her beau slips off and encounters his “weakness” his former girlfriend – Mabel Normand.

Mabel’s an earthier character than Mary – although it’s good to see the latter playing her age (she was 19 at the time of filming) – but she’s still easily hurt and her ex’s decision leaves her distraught. Off he goes but her brother, Charles Hill Mailes, see’s what’s going on and tries to knock the fellow’s block off. Easily repulsed by the younger, fitter man, he returns home and grabs his gun, much to Mabel’s shock.

Mabel's concerned
He stomps off in search of the man and is seen by Mary… and there’s a desperate daisy-chain of pusuit as Mary follows him to her fiancé’s and Mabel sets off to prevent catastrophe for both the men in her life.

There’s real tension over the closing part of the film as you wait for tragedy and braced in hope for some kind of happy ending.

It’s deceptively simple with exceptional shots from Bitzer and slick editing from Griffith who was churning out these one-reelers with regular ease. He knew what he had with his leads and gives Normand plenty of screen time to show despair, hope and disappointment.

But it’s Mary Pickford who takes the laurels: Bitzer just had to point his camera and shoot such was her mastery of understated, film acting. Up on the screen the audience would get the closest possible view of the  her medium-shot emoting and at one point, she moves up to and past the camera in much the same way as Elmer Booth in TheMusketeers of Pig Alley released later in 1912.

The Mender of Nets (1912) remains a poignant short story and retains a surprise even for jaded eyes. It was available on Milestone’s Sparrows DVD but now seems out of print and copyright. You can find a decent copy at the Internet Archive: Mary and Mabel – what’s not to like?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Scale and sentiment… Quo Vadis? (1912)

"Terrifying and inspiring - exquisitely religious - stupendous." - Chicago News (1913)

This film is sometimes described as being the first feature film yet I believe that honour officially goes to the 70 minute Australian film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)… Yet, there’s no denying that Quo Vadis? was one of the first true international blockbusters, not just in terms of production scale but also cross-border success – although again co-ordinated global marketing frenzy had already been evidenced with L’Inferno (1911).

In the USA Quo Vadis? generated $150,000 billings and played for 306 consecutive performances at Broadway’s Astor Theatre, in Paris is played at the huge Gaumont Palace, whilst in London it was shown at the Royal Albert Hall: 'kolossal' indeed!

Another full house at the colosseum
Director, designer, writer Enrico Guazzoni was certainly at the forefront of Italian cinematic development as shown by his earlier shorts such as Agrippina (1911). Here there are a number of innovations in a production which feels like a creative bridge between say, L’Inferno and Cabiria. There are some surprisingly smooth camera pans, a cast of thousands and intricate sets designed to make the most of the space within the frame. There are also a number of scenes shot on location bringing the Romans back to their ruins, in one case to be eaten by lions (you probably know the legend of the missing extra...).

Amleto Novelli and his pal Gustavo Serena
But perhaps the main thing you notice is the people… The intertitles are a step away from the wordy descriptive accompaniments to “tableau” film plays and here there is more work for the actors to do in order to develop the story. AS a consequence, there are some fine, expressive, performances from a cast that mostly look like they could have stepped out of the fifties remake.

Marcia Landy in her book Italian Film (CUP 2000) talks about the “fusion of spectacle and narrative” in this film and others as the focus shifted away from dazzling images to a more engaging and character-driven medium. There are still no close-ups but medium range shots that clearly show the actors’ emotional transitions: pantomime with an ever-expanding range of meaning.

Amleto Novelli listens to Augusto Mastripietri
Landy quotes A. Nicholas Vardac regarding the almost “impersonal” acting of early cinema: “Screen character had become a symbol of certain elements of action, melodrama and spectacle.” In Quo Vadis? the actors still sequence themselves around the sets but you can start to interpret their thoughts and there’s much love, despair, devotion and sacrifice to pull you in: you care.

Lea Giunchi
Originally over two hours long, the restored version I watched is some hour and forty two minutes long and complete with original/restored tints - there is the occasional narrative gap but overwhelmingly it’s still an engaging story and obviously a fascinating artefact: a key moment from a period of so much cremated celluloid.

Italian’s had been making films about their own history from almost the get-go but it’s perhaps surprising that Quo Vaids? was based on a 1895 novel by a Pole, Henryk Sienkiewicz and one which had already been adapted into a shorter film in France back in ’02.

