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A. Edward Sutherland
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I finally managed to acquire a copy of this almost forgotten film, chiefly because of my interest in John Barrymore. The film has never been shown on TV in Europe and is unavailable on video or DVD, so it was a delightful surprise to discover how very good it is.
1933 was perhaps John Barrymore's best year in films, just before the slide into alcoholism reduced him to infrequent supporting roles. As well as Reunion in Vienna, he made Topaze (another delightful film) Counsellor at Law (perhaps his greatest screen performance) and Dinner at 8 (a close second).
If you want proof of Barrymore's sheer star quality and presence, take a look at Reunion in Vienna. He dominates the screen in every scene he is in, and when he is on screen, it is difficult to look at anyone else. His wonderfully mellifluous voice is particularly well recorded in this film and his performance is so full of delightful details, and many ad lib physical touches, that one can see how superb he must have been on stage.
Equally surprising here is the subtle performance by Frank Morgan before his familiar bumbling, stammering persona took over almost every performance he gave at MGM. He was a much better actor than remembered today.
The supporting cast is a delight, although not populated by the many émigrés that would shortly arrive from Nazi Europe and become a regular part of Hollywood's scene. Compare this film with THE GREAT WALTZ (1938) to see what I mean.
As a result, the Hapsburg aristocrats are mostly played by Americans (the exception being Eduardo Cianelli who is genuinely touching, giving an excellent portrayal of a devoted servant to his old master).
The music score is credited to William Axt, even though it is really a pot-pourri of themes by Johann Strauss. The exception is a main theme which is a direct steal from Romberg's NEW MOON, then a fairly new work and filmed 2 years before by MGM with Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett. Possibly Dr Axt decided to borrow the waltz "One Kiss" and vary it slightly for this film.
As others point out here, the art direction is beautiful throughout and Ms Wynyard never looked more radiant.
In all, a delightful and superbly acted film that should be on DVD. Why isn't it? The print I have looks as if it has never left the vault in 80 years.
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