Saturday, September 18, 2010

Waltzes From Vienna

Title: Waltzes From Vienna
Year: 1933
Studio: Gaumont-British Picture corporation Ltd
Screenplay: Guy Bolton and Alma Reville
Source Material: Based on the play 'Walzerkrieg' by Heinz Reichhart, Dr AM Wilmer and Ernest Marischka
Running Time: 76 minutes
A black & white picture

Saturday 18th September, 1:45pm
After spending the majority of the week with a ghastly cold, I was hoping to feel better by the weekend. However, it is Saturday and I am still a bit snuffly. Not as bad as I was, for sure, but the Kleenex is still being used for its ultimate purpose. Frustratingly, I have a bit of freelance work to attend to as well, but I'd rather wait until I can focus properly - maybe tomorrow. Watching a Hitchcock film for me is an easy task, so I shifted it to the top of my to-do list, even though it should not be priority.

It is also important that I make note of a film entitled Lord Camber's Ladies which was to be directed by Hitchcock prior to this film - however, he gave up the reins to Benn Levy with whom he soon fell out with. This film is not considered to part of the official Hitchcock Canon.

The Cast
Jessie Matthews
Edmund Gwenn
Fay Compton
Esmond Knight
Frank Vosper
Robert Hale
Charles Heslop
Hindle Edgar
Marcus Barron
Betty Huntley Wright

A fire breaks out at a restaurant in Vienna and the fire brigade are on their way. The patrons and staff seem rather unperturbed by these events and merely take the tables and food outside into the street to continue as if nothing was happening. Upstairs, the restaurant owner's daughter, Rasi (Jessie Matthews), is singing with her beau, Johann Strauss the younger (Esmond Knight). She is rescued by one of her colleagues and the fire is put out with very little damage to the store or building. In the wake of the drama, Countess Helga von Stahl (Fay Compton) meets up with the young Strauss and decides to collaborate with him - her lyrics with his music.
The Countesses husband, the Prince (Frank Vosper), is a rather tense fellow but offers to assist with their collaboration as he is not fond of Johann's father.

The young Strauss gets a job at Rasi's father's bakery and whilst in the cookhouse, he is inspired to complete his composition after hearing the variety of rhythms as the bakers work.
Rasi becomes jealous of Johann's relationship with the countess and is adamant that she will leave him if he attends the music festival - however, it turns out that her father's bakery is providing the catering, so they all have to go anyway.

Strauss senior is not supportive of his son and refuses to believe he has any talent at all. So it is with subterfuge that the Countess and Strauss' manager, Anton Drexter (Marcus Barron), arrange for the younger Strauss to get his moment of glory at the festival.

The grand moment occurs just in time for the crowd to be wowed by this young composer's masterpiece. His father turns up toward the end and is aghast.

Poor Rasi and the Prince are equally distressed but for different reasons. Rasi believes her boyfriend will leave her to pursue his music career and the Prince believes his wife is having an affair with Strauss. The Prince races to the location where he believes Strauss and the Countess are meeting. Luckily, Rasi arrives beforehand, the Countess escapes out of the back window and the Prince merely finds Strauss and Rasi. Realising he was wrong, the Prince is forced to see sense.

The elder Strauss concedes also and is ready to admit his son's talents.

Great Lines
The young Strauss and Rasi are caught kissing by her father, he is not impressed:

Rasi's Father: "Look here, I won't have this. Why, your mother wouldn't allow me to kiss her until six months after we married!"

Rasi: "Now I know why you were over fifty when I was born!"

A comedic musical biopic, eh? Not the sort of thing one thinks of when the name 'Hitchcock' is bandied about. I say 'biopic', but I would suggest taking events depicted here with a pinch of salt as it's mainly played for entertainment value.
Alfred was curious about the project as he had a fascination with film and its soundtrack, especially in these early years of the talking picture. The process of editing a film is one thing, but to make edits with sound was a thrilling challenge for Hitch.
My favourite scene has to be when the Strauss Jnr is inspired by the rhythms of the work in the bakery and its machinery to complete On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

Although not everybody's cup of tea, I am rather fond of Edmund Gwenn, the Welsh actor with a long and steady career. Hitch would use him again in Foreign Correspondent and The Trouble With Harry and had already used him in The Skin Game.
Jessie Matthews was a big star in Britain during the Thirties. If you ever get the opportunity, check out a glorious little thriller she starred in named Friday the Thirteenth also from 1933. No, nothing to do with Camp Crystal Lake... it's a little gem of a movie in which a bus crashes on that fateful evening and then we turn back the clock to see the events which lead up to it and the lives of the passengers - some of whom won't live to see Saturday the Fourteenth! Anyway, I digress...
Why Esmond Knight doesn't get better billing is beyond me. Sure, he is not as famous as the main three stars, but his role is the central character and the actor played the part in the stage play - I think he deserves more credit!

My Verdict
Quite a cheerful and entertaining film with some lovely, lyrical dialogue. Perfect Saturday afternoon viewing without being too taxing to the little grey cells.

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