13 March 2004 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Turn over the page, boy...
'The Dalmasse Hotel Page' stars Dolly Haas. Ach, does it ever. For a deeper analysis of Dolly Haas's life and career, see my IMDb review of her film 'Es tut sich was um Mitternacht'. For purposes of 'Dalmasse Hotel Page', I'll repeat the gist of that review: Dolly Haas tended to play 'gamin' roles: those allegedly cute waifs whom we're supposed to just cuddle into our hearts, but whom I usually want to punch in the nose.
Haas (pronounced 'Hoss') was not physically attractive (not to me, at least), and she had shoe-button eyes which seldom conveyed expression in any of her performances. It's probably appropriate that Ms Haas is remembered less as an actress in her own right than as the wife of the great caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. The fact that Hirschfeld often drew faces with shoe-button eyes leads me to speculate as to why he found Haas so appealing.
In this movie, Haas plays a virginal waif who can't get any virginal waif jobs (must be due to that recession in the German economy), so she disguises herself as a boy and gets a job as an hotel page at the Dalmasse. While Dolly Haas was certainly no bull-dyke, I never found her remotely feminine. Disguised as a boy, she manages to look utterly devoid of female traits without looking remotely male. It's not a pretty sight, folks.
One of the guests in the Dalmasse is a wealthy middle-aged Baron (played by Harry Liedtke) who has attracted the attention of three American crooks. The crooks - two women and a man - are played by German performers. The attempts by Gina Falckenberg, Trude Hesterberg and Hans Richter to play American gangsters are, shall we say, very interesting. It's clear that somebody involved in the production of this film spent some time watching Hollywood gangster movies.
The hotel detective (Hans Junkermann) recruits Dolly the page 'boy' in a scheme to get the goods on the crooks who are scamming the Baron. When Dolly meets the Baron, she straight away falls in love with him. The Baron, of course, is completely fooled by Dolly's disguise, and he assumes that she is indeed a boy.
Wait, it gets worse. The actor who plays the Baron is old enough to be Dolly's father, so the development of a romance between them is distressing even without the cross-dressing angle. Of course, the instant that the Baron learns (from Dolly's mother) that this boy is a girl, he reciprocates her romantic feelings so promptly that I couldn't help wondering how he felt towards Dolly when he thought she was a boy. Ach, du lieber!
Have I mentioned that this movie is a comedy? I didn't laugh once. It's interesting to see that Germans had time for this sort of lumpenschmutz in the year that Uncle Adolph updated his résumé. The photography, sound recording and lighting are excellent, but there is some bad shot-matching in this film, and a few continuity errors. Director Victor Janson should have stuck to his career as an actor: he was very impressive in Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Doll'. I'll rate this movie 2 points out of 10. Good-bye, Dolly...