Dolly Haas now devotes herself to being the wife of show-biz caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, but in the early '30s she was one of the brightest stars of German films. Two of her films, "Scampolo, Child of the Streets" (1932) and "The Ugly Girl" (1933), screen Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the County Museum of Art's Berlin Exiles series.
Both are so delightful that they can be enjoyed without subtitles. In the first, a classic Depression fantasy with songs, Haas, whose spontaneity and fresh appeal is not unlike that of Louise Brooks, is a street urchin whose only shelter is a telephone booth. Directed by Hans Steinhoff, "Scampolo" was co-written by Billy Wilder (with Max Kolpe, later Colpet), and there are sly touches that seem pure Wilder.
While "Scampolo" seems a charming period piece, "The Ugly Girl" is more timeless. A satire on sleazy office mores, it has a surprisingly sharp cutting edge and quite contemporary feminist sentiments. Of course, Haas isn't really ugly, only a quickly remedied drab, when she goes to work for a large insurance company, a bastion of hypocritical male chauvinist pigs. (Genia Nicolajewa, who plays the boss' glamorous secretary, will attend the screening.) "The Ugly Girl" was written by Felix Joachimson (later Jackson) and directed by Hermann Kosterlitz (Henry Koster), who were to do far different kinds of films once they arrived in Hollywood.
Attention all admirers of "Repo Man": the New Beverly Cinema is screening Wednesday only (along with "Liquid Sky") the wildly imaginative 45-minute "Edge City," which "Repo Man" director Alex Cox made as a student at UCLA in 1980. Like "Repo Man," it's a funny, funky-surreal L.A. odyssey in which a young Englishman (Cox), a would-be writer mixed up in drug dealing, discovers life beginning to imitate art.
Before Rashomon: Japanese Film Treasures of the 1930s and 1940s commences Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at UCLA's Melnitz Theater with Heinosuke Gosho's amusing, inventive situation comedy, "The Bride Talks in Her Sleep," in which a 22-year-old Kinuyo Tanaka is a demure, traditional bride confronted with her husband's free-loading pals eager to find out if she really does talk in her sleep. Playing with it is a follow-up film (but not a sequel), "The Groom Talks in His Sleep," starring matinee idol Chojiro Hayashi, later to be renowned as Kazuo Hasegawa, star of "Gate of Hell.")
The outstanding offering in the final week of the Arab Film series at UCLA's Melnitz is the stunning Belgian-Tunisian co-production "Crossing Over" (today at 5:30 p.m.). A sleekly elegant, highly contemporary fable by director Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, it tells of two men, a worker (Julian Negulesco) fleeing from behind the Iron Curtain and an Arab intellectual (Fadhel Jaziri), who become trapped on a ferry shuttling between Ostend and Dover after they are denied entry at either end. Their predicament yields both a discourse on the nature of freedom as well as considerable suspense.
Among this week's treasures in the UCLA Archives Preservation Series: "Silent Serials and Features, 1915-1926" (Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Melnitz Theater). The surprise here is the chapter from Ruth Roland's "Who Pays?" Usually, Roland was Pearl White's great rival in derring-do, but here she's a spoiled society belle in this self-contained 45-minute morality play in which her greedy tycoon father cruelly exploits his workers, led by a driven-to-desperation Henry King (soon to become the eminent director). No cliffhanger, "Who Pays?" brings to mind Griffith's socially conscious "A Corner on Wheat." Also on the program: the breezy 1926 comedy "More Pay, Less Work," with Charles (Buddy) Rogers and Mary Brian.