The Wild Cat (1921 film)

The Wild Cat
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Produced by Paul Davidson
Written by Hanns Kräly
Ernst Lubitsch
Starring Pola Negri
Cinematography Theodor Sparkuhl
Distributed by Universum Film
Release dates
12 April 1921
Running time
82 minutes
Country Germany

The Wild Cat (aka The Mountain Cat, German: Die Bergkatze), subtitled A Grotesque in Four Acts, is a 1921 German silent, farcical, romantic comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra premiered its new score for the film at the 2011 St. Louis International Film Festival.


Act I

The commander of an isolated border fortress receives word that a Lieutenant Alexis has been assigned there as punishment. This delights his wife and daughter. Elsewhere, vast mobs of women line the streets to bid Alexis goodbye (as does a horde of young children who call him Daddy).

Act II

On the sleigh ride to his new posting, Alexis is pelted by a snowball by a young woman. When he gets out of the sleigh, he is surrounded by armed men, part of a gang of feared robbers nominally led by Claudius, but in reality under the bidding of his daughter, Rischka. Rischka forces Alexis to take off his uniform. He nonchalantly kisses her hand anyway. When one of the men draws his dagger, Rischka intervenes and lets Alexis go unharmed, in his "underclothes".


When Alexis arrives at the fort, Lilli, the commander's daughter, likes what she sees. The commander sends Alexis with a large musical band and a smaller detachment of soldiers to punish the robbers, but despite being outnumbered, Rischka and her men have little trouble routing their attackers. When the soldiers return to the fort, their commander assumes they have been victorious and gives Alexis Lilli's hand in marriage as a reward. None of the men bother to correct him.

There is a great celebration, with fireworks, an orchestra, dancing and drinking. Rischka sneaks into the fortress with some of the robbers and proceeds to loot a bedroom. She puts on a dress she finds there, and the men don uniforms; then they all join the party. Alexis spots her and gives chase, finally trapping her in a room. They embrace, but then he decides his duty requires him to turn her in. He locks her in, but a jealous Lilli later opens the room and makes Rischka leave before Alexis returns with soldiers.

Act IV

Claudius also decides it is time for his daughter to marry. The robbers remind him that he promised one of them the honor. When Rischka demands to know who it will be, all but one slink away. Only Pepo remains. Rischka does not take him seriously, until he unexpectedly knocks her down and drags her away by her legs. Shocked at first by this atypical behavior, she eventually showers him with kisses, and they embrace in the snow. As part of the wedding ceremony, Claudius chains the couple together at the wrist. However, Rischka becomes sad when she reads of the betrothal of Alexis and Lilli. Seeing this, Pepo unchains her.

She goes to Alexi's suite. He is glad to see her, and goes to change into something more comfortable. While he is gone, Lilli arrives. Seeing her rival, she bursts into tears, causing Rischka to promise to make things right (though she does steal Lilli's necklace while comforting her). When Alexis returns, Rischka acts so boorishly that he becomes disgusted. She returns to Pepo, while Alexis greets Lilli more warmly.



The film was restored in 2000 from an original negative. The intertitles were lost, but were reconstructed from surviving censor notes.

DVD releases

The film was released with German intertitles by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and the Transit Film GmbH in 2006 in the 6-CD box set "Ernst Lubitsch Collection" with original music composed by Marco Dalpane and performed by the Ensemble Playground in 2000. The film was released in the US by Kino Lorber as part of the box set "Lubitsch in Berlin" in 2007 with English intertitles. It was also released in the UK by Eureka's Masters of Cinema series as part of the box set "Lubitsch in Berlin: Fairy-Tales, Melodramas, and Sex Comedies" in 2010 with German intertitles and English subtitles.

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