Clever updating of Victorien Sardou's comic masterpiece 'Cyprienne' of 1880 and a reworking of the director's own silent-era adaptation of 1925, 'Kiss Me Again' (now lost). Lubitsch touches abound, despite generally churlish criticism of 'That Uncertain Feeling' since it's release in 1941. It seems that audiences have not appreciated the broader, farcical elements, reflecting the style and tone of the original play, that are an integral part of this neglected Lubitsch gem.
Even the numerous detractors of this delightful film - who feel that it somehow misses the fabled 'touch' - do still feel obliged to enumerate the many happy contrivances which the great director elegantly accomplishes here. I won't spoil the film for those who have not yet enjoyed the treat, but any honest viewing will confirm that the stylish acting and delicious wit displayed in TUF do put to shame most contemporary comedy.
There is an abundance of talent on show here to make us glad: Only a character as impossible as Alexander Sebastian, with his determination to be impressed by nothing and nobody but himself, could possibly dismiss this highly amusing film with the casually contemptuous 'Phooey!' that is so typical of that ridiculous fellow.
Amidst the humour, this marital farce can really needle, as witness the husband's annoying treatment of his wife by habitually poking her in the ribs with an index finger and the accompanying would-be-droll vocalisation of 'Keeks!'
The Freudian finger tends to provoke attacks of the hiccups in Mrs Baker, which psychosomatic complaint takes her to the psychiatrist, and a surprisingly therapeutic waiting-room confrontation with the aforementioned eccentric pianist Alexander Sebastian. A fling then ensues more beneficial to Mrs Baker than her one and only plodding analysis session.
We are now launched into some deliciously Mozartian mischief, by means of which the Baker's marriage is saved.
Some strange words are uttered during the course of events, like comic incantations.
For instance, a marvellous conversational riot of Hungarian bonhomie is unleashed at the Baker's dinner-table, when the magic word 'Egészségedre!' - pronounced Egg-e-sheg-e-dra and meaning 'Cheers!' - is employed by the host's wife to ingratiate his prospective business partners, Hungarian mattress manufacturers and furniture salesmen whom the Bakers are entertaining along with their wives: The precise meaning of the unleashed flood of Hungarian words doesn't matter, and remains incomprehensible except insofar as it so obviously celebrates simple human good-fellowship. The scene magically conjures up just that ordinary domestic bliss missing from the Baker menage - now unhappily a trois.
Then there is the 'Keeks!' which as a punning intertitle announces
' - - - has gone out of the marriage.'
Mr Baker has deliberately and with enthusiasm acceded to a divorce, realising that the piano-player will not like to find himself conforming to the role of husband, nor the wife to suffer the spectacle of hubby's renewed bachelor affairs. To become the 'named individual' in resolving the love-triangle by initiating divorce proceedings Mr Baker must contrive to slap his estranged wife's face before a witness at the solicitor's office: He finds it so difficult to accomplish this faked outrage that Mrs Baker is immediately reconciled: The smart slap is transfigured into the committed loving gesture that expunges and heals the injury of the inconsiderate and unfeeling light drollery of 'Keeks!' - that Mrs Baker found so depressing that it was the cause of the separation: 'He had to get drunk to do it' she says, happily recognising his renewed committment.
Additionally, the sly insinuation of the husband's reprehended dig-in-the-ribs - always more suitable for all-male locker-room joshing - into the amatory repertoire of the precious and annoying Alexander Sebastian absolutely clinches the marital deal for Mr Baker, as well as the resolution of the comic drama: As Mr Freud might say, in the person of the ineffective psychiatrist at the outset of the marital crisis, a transference has taken place, the latest and most significant, whereby an unconscious redirection of feelings has taken place from one person to another - that is to say, in this case, of Mrs Baker's feelings from the fellow whom she now perceives to be her intolerably selfish piano-playing fling and back towards her redeemed and grateful husband.
Such witty and life-affirming prestidigitation with language and action is pretty brilliant wit, it seems to me, and as eminently worthy of admiration as the rest of Lubitch's delightful quicksilver touch.
A true comedy, this, then, being a joyous celebration of the more hopeful side of life: 'Egészségedre!' indeed.