Family Day

A German silent film comedy called “Familientag im Hause Prellstein,” from 1927, features a family feud over an inheritance.  When Sami Bambus learns that his gambling debts far exceed his fortune, he decides to fake his own death.  His plan takes into account a law that says the heirs must pay off the debts of the deceased.  The resulting legal squabble pits family members against each other, first to get their hands on the inheritance, and then to reject it when they learn of the law.

A scene from “Familientag im Hause Prellstein,” released in 1927.  (Courtesy Österreichisches Theatermuseum, Vienna)

The simple story features two character actors who later found work in Hollywood, including Sig Arno (“The Palm Beach Story,” from 1942) and S. Z. Sakall (“Ball of Fire,” from 1941).  Sakall also played the waiter, Carl, in “Casablanca (1942).”  Others in the Jewish cast died in concentration camps.

The notes on this film, presented at the 2012 Pordenone Silent Film Festival, say that the film created lots of controversy in 1927.  Anti-semites pressured Ufa Studios to release the film without publicity, while Jewish groups objected to the film’s stereotypical characterizations.  However, the film is really just a funny comedy about family relations, and it’s great to see a German comedy film from this period.

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