Katharina, die Letzte [Catherine the Last] (1936)


Katharina, die Letzte
Director: Henry Koster
Writer: Felix Jackson, Károly Nóti
Based on: Sándor Hunyady‘s novel
Cast: Franciska Gaal, Hans Holt, Hans Olden, Otto Wallburg, Dorothy Poole, Eduard Linkers, Ernö Verebes, Adrienne Gessner, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 23.2.2021

Plot:
Hans (Hans Holt) is in love with Sybill (Dorothy Poole) and would like to marry her. But Sybill’s father Sixtus Braun (Otto Wallburg) believes Hans to be an unsteady lothario and he wants nothing to do with him, much less see him marry his daughter. After Braun kicks out Hans and forbids his staff from ever letting him into the house again, Hans concocts a different plan. He realizes that the most menial of maids, Katharina (Franciska Gaal) was not present at the staff instruction, so he poses as a chauffeur and asks her out on a date, hoping to gain access to the house through her. What he doesn’t factor into his plans is that Katharina actually takes his advances seriously.

Katharina, die Letzte is such an infuriating film with such a wonderful Franciska Gaal that it left me a bit of a mess. The story sucks, but she is so perfect that I almost didn’t care.

The film poster showing Katharina (Franciska Gaal) wearing a headscarf.

I’m almost angry at myself that Katharina has such an effect on me. She is obviously built to be the purest, most innocent person in the world and is written barely two-dimensional. In that sense, she is an absolutely manipulative character. And then along comes Gaal and turns her into a charming, fully rounded character that I couldn’t help but feel fiercely protective of. The entire film I felt like I had to push her behind me and hiss at anyone who dares to come close. When she gets hurt in the film, it is absolutely heartbreaking and I sobbed like a child.

She absolutely needs protection particularly from Hans who doesn’t deserve her in the slightest. He is a lying, selfish asshole who treats her like shit and I’m still not over the fact that after everything he has done, they end up together and it is treated as a happy end. I’m with Braun on this one: Hans is not to be trusted and I doubt that Katharina will have a great life with him.

Katharina (Franciska Gaal) surrounded by police men.

So, the story is utter bullshit in that sense because it just brushes away all the hurt Hans caused and will probably continue to cause, and thus the ending rings very hollow. But if you ignore Hans entirely, the film is an emotional masterpiece that tugs on all the right strings.

The Comedian Harmonists make a short appearance in the film which is really nice. Generally, the music was pretty good. But it is Katharina who will stay with me for a long time yet.

Hans (Hans Holt) drving Katharina (Franciska Gaal) in a car.

Summarizing: ignore the story, but watch it.

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