Some German Traditions are completely baffling to me, like the German love of the Dinner For One Film on New Year’s Eve. How on earth did this British Comedy sketch become a nationwide phenomenon? So, of course, I had to start digging to find the origins. Why is an English language movie about an elderly woman’s 90th Birthday party so engaging? and is this proof that Germans do have a sense of humor?
Quick Look at the Contents
History of the Dinner for One Sketch
Dinner for One, aka. The 90th Birthday, wasn’t always a New Year’s Eve film. In fact, the sketch was first written for the stage in the 1920s by Lauri Wylie, and performed over the years on in English cabarets. In 1962, German entertainer Peter Frankenfeld “discovered” the show in Blackpool, and asked the actors, Freddie Frinton and Maye Warden to perform the sketch on his live TV program,
Guten Abend, Peter Frankenfeld”. The 11 minute skit was a huge hit! and was repeated frequently during the 1960s, because it was a great filler between longer programs. Finally in 1972, it found a permanent place as a New Year’s Eve staple… where it is watched every year by almost HALF of the country.
The Same Procedure as Last Year?
Dinner for One is set at a 90 year old woman’s Birthday party. James the Butler sets the table for Miss Sophie and her 4 friends as he does every year…. only, the friends have been dead for 25 years. She seems oblivious to this, and he plays along by not only pouring Sherry, Champagne, Wine and Port into the guest’s glasses, he drinks it all as well. As the sketch goes on, it’s clear that James is becoming more and more drunk, and the physical humor starts to kick in. (The Tiger Skin Rug on the floor gives him LOADS of trouble!).
Finally, when the scene ends, James escorts Miss Sophie up the stairs, for the “same procedure as last year”. Wink wink…
The Dinner for One Sketch is Universal
But, WHY? Why is this film considered so funny? What made a film in English stick so deeply into German Culture? No one knows for sure… why does one thing stick, and another fade? The language may be English, but the film is introduced by a German Narrator. Also, the language is fairly simple… this is a physical comedy, and slapstick doesn’t need much translation (try watching the Three Stooges with no sound, and you will understand). Maybe it’s the play on a refined woman, who clearly doesn’t realize how ridiculous her life has become? Maybe it’s because it jokes about sex in the English aristocracy? Or maybe people like that the show becomes a drinking game?
Around Christmas, Dinner for One is popular in Scandinavian countries, like Norway, Denmark and Sweden (where it was banned for a while, because of the excessive drinking). Just don’t expect to find the program on British, Canadian or even American Television… oddly enough, the sketch is virtually unknown in English speaking countries. (I equate this to the Sound of Music here in the US, versus Europe… it just never took off there).
Watch Dinner For One (you tube)
You can watch the show for yourself, and decide if you want to include Dinner for One into your family New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Set the table, cue up the video, and start pouring drinks…. Same Procedure as Every Year…
Dinner for One- Original Version with German Intro
Dinner for One- No German Intro
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