Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Three Penny Opera


I have seen this play performed on stage, and this very early sound movie by G.W. Pabst ain’t it. In fact, it’s pretty tedious and completely unconvincing. Pabst pretty much ruined it. The music isn’t performed well, and the characters are outrageously overplayed, even for 1931. And there is something very comical about these Teutonic folks pretending to be Londoners. The only pleasure is seeing Lotte Lenya in the roll of Jenny. She became known as a singer of the songs of her husband Kurt Weill, who co-wrote this and many other gritty, “realistic” Marxist plays with Bertolt Brecht. You may remember her as the evil Rosa Klebb in From Russia, With Love, the old lady with the poison stiletto in her shoe. She was immortalized for Americans when Bobby Darrin paid homage to her by including her in his really goofy rendition of “Mack the Knife.” There is a much better version of the play starring Raul Julia as Macheath, but it’s not available.