Of the European filmmakers arriving in Hollywood, the German-born Ernst Lubitsch (1892 – 1947), not only set the groundwork for entire genres, but also managed to command near-universal respect from peers. The Harvard Film Archives dedicates a thorough retrospective to his work, comprising both his early (mostly silent) films made in Germany as well as his Hollywood films. Lubitsch’s greatest achievements were in fact in the American cinema, where he effectively raised the bar for screen comedy, laid confident steps into the tenuous terrain of the “talkie,” and forged the movie musical from a toolshed of cumbersome equipment and unproven actor-singers. Lubitsch was a figure of supreme industry cachet and high mainstream visibility who nonetheless cultivated what a publicist famously referred to as The Lubitsch Touch
—that is, a markedly singular brand in a mass-produced medium.