St Peter preaches to an underground meeting
Director Guazzoni wrote an adaptation or at least an outline and the scale of his subsequent achievement is staggering when you consider the improvisational working methods of the day. To manage a production on this scale must have involved incredible organisation and leadership skills: how do you get thousands of extras to behave and a hundred to face off against two dozen lions (without losing one or three)?

The story is one that carries many traces of the biblical blockbuster to follow: good and bad Romans, nutty Nero, slave girls in love and the religious persecution that ultimately allowed brave Christianity to triumph and change a culture of such destructive force.

Amleto Novelli and Lea Giunchi
Amleto Novelli stars as Vinicius, a noble officer who falls in love with a girl not of his station, Lygia (Lea Giunchi). He’s not so brave with the ladies and so he enlists the help of his best friend, Petronius (Gustavo Serena) in arranging for the girl’s arrest, on Nero’s orders. She is taken away from her family but her faithful slave, the mighty Ursus (the aptly-named Bruto Castellani) insists on going with her.

Carlo Cattaneo
Emperor Nero (Carlo Cattaneo… surely Charles Laughton was taking notes!?), is a malicious musician … finding inspiration in the suffering of others and his city in general. His General, Tigellinus (Cesare Moltini) is a nasty piece of work who will do anything his master wills whilst the inner court is completed by Nero’s wife, Poppaea (Olga Brandini) who nurses the resentment of un-reciprocated love for the (mostly) virtuous Vinicius.

Petronius has an intriguing home life as well being the subject of adoration from one of his slave girls Eunice (Amelia Cattaneo) who in surreal frustration lovingly caresses his statue. This is going to get very complicated…

Eunice and the statue
And then there are the Christians let by St Peter himself (Giovanni Gizzi, cutting a suitably imposing figure) amongst whose number are Lygia’s parents. What starts as a rough-edged Roman romance ends as a tale of religious persecution and industrial-scale barbarism in the Colosseum.

Guazzoni’s actors succeed in taking the viewer through the journey and, in a number of cases, we see people grow through the power of love and Christianity. Vinicius’s rather forceful approach to courtship hides a deep affection for Lygia. He tries to woo her at one of Nero’s lavish banquets – a set piece so well done that it was to influence DW Griffith for Intolerance. Lygia clearly likes the cut of his jib but is perhaps put off by his manners… only later, as he sacrifices his old life and begins to take risks in the name of their love does she fully reciprocate. He ends up being christened by St Peter and supporting the Christian cause.

Similarly Pertronius goes from having poor, faithful Eunice flogged for impudence, comes to appreciate the purity of her loyalty and the two endure one of the most emotional and poignant denouements imaginable. Perhaps the most surprising turn-around is for a disreputable older man named Chilo (Augusto Mastripietri) who spies for his masters with little care for the damage to either side. Ultimately even he is won over by not just Christian bravery but by the tragedy he helps cause.

As you’d expect from an adaptation of this (and other) vintages, there is a lot crammed into the narrative but Guazzoni and his troop do well to hold the meaning together..

Eunice and Petronius
There are a great number of gorgeous tableaux - both interior and exterior. Standouts include a scene in which one of the characters pulls back the curtain to reveal the greater depth of the house in question and then a shot that tracks Petronius as he stands up, moves across the room to reveal his new love, Eunice, who is then tracked across back to meet Vinicius.

Then there are the location scenes including an horrific garden of “Roman Candles” – Christians burned alive to provide illumination (genuinely the case) as well as the burning of Rome (Nero plays a lyre… maybe his fiddle was being re-furbed?) and the grand brutality of the Colosseum. The Christian’s are moved further and further away from camera until a trap door opens to let dozens of lions escape into the arena: it appears to happen in a single take but perhaps the lions didn’t get quite as close as the foreshortening might suggest…

Rome's burning so Nero's playing...
One of the wonders of the age, it’s frustrating that Quo Vadis? isn’t currently available on DVD. The tinted restoration is viewable online at YouTube and in better quality at Vimeo at the moment but surely this prime example of the uniquely Italian mix of neo-classical scale and sentiment should be commercially available. A “kolossal” waste as it stands.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Girls who like boys who like girls dressed as boys… Ich möchte kein Mann sein (I Don't Want to be a Man) (1918)

OK, so it’s the back of a carriage in the early hours after a long night downing champagne, smoking fat cigars and chasing the perfect dance. There’s a man in the back of the carriage in that delirious state between blotto and oblivion kissing a man with affectionate pecks on the lips. There’s also a woman kissing a man and pretending to be a boy. Confused? You might well be… all in a day’s work for Ernst Lubitsch who was clearly one of the first to start the pan-sexual Weimar party.

