Ernst Lubtisch’s ‘That Uncertain Feeling’

Throughout Ernst Lubitsch’s That Uncertain Feeling, Burgess Meredith’s character goes “Phooey” at anything he doesn’t like. Sadly, this film should be met with just that, despite it being another film from the genius that is Lubitsch.

Although the “Lubitsch Touch” certainly should have been fading by 1941, what with his brand of sophisticated comedies dying out, it wasn’t. From 1939 to 1943, he got into another creative streak, with Ninotchka, The Shop Around The Corner, To Be Or Not To Be and Heaven Can Wait all released between those years. That Uncertain Feeling came out between Shop and To Be and feels like much of the sophistication that we expect in Lubtisch films just isn’t working here. Maybe it’s the cast, maybe the film is just too rushed or that the jokes are tired, but That Uncertain Feeling just doesn’t work.

The plot boils down to a love triangle. Jill (Merle Oberon) and Larry Baker (Ninotchka‘s Melvyn Douglas) are the happiest couple among the New York society set. But after visiting a psychoanalyst (Alan Mowbray), Jill realizes that her marriage might not be all that it seems and Larry might be the cause of her hiccups. While waiting for another appointment with the doctor, Jill meets struggling pianist Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith) and she realizes that she enjoys spending time with this artistic fellow. Has she really fallen in love with Alexander or does she still love Larry, who won’t give up too easily?

Larry hatches a plan to get a happy divorce, thinking that the process will make Jill realize that she’s really still in love with him. Of course, because this is still the days of Hollywood codes, we know that this will work.

However, because the film is so rushed, Lubitsch isn’t given a real chance to drag this out with any particularly funny gags. It also doesn’t help that Oberon just doesn’t seem very comfortable and her delivery of lines make jokes fall flat. The whole project feels like a retread of much better Lubitsch comedies from the early ’30s.

That Uncertain Feeling is in the public domain and can be seen below.

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