"Dinner for One"
A German New Year's Tradition
in English and Platt
"Der 90. Geburtstag oder Dinner for One"
- The same procedure as every year
Plus: Jahresrückblick - The year in review
It's a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year's tradition. Yet, although "The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One" is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.
Although newer versions have been produced (including a Plattdeutsch radio version and CD versions in other dialects), every year around Silvester (New Year's Eve), German television broadcasts the classic, black-and-white English-language version filmed back in 1963 in Hamburg. All across Germany, from the 31st of December to January 1st, Germans know it's the beginning of a new year when they watch this annual event.
Here's a brief excerpt:
James: You are looking very well this evening, Miss Sophie.
James: Sie sehen heute Abend sehr gut aus, Miss Sophie.
Miss Sophie: Well, I am feeling very much better, thank you, James.
James: Gut, gut ...
Miss Sophie: Also, ich muss sagen, dass alles sehr nett aussieht.
James: Danke sehr, Miss Sophie. Danke.
Miss Sophie: Sind alle da?
James: In der Tat. Jawohl, ja ... Alle sind zu Ihrem Geburtstag hier, Miss Sophie.
- From "Dinner for One" (Note: Original is in English!)
MORE > Complete Script (in English)
The British actor Freddie Frinton played the tipsy butler James in the 1963 German TV production. (Frinton died only five years after the Hamburg filming.) May Warden played the role of Miss Sophie, who is celebrating her 90th birthday. The only problem is... all of her party "guests" are imaginary friends who have died off. A German New Year's Eve just doesn't seem right without hearing the lines known to just about any living German: "The same procedure as last year, Madam? - The same procedure as every year, James."
In these politically-correct times, the sketch-in which Miss Sophie and her butler proceed to get thoroughly sloshed-has come under some criticism. But so popular is the perennial "Dinner for One" that the German airline LTU shows the 15-minute sketch on all its flights between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2, just so passengers won't miss out on the annual tradition. Before its demise at the end of 2005, the GERMAN TV satellite service also broadcast "Dinner for One" in North America.
"Dinner for One" is available on Region 2/PAL DVD (Germany/UK). See the next page for the DVD, online video versions, interesting links for the sketch, and German reviews of the past year.
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