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Waltzes from Vienna

1934

From IMDb: Schani, Johan Strauss Jr., is forced by his father to forget music and to work in a bakery. Here he falls in love with Resi. The girl gets very jealous when a rich and beautiful contessa asks Schani to write a waltz for her. Schani writes and plays it, but he is always loyal to his girlfriend. Stars: Jessie Matthews, Edmund Gwenn, and Fay Compton Note: The movie player above plays with video out of sync with audio.


Waltzes from Vienna (1934) is a British musical film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, also known as Strauss' Great Waltz. It was part of the cycle of operetta films made in Britain during the 1930s.
Hitchcock’s film is based on the stage musical, Waltzes from Vienna, which premiered in Vienna in October 1930. With a libretto by A. M. Willner, Heinz Reichart, and Ernst Marischka, this stage production contains music by Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II, selected and arranged by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Julius Bittner into discrete musical numbers.<></> Hitchcock, however, did not include these musical numbers in his film. In addition, he changed the end of the story. In the stage musical, Rasi, the baker’s daughter, decides that her father’s apprentice, Leopold, will make a more suitable husband than the composer, Schani (Johann Strauss II). By contrast, Hitchcock’s film rendition ends with Rasi and Schani declaring their love for each other.

Production background

The film tells the story of the writing and performance of The Blue Danube. According to Hitchcock:

Hitchcock told François Truffaut that this film was the lowest ebb of his career. He only agreed to make it because he had no other film projects that year, and wanted to stay working. He never again made a musical film.

Influence

The comment to Truffaut mentioned above has not prevented film scholars from trying to find value in this unusual Hitchcock film, as they point to Waltzes from Vienna as the foundation for many revolutionary ideas that appeared in his more highly regarded films. For example, Jack Sullivan and David Schroeder both agree that Hitchcock used this film to explore the potential of the waltz, which he used as a musical device that carried sinister meaning or accompanied dangerous situations in films like The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Strangers on a Train (film) (1951), and Torn Curtain (1966).<></><></> Schroeder also suggests that Waltzes from Vienna taught Hitchcock that “gradually building towards a familiar tune, from a murky beginning to the melody known to everyone, will have little dramatic effect” – an experiment that likely remained on his mind as he built the unfamiliar “Lisa” tune out of nothing in Rear Window (1954).<></>
In “Family Plots: Hitchcock and Melodrama,” Richard Ness positions Waltzes from Vienna as the beginning of a series of films dealing with public performances, including the Royal Albert Hall scenes in the two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) and the ballet performance in Torn Curtain (1966).<></> Finally, Maurice Yacowar comments on Hitchcock’s innovative representation of a female character in Rasi, suggesting that “in this film for perhaps the first time Hitchcock gives the women the powers of will and mind. All the men are lapdogs, save for the bull-headed senior Strauss, and even his vanity renders him putty in the hands of the ladies”.<></>
Aside from the influence this film had on Hitchcock’s other films, Waltzes from Vienna set the stage for Julien Duvivier’s Strauss biopic, The Great Waltz (film) (1938), which maintains the character of the baker’s daughter from the original stage musical while focusing on Johann Strauss II’s revolutionary inclinations and the creation of his popular operetta, Die Fledermaus.

