The absolute star power behind the little-known, 73-minute German delight People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) is astonishing. Billy Wilder, check, Fred Zinnemann, check, Edgar G. Ulmer, check, Eugen Schufftan, check, the Siodmak brothers, check and check. As lovely as People on Sunday is, and it is, all of that Austrian and German up-and-coming talent, later put to good use in Hollywood for years to come, is quite powerful and it’s what makes people want to see it.
Here’s what we’re dealing with here: People on Sunday follows several people on a sunny weekend in Berlin, as they enjoy themselves at the beach, the parks, boat ride, etc, when romance blossoms and friendships are put to the test. These people, it should be noted, were not actors but rather real-life people who were essentially playing themselves, in that sort of German realism way that has become so popular over the years. People on Sunday, of course, is not as dark as other German pictures of the era, and it’s actually bittersweet to know how unaware they all were of the horrors that were to come a few years later. Nevertheless, it stands out as an absolutely delightful film. Obviously the big thing about it is the huge amount of talent involved in the making of the film: screenplay by Billy Wilder and Robert and Curt Siodmak, cinematography by Eugen Schufftan and Fred Zinnemann, direction by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer. All of them fled Germany a few years later and became, as we all know, huge in Hollywood. I kind of like to think they didn’t know how big they’d all be while they were making this picture. It’s sweet.