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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Die Drei von der Tankstelle (1930)

Three friends get suddenly broke and loose everything except optimism. So they take a run-down filling station and start working in shifts. It happens that a young lady begins to come there every day, always finding another one of the three guys. Naturally each of them falls deeply in love for the girl, without being aware of the other two.  As for her, to choose among the three proves difficult: all of them are so cute! Selecting one will do injustice to the other two. They are Willy Fritsch, Oskar Karlweis, and Heinz Rühmann, she is Lilian Harvey. Olga Chekhova is also playing in a supporting role. A wonderful musical that made Heinz Rühmann a star. It was 1930.

Says the Continuum Film Blog, completely crazy in a way very different from American musical comedies of the same period it does share the theme of making a living in difficult times. But instead of putting on a show, the boys open a filling station. After all, they did run out of gas fleeing their dispossessed home being emptied by the bailiff and some burlesque musical movers. As in Ein blonder Traum there is clever use of models to further the surreal/expressionistic moments. The workers pickup a deco clad couch and throw is through the air (with whirring Mickey Mousing) straight through the house into the van! Made think of my own housing and moving issues but that's another issue...

I couldn't find a copy of the movie, only some scenes. I found instead the remake from 1955. Willy Fritsch played also in the remake, this time in the role of the girl's father. Also Hans Moser had a cameo in this 1955 film, and I was glad to see him again, even for two minutes only. As the movie is not subtitled, I offer you a description of the plot, that I found on imdb and worked a little bit on it. Here you go:

The story starts with the three friends riding back home from some place. They are Peter (Adrian Hoven), Fritz (Walter Giller), and Robert (Walter Müller). Their car wheel gets lose and falls in the mud. While Peter walks back to find a repair station, Robert does a Claudette Colbert kind of a trick, hiding behind the bushes and sticking his leg out, thus pretending to be a woman, in order to make a car stop and get Fritz back to the city. Peter finds a car repair, only the mechanic is a mean guy and hesitates to go solve their car problem. Eventually Fritz gets a ride back to the city on a truck, while Robert waits for Peter to return with the mechanic.

When Fritz arrives in the city he goes to an investment firm, to be told that there's no more dividends (or that all three friends have lost their new jobs there, as they hadn't come in time, whichever), so all three friends are broke. In the same day the bailiff comes to the apartment they are sharing and  gets them out, while a team of workers is picking up all their furniture. At least the workers cannot pick up the car, too (as it is far away, with the wheel in the mud and all that stuff).

Meanwhile the car wheel is somehow fixed and they take a ride to the countryside, to clear their minds and see what to do next.  Of course their car breaks down, it's starting to rain heavily, and they end up at an abandoned gas station. They sell the car and buy the station (along with a small dilapidated house nearby). Soon they make it a success, and an oil company called U.M.O.L. finds out about it.

So the staff from U.M.O.L. enters the picture. The president of the company is Consul Kossmann (Willy Fritsch), his girl friend Irene (Claude Farrel), a sculptress, is also a stock holder at the company. There is also the director, Dr Calmus (Osckar Sima). Add to them the president's daughter, Gaby (Germaine Damar), who works as a secretary. The president gets the director to take a look at the gas station and to buy it. Also the president gets his daughter Gaby to go spy on the place.

So Gaby starts going every day to the gas station in her convertible and she finds there each time another one of the three guys, as they work in shifts. Each one falls for Gaby on the spot and gives her a gas attendant doll. Neither one is aware that the other two had also fallen in love with the girl.

Naturally she's also falling in love with them, as it's hard to make a selection: they all are so cute! And anyway she remains with all three gas attendant dolls. Neither one knows that she's the president's daughter. The director shows up later on, to offer them a deal. Peter and Fritz turn it down, while Robert agrees with it.

Meanwhile Gaby is dreaming about all three, and when her father shows up in her room and notices the three dolls and also hears her mentioning all the three men in her sleep, he realizes what's going on. The next day Gaby tells Irene, her father's girlfriend, about this. Irene decides to invite all three men to the night club to test which of them is more in love with Gaby. Earlier Gaby showed the report she made to her father and to the director, stating not to buy the station since she's sympathetic with them. The director decides to buy the station anyway.

Peter and Robert thumb ride to the night club where they suppose to meet Gaby. Peter gets a ride, while Robert ends up going back home and taking their mini car (some antediluvian device they have achieved somehow) . Fritz has to stay and attend the gas station, which he does, until some truck driver tells him about a new road being open and all the property being bought to make this road. He immediately goes back home to tell them about this, but they all are gone. So he also goes to the night club. Of course, none of them knew that the other two had been invited in the same place. So at the club each of them is surprised. Their surprise gets much bigger as they notice the president, her girlfriend and Gaby at another table . A story is made up that she is engaged to the director, to see how they would react, so to prove who really loves Gaby. All of them get upset and leave, making her disappointed in tears.

The next day the director assistant goes to the gas station with the papers of take over. This angers the three guys. After that Irene shows up to try to tell them what happened. They are angry with her, showing her the take over papers. She calls up the president, who in turn calls the director telling him to forget about buying the station. Later the president and Gaby show up with champagne to calm down spirits. Eventually everybody's happy and Gaby remains with the one who loves her most.

Don't worry with the skull you see in the video above, it's caoutchouc:)

Says the Continuum Film Blog, I love that Oskar Karlweis slides down the wheel fender and that the dancers walk through the roadster and the camera actually leaves the proscenium pov and goes to the other side! It's a little thing but quite canny and gives an otherwise static set-bound dance a little life. Karlweis moves a little like Bert Wheeler. I like his singing and his gazing at his memento Mercedes gas cap! And of course there's the klaxon motif!

Die Drei von der Tankstelle, 1930
Ein Freund ein guter Freund
(video by Ein Lied geht um die Welt)

Die Drei von der Tankstelle, 1930
Liebling, mein Herz läßt Dich grüßen
(video by Ein Lied geht um die Welt)

Die Drei von der Tankstelle, 1930
Erst kommt ein großes Fragezeichen
(video by Ein Lied geht um die Welt)

Says the Continuum Film Blog, the finale is total operetta with a double end and the characters looking and talking to the cinema audience with much less winking than from Lubitsch and Chevalier. A terrific lame curtain intervenes and the big ending features a crowded mise en scene all taking place in a gasoline corporate office, all very modern and jazzy. It reminded me more of The Threepenny Opera than an Astaire/Rogers musical.

(Heinz Rühmann)



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