Plot

Waltzes from Vienna begins the sound of the fire brigade horn and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, as the firemen race towards a fire at Ebezeder’s Café. Upstairs from the café, Rasi and Schani are oblivious to the danger, lost in a love duet that concludes with Schani telling Rasi that he has dedicated his newest song to her. At the same time, Schani’s music attracts the attention of the Countess Helga von Stahl, who is shopping in the dressmaker’s store next door. Schani and Rasi’s romantic interlude is interrupted by Leopold, a baker in Rasi’s father's café who is in love with Rasi, as he awkwardly climbs up the ladder to save her. Schani and Leopold argue over who will save Rasi from the fire, but Leopold eventually wins and hauls Rasi over his shoulder and down the ladder, causing her to lose her skirt on the way. Rasi races to the dressmaker’s shop to get away from the laughter of the onlookers. Schani retrieves Rasi’s skirt and then stumbles into the dressmaker’s in search of Rasi, where he meets the Countess. When the Countess learns that Schani is an aspiring musician, she proposes that he set some of her verses to music. As the Countess offers Schani her card, Rasi enters the room and becomes immediately suspicious of the Countess’s intentions.
With the romantic triangle set up, the next scene sets up the conflict between Schani and his father. At orchestra rehearsal, in which Schani plays second violin under his father’s baton, Schani gets himself in trouble when he insults his father’s music to his stand partner. The elder Strauss overhears and demands that Schani perform one of his own compositions for the members of the orchestra. Strauss Sr. then ridicules his son’s waltz and tells him he could never have a career as a composer, inciting Schani to quit the orchestra.
Excited by his newfound freedom and the commission from the Countess, Schani visits Rasi at her father’s bakery to tell her his news. Rasi initially berates Schani and informs him that, if he wants to marry her, he will have to give up music and take over the bakery. However, when she reads the Countess’s lyrics, she is drawn into the music, singing the opening of The Blue Danube waltz to Schani. Their moment of composition is interrupted when Rasi’s father arrives to give Schani a tour of the bakery. As Schani and Ebezeder walk into the basement, a memorable and unusual scene of musical composition begins. While Schani looks around, the tune that Rasi sang begins to evolve. Two men throwing bread back and forth inspire the second phrase of the melody; a man tossing croissants into a box creates the offbeat rhythm of the waltz. The rhythm of the dough mixing machine provides Schani with the second main theme of the first waltz. As he tells the begrudging Leopold to go faster, this second theme turns into the beginning of the second large section of piece, at which point Schani runs upstairs, exclaiming to Rasi that he has finished the composition. He then rushes off to tell the Countess that he has composed the perfect waltz to accompany her verses.
The next scene opens with Schani playing the final measures of the waltz to the Countess. After he finishes, she kisses him and then apologizes profusely, explaining that she was overwhelmed by his wonderful music. Schani then plays the second section of the waltz while her hand rests possessively on his shoulder, which, through a dissolve, becomes Rasi’s hand. After thanking Rasi for coming up with the phrase, Schani agrees to dedicate the song to her. As the scene fades away, the page with Schani’s dedication to Rasi flips up to reveal another page with the same title, but dedicated to the Countess.
The duplicitous dedication is discovered when Rasi hears Schani and the Countess playing the waltz for the publisher, Anton Drexler. Schani runs after Rasi to explain and they reconcile only when Schani tells her that he will give up his music to work in the bakery. However, Schani is clearly miserable in his new job and he fights with Rasi when he receives an invitation from the Countess to attend St. Stephen’s Festival. Rasi tells Schani that, if he attends, it will mean the end of their relationship. Meanwhile, the Countess plots a ruse that will cause Strauss Sr. to be late for the festival so that Schani can take his father's place to conduct his new waltz.
As Schani conducts The Blue Danube at the festival, all of the film’s conflicts come to a climax. The Countess detains the elder Strauss by asking the dancers at the festival to play to his ego, requesting that he play his waltzes over and over for their pleasure in a back room. Strauss Sr. finally arrives to find that his son has taken his place, performing for an enthusiastic audience. Meanwhile, Rasi laments that Schani betrayed her by coming to the festival at the Countess’s command.
Following the performance, the elder Strauss angrily tells his son that he had not authorized the performance, as the Countess had led him to believe. Schani leaves the festival in confusion and the Countess follows him home where they share another kiss. However, the romantic moment is interrupted by the Count, who, upon learning where the Countess had gone, left the party in a rage. Fortunately, Rasi arrives in time to sneak in the back and replace the Countess, who then walks back up the front stairs to surprise her husband, as the crowd outside hums The Blue Danube Waltz.

Cast

  • Esmond Knight as Johann Strauss II
  • Jessie Matthews as Rasi
  • Edmund Gwenn as Johann Strauss I
  • Fay Compton as Countess Helga von Stahl
  • Frank Vosper as Prince Gustav
  • Robert Hale (actor) as Ebezeder
  • Marcus Barron as Drexter
  • Charles Heslop as Valet
  • Betty Huntley-Wright as Lady's Maid
  • Hindle Edgar as Leopold
  • Sybil Grove as Mme. Fouchett
  • Billy Shine Jr. as Carl
  • Bertram Dench as Engine driver
  • B. M. Lewis as Domeyer
  • Cyril Smith (actor) as Secretary



Category:1934 films
Category:1930s historical films
Category:1930s musical films
Category:1930s romance films
Category:Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:English-language films
Category:British films
Category:British historical films
Category:British musical films
Category:British romance films
Category:Films set in Vienna
Category:Films set in the 1840s
Category:Romantic musical films
Category:Operetta films
Category:Films about classical music and musicians
3.25
Thomas Charles Arnold

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