Bright Lights Film Journal

Hiding the Salami in Plain Sight

A Royal Scandal(1945) is an Ernst Lubitsch production directed through – rather than by – Otto Preminger. It stars Tallulah Bankhead as Empress Catherine of Russia, aka Catherine the Great. It is not, however, a work of history.It is a sex comedy – one in which sex is never mentioned, much less shown. Lubitsch’s trick, known to his contemporaries as “the Lubitsch touch,” was to evoke the idea of sex in coy, subtle, and suggestive ways. For example – somewhere in the frame above, the filmmakers have hidden a phallic symbol. Can you find it?
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One can’t help wondering whether this bit of censor-defying decor might have inspired similar phallic fun in the Russian sequence of Ken Russell’s Lisztomania (1975).