director Ernst Lubitsch
A German fairy tale film of sorts, adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann by Ernst Lubitsch, The Doll is an odd charmer, propelled in large part by the amusing performance of Ossi Oswalda, the girl who plays the would-be robot girl.
When a ne’er-do-well is told to get married or be cut off from his uncle’s inheritance, he runs to join a monastery (as you do). The monks realize that he is due to inherit a big wad of cash and recommend to him to hunt down the toymaker extraordinaire up on the hill and take one of his robot-women automatons as a bride. He takes this advice, finds the craftsman and sees his wares of life-size dolls and finds one to his liking. Only the dollmaker’s assistant accidentally breaks the doll, so the dollmaker’s daughter, on who the doll’s likeness was crafted, stands in for her.
It’s a light and strange little film, which opens with an odd piece in which a puppeteer sets up a stage and dolls to act out the film. The film is then essentially a “brought to life” doll world, which seems to be played out in some of the spartan sets in which backgrounds are crudely drawn on the walls at times. It’s not so much a story-within-a-story but it’s an odd conceit in a strange, sweet little romantic fairy tale.