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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Das Doppelte Lottchen ( 1950 ) - The Original Parent Trap

If you ever read the credits to Walt Disney's The Parent Trap ( 1961 )  you would have noticed that the film was based upon a book by the popular German author Erich Kastner entitled "Das Doppelte Lottchen" which was written in 1949. As famous as The Parent Trap was in the States, few children or adults can claim to have read the book....ourselves included. But last week, we did see the original German film that Disney based The Parent Trap on, and it is absolutely delightful. 

Like the Americanized version, Das Doppelte Lottchen tells the story of twin sisters who were separated at birth by their parents, with the father and the mother each taking one of the girls. The children meet up by accident at a summer camp and, once they realize they are sisters, they decide to switch places so that they can have the opportunity of meeting the parent they never knew. Of course, they know that their parents will notice the switch in due time but that is a part of their scheme, too, because their parents will then have to reunite to un-switch them. Clever gals! 

Erich Kastner wrote the screenplay to and narrated this entertaining adaptation of his novel, which was directed by Josef von Báky, a Hungarian filmmaker best known for directing Munchausen ( 1943 ). Lotte and Luise, the twins, are portrayed by two real-life twins, actresses Jutta and Isa Gunther, and while they are not quite as appealing or as natural as Hayley Mills doubled-up, their performances are very good....and quite different.  
Hayley's Susan and Sharon got easily frustrated with their parents ( especially their father's plans to remarry ), but Lotte and Luise take things with a calmer and sadder attitude, which seems a bit more true-to-life. This makes their parents' separation all the more heartbreaking because the two gals lack the independent spunk needed to offset their single-parent upbringing. Each one is especially close to the parent who raised them and, once they meet the father and mother they never knew, they come to love them, too. However, they have no scheme in mind for foiling their father's plan to remarry, which is an interesting change to note. In American films, children are often shown outwitting their parents, or cleverly manipulating them for their own benefit, because this appeals to younger audiences but, in Germany, one doesn't often find that kind of plot line in films. 

The twins' father, Papa Ludwig ( Peter Mosbacher ) is a youthful good-natured man with a passion for music. He is a composer and conductor of opera and resides with Louise and their housekeeper in a large apartment in Vienna, Austria. Their mother, portrayed by Antje Weisgerber, works at a newspaper office. She is less formal, enjoys nature, and lives in a smaller apartment with Lotte in Munich. The differences between the children's upbringing are not as great as the screenwriters made it out to be in the 1961 Disney version, and so they are able to pull off the "switch" with greater ease. In fact, the parents have no inkling that their daughter is not the same girl who they dropped off at summer camp. 
Das Doppelte Lottchen lacks the beautiful setting ( especially that fabulous California ranch that Mitch Brennan owned ) and the humor of Walt Disney's remake but more than makes up for it in heart. The affection that the parents show their children is wonderful to see and Erich Kastner's commentary throughout the film is enjoyable to listen to as well - rarely do authors narrate a film based on their own book! 

2 comments:

  1. This is really interesting. I always remember a book I read as a kid called Lotte & Lisa or something like that and it was basically The Parent Trap but set in another country. It may have been an English language adaptation of that German one perhaps. I always wondered if it was from before The Parent Trap or after it.

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    1. Yes, that was the English title of Erich Kastner's book. "Lisa and Lottie" was written in 1949, well before The Parent Trap was made.

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