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Mann ist Mann a.k.a. A Man´s a Man (1931)
The original play by Berthold Brecht, "Mann ist Mann",
premiered in Darmstast in 1927. On February 6, 1931,
this revised version of the play opened for just 6
performances - Lorre took a one week leave of absence
from the set of "M" - at the Staatstheater in Berlin. A 35mm
film role of about 50 meter in length - showing parts of the
play from different perspectives - is what´s left of Carl
Koch´s filmed material, although the original was shot in
There is no sound at all and you get one new frame for about
every second, so this looks more like a slideshow than an
This is the only copy available worldwide, a true gem for Lorre
Mann ist Mann is a parable about the mutability of man. The place
is Kilkoa, India. Galy Gay (Lorre), a simple, poor Irish dock worker
goes out to buy a fish but instead agrees to purchase a cucumber
that he does not need. When a machine-gun unit of British
Tommies, standing on stilts and wearing false noses and hands to
effect, that has lost its fourth man realizes that here “is a man who
can’t say no,” they propose a business deal. If Galy Gay will agree to
replace their missing comrade, they will sell him an elephant at a
bargain price. “For about any kind of deal I am your man,” says Galy
Gay, who soon disavows his wife, his name, his past, altogether his
sense of identity. Because “one man’s as good as another,” the
soldiers take Galy Gay apart like a car and reassemble him bit by bit.
"Lorre told an interviewer for Newsweek magazine in 1962 that “the only
compliment I’ve ever had about my acting that meant anything to me was
from Brecht. In the notes to ‘Mann ist Mann,’ he talks about me for several
Negative reaction to Lorre’s performance by confused critics prompted Brecht to address a clarifying letter titled “The Question of Criteria for Judging Acting,” which was published in the Berliner Börsen Courier, March 8, 1931. Opinions fell into two categories. Some rejected his way of acting. Others judged it consistent with the playwright’s “new point of view.” Brecht used the controversy as a platform to defend Lorre’s performance within the context of his epic style, focusing on Herbert Jhering’s criticism that the actor had summoned sufficient charm for the early Galy Gay but lacked the decisive prerequisites - “clarity and the ability to make his meaning clear.” In rehearsals, Lorre had turned in a traditional performance. On opening night, however, the “hallmarks of great acting faded away,” wrote Brecht, “only to be replaced, in my view, by other hallmarks, of a new style of acting.” To the objection that Lorre had “acted nothing but episodes,” he explained how “his manner of speaking had been split up according to gests,” which, for the long speeches or “summings-up” had seemed to hinder their normal meaning. Lorre shouted and mumbled, withdrawing sentences and preventing the spectator from getting “caught up” in the contradictions. Thus the theatergoer “was not led but left to make his own discoveries.” If this seemed peculiar, epic theater had “profound reasons” for such a “reversal of criteria.” By pacing the tempo by mental processes rather than emotional ones, Lorre had “delivered his inventory” in a “truly magnificent way.” Just how well he managed “to mime the basic meaning underlying every (silent) sentence” struck Brecht when he saw Carl Koch’s 16mm film of the production: “The epic actor may possibly need an even greater range than the old stars did, for he has to be able to show his character’s coherence despite, or rather by means of, interruptions and jumps.”"
Excerpts from Stephen D. Youngkin - THE LOST ONE - A Life of Peter Lorre [2005/Book/pdf]
Stage play directed by Berthold Brecht, filmed by Carl Koch.
With Peter Lorre, Theo Lingen, Helene Weigel, Wolfgang Heinz, Alexander Granach, Leo Reuss, Paul Bildt.
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