Marriage Circle, The (1924)

A delightfully humorous early silent classic from Lubitsch that efficiently tells the interlocking story of two couples whose marriages teeter towards a crisis.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,486

Dir. Ernst Lubitsch
1924 | USA | Comedy/Romance | 85 min | 1.33:1 | Silent-English
Not rated – likely to be PG

Cast: Florence Vidor, Monte Blue, Marie Prevost, Creighton Hale, Adolphe Menjou
Professor Stock and his wife Mizzi are always bickering. Mizzi tries to seduce Dr. Franz Braun, the new husband of her good friend Charlotte.

Distributor: Warner Bros

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Marital Crisis; Infidelity
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Often regarded as one of the first films from the silent period to lay the blueprint for the modern comedy that would come into its own a few years later when ‘talkies’ entered the fray, The Marriage Circle is a delightfully humourous early classic from Ernst Lubitsch. 

The director of more well-known later works such as Trouble in Paradise (1932), To Be or Not to Be (1942) and Heaven Can Wait (1943) gives us an interlocking story of two married couples who find that love may just be a smokescreen. 

Prof. Stock is contemplating divorcing his nagging wife, Mizzi, whom he is tired of.  Hoping to find evidence of infidelity, he hires a private investigator. 

On the other hand, Mizzi becomes smitten by Dr. Braun in a chance encounter and attempts to seduce him, despite learning that he is the husband of her good friend, Charlotte. 

“How can a husband, who loves his wife, neglect her so.”

If all that isn’t already complicated, Dr. Braun’s colleague, Dr. Gustav, has a romantic interest in Charlotte.  Suspicions of infidelity abound as these marriages teeter towards a crisis. 

Lubitsch’s approach is highly efficient, without an overreliance on intertitles.  Although he would later be recognised as a Hollywood master of comic wit, The Marriage Circle shows his flair for visual comedy. 

There is an elegance to how he applies comic timing as the characters (the guilty or conniving ones at least) operate with deception. 

And not just that—he also affords the characters time to live out their own fantasies in several ‘rendezvous’.  If you love Lubitsch or silent films, this ought to go into your watchlist. 

Grade: B+

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