The most widely imitated comic filmmaker of the sound era, Ernst Lubitsch perfected an urbane, graceful directorial style so original and so distinctive that the phrase "Lubitsch Touch" was coined simply to describe it. Combining elegance and wit to bring a tremendous warmth and humanity to even the thinnest of screenplays, he set a new standard of achievement for the light romantic comedy, largely defining the genre while also helping to revolutionize the movie musical as well as various recording techniques.
Lubitsch was born January 28, 1892, in Berlin, Germany. He first emerged as a stage performer, joining Max Reinhardt's celebrated Deutsches Theater. He made his film debut in 1912, directing Passion. Lubitsch continued to work onscreen as an actor as well, appearing in films including 1913's Die ideale Gattin and the next year's Firma Heiratet, but upon directing three separate films in 1915 alone -- Zucker und Zimt, Blindekuh, and Aufs Eis geführt, respectively -- his future behind the camera was sealed. After scoring a major hit with 1919's Die Austernprinzessin, he helmed a number of lavish historical dramas including Madame Dubarry and 1920's Anna Boleyn. Alternately, he also worked on smaller productions including the 1921 comedy Die Bergkatze, all of which proved critical to securing a market for the German film industry even prior to the rise of the Expressionist movement.