I Am a Camera (1955)

 Run Time: 98 min. | b/w
Director: Henry Cornelius
Stars: w. Julie Harris, Laurence Harvey, Shelley Winters, Ron Randell
 Genres: Drama 
The story of a young author and a hard-living, carefree girl in pre-war 1930s Berlin. A literate and well-acted comedy-drama, and the basis of the Broadway musical Cabaret.


  1. tfsadmin

    August 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    This film was inexplicably made in England, and though there is some staginess – noticably in the yelling of some of the actors – director Henry Cornelius provides some clever imagery eg the decadence of the Berlin nightclub by a piglet and two smashing beerglasses, and Christopher standing at a window in the past bringing out us out of the narrative flashback. It also features a remarkable hotel party setpiece.

    The infamous role of Sally Bowles is written as a pretentious innocent, and the knowledge that Isherwood was gay feeds into the notion of Sally as a coded drag queen, or at least, an effeminate gay man. The screenplay is full of gay subtext eg Christopher’s narcissism demonstrated in his lotions and weights and boufant hairstyle, Sally’s descriptions of male musculature, the repeated use of sausages, Sally telling Christopher he doesn’t "understand" women, his describing her sex appeal as "inadequate", the rectal thermometer, his massage, his confession that he is "not the marrying type", and fear of being "embroiled" with her. The major difference between this treatment and that of Bob Fosse’s Cabaret is the Clive Mortimer character, who here is heterosexual, but would be later turned into the bisexual Max.

    Julie Harris performed the role of Sally Bowles on Broadway, and one’s opinion of her performance cannot help but be influenced by Liza Minnelli (as is one’s opinion of the film as a piece). Harris works against her basic miscasting (she doesn’t even use an English accent when we are told Sally is English) because Sally is such an artificial creation. She is like an Actors Studio version of a junior Auntie Mame, and even when her antics become tiresome, she is still far more likeable than Laurence Harvey’s starched and basically asexual Christopher. Harris may not have Minnelli’s street urchin vulnerability, but she has some inspired moments – posing in front of a mirror wearing a mink coat, her drunken giggling, looking behind a silk scarf, or licking milk with a wild tongue.

  2. tfsadmin

    August 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Much reviled when it first appeared, (inspiring the famous review 'Me No Leica'), this precursor of "Cabaret" can now be looked at in comparison and it's not half bad. It's certainly no classic but it has its own wayward charm, (the film version of "Cabaret" follows this plot whereas the stage version changed the plot somewhat). One should, of course, resist the temptation to snicker when Laurence Harvey's Christopher Isherwood, (it keeps the original author's real name; God Knows what Isherwood thought of it), describes himself as 'a confirmed bachelor' and while Harvey is an utterly inadequate 'hero', (he's virtually asexual), and Shelly Winters woefully miscast as Fraulien Landauer, (the part Marisa Berenson played in "Cabaret"), Julie Harris is a perfectly marvellous Sally, (it's a lovely piece of comic acting), and Anton Diffring is first-rate as Fritz, the German-Jew in love with Shelly's character. Of course, if "Cabaret" had never come along you might ask yourself would this ever have seen the light of day again. That it has been revived may not quite be cause for celebration but it's perfectly acceptable all the same.

  3. tfsadmin

    August 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Lots of history behind this story of Sally Bowles, party-girl in 1930s Berlin who befriends a stolid English gent amidst the Nazi uprising. Curious, rather indifferent drama isn't helped by Julie Harris as Bowles; Harris tries hard, but she's too intelligent a presence to be convincing as a flake and her big moments don't come off. Non-flashy adaptation of both Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" and John Van Druten's subsequent play, it is sure to interest fans of Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" as a great deal of the dialogue mirrors passages in "Cabaret" almost verbatim. Those who stumble upon it unawares will probably find the movie stilted and dull. It's little more than a footnote now in this chain of literature and cinematic events. ** from ****

  4. IMDBReviewer

    August 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    In this film Julie Harris reprises her Tony award-winning performance as Sally Bowles bumming in 1920s Berlin. I loved Julie and envied Sally and her carefree ways, but I was young then. While the film may not be "important," it does tell us something about life and culture based upon Christopher Isherwood’s evocation of fun-loving pre-Hitler Berlin. It’s about a world and time long vanished & highly lamented by aging romantics such as I. So temper your critical faculties and just enjoy a stunning performance by Julie Harris who has won more Tony Awards (5) than any other actress.

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