Celebrated for his distinct style and credited with inventing the classic genre of the Hollywood romantic comedy and helping to create the musical, Lubitsch won the admiration of his fellow directors. He was revered in his day by such other leading filmmakers as Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Max Ophüls, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, and Preston Sturges. In the words of one of his actors, David Niven, Lubitsch was “the masters’ master.” Renoir, another great European émigré director, went so far as to say of Lubitsch, “He invented the modern Hollywood.” Welles declared in 1964 that Lubitsch “is a giant. . . . Lubitsch’s talent and originality are stupefying.”
Lubitsch (1892–1947), a native of Berlin, was imported from Germany to Hollywood by Mary Pickford in 1922. In Germany he had become known as “the D. W. Griffith of Europe” because of his flair for making large-scale historical spectacles but with a refreshingly modern approach to sexuality. Lubitsch set the tone for obliquely suggestive filmmaking in Hollywood with his subtle and influential 1924 dramatic comedy The Marriage Circle. In How Did Lubisch Do It?, Joseph McBride McBride explains the “Lubitsch Touch” and shows how the director challenged American attitudes toward romance and sex.