Die Privatsekretärin (Private Secretary). 1931. Germany. Directed by Wilhelm Thiele. Screenplay by Franz Schulz, from an operetta by István Békeffy. With Renate Müller, Hermann Thimig, Felix Bressart, Ludwig Stössel. Digital reconstruction by Filmmuseum München at Alpha-Omega Digital laboratory, from incomplete 16mm and 35mm prints preserved by Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv and the Library of Congress. North American premiere. In German; English subtitles. 81 min.
Among the final flowerings of the doomed Weimar Republic was a new genre rooted in sound technology and the popular tradition of light-hearted operettas, which contemporaries called the Tonfilmlustspiel. Films like Der Kongress tanzt and Die Drei von der Tankstelle became international hits, and were often remade in different languages in other countries. One of the most successful was Wilhelm Thiele’s third feature, Die Privatsekretärin, with its catchy songs (by Paul Abraham), clever direction, and charismatic lead performance by Renate Müller, who settles somewhere between the spritelyness of Ginger Rogers and the innocence of Loretta Young. Paradoxically, while the British (Sunshine Susie, featuring Müller herself), French (Dactylo), and Italian (La segretaria privata) remakes all exist, the German version was thought to survive only in incomplete form, until two 16mm prints were found at the Library of Congress in 2017 and Filmmuseum München was able to scan them and reconstruct the original. Müller herself did not find favor with Hitler, who ordered all prints of her films destroyed. She died under suspicious circumstances in 1937, perhaps murdered by the Gestapo.