Ich möchte kein Mann sein (I Don't Want to be a Man and sometimes, I Wouldn’t Want to be a Man) was one of the director’s last long-shorts made just before his first feature with Pola Negri Die Augen der Mumie Ma (1918).  Here his star was the equally-wild Ossi Oswalda who acts with energetic conviction the role of the uncontrollable tomboy who finds the saving graces of her gender through cross-dressing.

Ossi Oswalda
Initially she is shown gambling, drinking and doing all manner of grown-up things from which her uncle (Kurt Götz) and governess (Margarete Kupfer) forbid her if only to allow themselves to indulge. Lubitsch highlights the comic hypocrisy of both as she carries on smoking Ossi’s cigarette and he grabs a bigger glass to increase the rate of alcoholic intake.

Ossi's admirers
Ossi’s like Iggy with a Lust for Life… or at least for eating cherries and gobbling candies in her window whilst a crowd of young men pleads to be fed like hungry penguins. She obliges only for Uncle to chase them away... what the girl surely needs is some discipline or maybe an adventure!

Uncle is called away for the comically un-specific fact that “the institute he has set up is ready for him” but before he goes he recruits a stern governor to make sure his ward is properly looked after: Herr Counsellor Brockmüller (Ferry Sikla)…

Ossi Oswalda, Margarete Kupfer and Ferry Sikla
Brockmüller almost immediately brings Ossi to heel with his startling natural authority – he’s also a bit of a looker boys and girls! But Ossi is not so easily curtailed and she vows to resist whilst he promises to cut her down to size. The game is afoot!

Ossi decides to play men at their own game and goes off to the gentlemen’s outfitters to order a dinner suit. The assistants fight over measuring her up and decide on splitting the work limb by limb. Men lust after Ossi in groups and make horrible obvious play of their intentions: are you watching Sydney James?

Kitted up in starched collar, bow tie, top hat and tails, Ossi sets off to have fun at the dance hall, catching the eye of a number of young women as she takes her pretty-boy swagger to the dance. Once arrived she’s almost overcome by the physicality of the place as both sexes rush for advantage. Then she chances across someone familiar: Herr Brockmüller.

She tries to attract away Brockmüller’s favoured escort and as he rushes to confront the impudent challenge of this young man, turns to find his target already lost to another man. Women eh? Butterfly minds and unreliable… He takes solace in his new acquaintance who, it transpires, is an excellent drinking buddy.

It’s a long night and by the time the two fall out onto the pavement it’s the morning and they’re struggling to think or walk straight, putting on each other's overcoats which happen to include their address cards. Confused by the cards, their driver takes them to each other’s houses but not before the above-mentioned drunken smooching. Cheekily subversive. the kissing has the audience running through the permutations: Ossi knows what she’s doing but Herr Brockmüller is clearly a man of broad tastes…

No spoilers:   I won’t reveal what happens next, when the two “gents” wake up in the wrong beds… except to say that Lubitsch hasn’t finished with his twists and turns. Lessons are learned and important information is gained from both parties.

Lubitsch was already an experienced film maker by this stage and it’s interesting to observe his clear delight in the transgressive confusion. The film’s pacey and funny with a plethora of side-jokes thrown in for good measure: Uncle being thrown around in his sea cabin, the Governess finishing off Ossi’s cigarette and the neat subtleties of the denouement.

All is topped off by a splendid piano score from Mr Neil Brand which perfectly complements the frantic, light-hearted pace of events with a romantic flourish.

But it’s Ossi that makes the biggest  impression. This film was made before the conclusion of the First World War and fashionably featured a strong, independently-minded woman trying to find a new level in a society robbed of so many men. In Germany as elsewhere, the War left an opportunity for gender equality and Ossi was here to grab that chance with both hands either in a suit or in a dress… for the continuation of the film’s title is clearly: I want to be a woman!

I Don't Want to be a Man is available as part of the priceless Lubitsch in Berlin DVD box set recently made available by Masters of Cinema/Eureka. It’s available at best price from Movie Mail as well as the tax dodgers.