If you want to see an example of outstanding acting ability watch this very funny scene from the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria. The scene does not contain a single word of dialogue so everything had to be conveyed entirely though facial expressions. You also do not need to speak German in order to follow it.
If the film's title sounds familiar, it is because it was remade in America in 1982 as Victor/Victoria.
To fully appreciate the clip, a bit of background information about the film's plot is necessary. As with the better known 1982 remake, the central character is a struggling actress who gets an unexpected break when she agrees to fill in at the last minute for a female impersonator who is too ill to perform. The act becomes an immediate sensation forcing her to put on a permanent charade that she is a cross-dressing male. Renate Muller played the role in the 1933 film and Julie Andrews played the role in the 1982 version.
Much of the action in the 1982 remake revolves around a Chicago gangster (played by James Garner) falling in love with "Victoria" and the hilarious psychological trauma he goes through over his attraction to a woman he believes is a man. This aspect of the film does not take place in the 1933 version and, unlike the risque 1982 remake, all of the characters in the German version are heterosexual. James Garner's 1933 counterpart character, Robert (played by Anton Walbrook), learns about Viktoria's masquerade early on and decides to have a bit of fun with his discovery. Playing along with the charade, he offers to take "Viktor" out to do "guy stuff" such as smoking, drinking, flirting with prostitutes and getting a shave with a straight blade razor.
The scene in the clip is where Robert takes "Viktor" to a rowdy pub. Pay close attention to the facial expressions, especially those of "Viktor"/Renate Muller, which are very well done. Robert offers her a smoke - which she reluctantly accepts. When "Viktor" follows Robert's lead in reacting to the flirtatious prostitutes - well, as you will see, the results are hilarious.
When I first discovered this film clip on YouTube, it struck me as another great example of the incredible level of talent that existed in the early 20th century entertainment industry that is sadly so rare today.
While the film was produced in 1933 after Hitler's National Socialists had assumed power, the Nazi stranglehold on the Germany film industry had not yet been fully implemented and, in many respects, it retains a lot of the spirit of the Wiemar era.
Unfortunately, Renate Muller met a very sad end. The Nazi regime was eager to promote her as an "ideal Aryan woman" and there were even attempts to get her to engage in a friendly personal relationship with Adolf Hitler. When she resisted, she was put under surveillance by the Gestapo, possibly on grounds that she might have had incriminating information about Hitler. She also antagonized the regime by refusing to give into pressure to end a relationship with a Jewish emigre. Increasingly worried about her safety, she became addicted to morphine and entered a sanitarium. Muller died in October 1937 as a result of a fall from a window at the sanitarium. The German media officially reported her sudden death as being caused by epilepsy. Witnesses, however, reported that, shortly before her death, four Gestapo agents visited the sanitarium. Exactly what happened is unknown but it is speculated that they either pushed her out of the window or that she panicked and jumped when she looked out and saw the Gestapo agents approaching the building.
You can also see a nice musical performance by Renate Muller singing the theme song from the film here . And here you can see Renate Muller performing "Viktoria's" cabaret act.