The Threepenny Opera
Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germany, 1931, 112MIN, German with English subtitles
HONORING VALESKA GERT
Loosely based on the 1928 Brecht-Weill musical, itself adapted from John Gay’s 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera, G. W. Pabst’s version of The Threepenny Opera features several members of the original Berlin cast—including Lotte Lenya as Pirate Jenny and Ernst Busch as the Street Singer—as well as Valeska Gert in the role of heroine Polly Peachum’s mother. Set in a shadowy, stylized and dreamlike Victorian London, the story of antihero Mackie “The Knife” Messer and his attempt to woo Polly Peachum as he eludes the authorities is timeless, and the film remains a benchmark of early sound cinema.
Introduction by Mel Gordon, professor emeritus of theater arts at the University of California, Berkeley.