Husband is hounded by his nagging mother-in-law who lives with him and his wife. After coming home drunk one night he is kicked out by the mother-in-law. He disguises himself as a servant and gets a job at his own house.


Ernst Lubitsch
as Ernst Lubitsch
Louise Schenrich
as Louise Lubitsch
Lanchen Voss
as Louise's Mother

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by FerdinandVonGalitzien 6 /10

It's Rough But Therein Lays Its Charm

The most dangerous threat to the happiness of any young married couple, besides matrimony itself, are the mothers-in-law; this terrible feminine lobby, since the dawn of time , has always meddled and tried to disturb the tranquillity of newlyweds and sometimes their evil schemes succeeded in making a contented life impossible for the youngsters.

The great German director, Herr Ernst Lubitsch, captured pretty well these universal mother-in-law treacherous manoeuvres in "Als Ich Tot War" ( When I Was Dead ) (1916) a two-reel silent comedy shown recently at the Schloss theatre.

The film depicts the story of a young married couple ( Herr Ernst Lubitsch himself and Frau Louise Schenrich ) who live in the same apartment with their mother-in-law ( Frau Lanchen Voss ), a terrible mistake. At least if the mother-in-law lives far away, her dangerous intentions require more exertion to work. Herr Ernst likes very much to play chess with his pals at the club, a thrilling sport that will bring him a lot of problems ( that's what happens when you play such weird games ). One night Herr Ernst arrives home late due to one of those exciting and lengthy chess matches and finds the door to his home locked, forcing him to sleep on the stairs. It is not necessary to say that the party responsible for such an evil act is his mother-in-law who continually uses the long chess matches to poison her daughter's mind against her husband. She finally succeeds and Frau Luise divorces her mate.

But Herr Ernst's revenge will be terrible: His mother-in-law puts an ad in the newspaper for a butler so, anticipating many modernen superheroes, he dons a disguise and answers the ad (Herr Ernst s disguise consists only of a wig but nobody seems to recognize him). Now, inside his old home and thanks to his wig, his sex appeal will attract the maid and even his mother-in-law!, In what it is one of the most insidious plans of vengeance ever contemplated. Herr Ernst will try to seduce his mother-in-law in order to shame her and finally banish her from his home.

"Als Ich Tot War" is a funny silent comedy, typical of Herr Lubitsch's youngster days. It's rough but therein lays its charm. The funny and simple situations depicted in the film and its light, easy and inoffensive humour is of the sort that have pleased audiences for centuries before the silent screen. Herr Lubitsch of course will later become one of the most important film directors in cinema history but he's a long way from that here.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must play chess with one of his mothers-in-law.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Reviewed by Horst_In_Translation 4 /10

Decent early Lubitsch

"Wo ist mein Schatz?" is just one of several German-language and English-language titles for this 35-minute short film. It is from the year 1916, the days of World War I and so this one has its 100th anniversary this year. The writer and director here is Ernst Lubitsch, in his early-mid-20s , but despite his age he was already a fairly experienced filmmaker because he started so early and was quickly very prolific. The title already gives away that this film is mostly comedy. Every other genre is almost non-existent or negligible (romance). Lubitsch also plays a main character himself in here as he frequently did in his early filmmaking day (a similarity to Fassbinder). This is of course quite a while away from the days Lubitsch became an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who made it big in Hollywood. In terms of the story here, I guess it was okay. Nothing really entertaining or funny and this film is not a must-see by any means, but people who like silent films more than I do may have a good time watching. I personally have little (actually, zero) interest in watching it again and that's why I give it a thumbs-down, even if it not a failure by any means.

Reviewed by F Gwynplaine MacIntyre 4 /10

Lubitsch as Mr Doubtfire

'Wo Ist Mein Schatz?' (roughly, 'Where's My Sweetie-Pie?') is a very early comedy written and directed by and starring Ernst Lubitsch. Although Lubitsch went on to become one of the most important directors in movie history, this early effort is nothing much. In fact, 'Where's My Sweetie-Pie?' has almost the exact same premise as 'Mrs Doubtfire', but without the cross-dressing.

Lubitsch plays a young husband (named Ernst Lubitsch!) who must contend with an overbearing mother-in-law and a wife who expects him to stay at home. When Ernst receives a letter informing him that he must come to the chess club that night for a championship match, I assumed that this was a ruse contrived by Ernst's cronies so that he could go out for a night of drunken carousing. I was wrong: Ernst really *does* go to the chess club that night... in a room with no booze, no cigars, and no sexy jungfrau ... and he really *does* play a chess match. (Although he doesn't follow regulation play: Ernst picks up a chessman and moves it, then changes his mind and moves another one instead. This is against the rules.)

Ernst's wife (named Louise, like the actress who plays her) throws him out and divorces him. Ernst sends her a letter, declaring that he's going to commit suicide. Reading the newspaper in his club, Ernst spots an advert with his wife's address: she wants to engage a manservant.

Ernst's hairdresser kits him out in a ginger wig with a fringe that makes him look like Graham Chapman in a Monty Python sketch. Then Ernst goes to his own (former) home, where of course his wife and mother-in-law don't recognise him. They promptly hire him as a combination porter, footman and butler. Complications ensue.

This movie is amusing but clumsy. In one scene, when Ernst sabotages a spoon so that it will leak, we see a long, long, LONG close-up of Ernst nobbling the spoon. When Louise acquires a would-be suitor who looks at least 70 years old, Ernst chucks him down the staircase. Because the scene is clearly genuine (no stunt double, no trick photography; Ernst is really throwing an old man down the stairs), this action is disturbing rather than funny.

I'm very much a fan of Lubitsch, but even at this early stage in his career he was doing much better work than this film. I'll rate this movie 4 out of 10.

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