Spring is in the air. Simple-minded and spirited Marika travels from her Hungarian hamlet to Vienna, where she gets a job at her aunt's bakery, selling salzbröthchen to the Emperor. She ... See full summary »
Géza von Bolváry
I have seen this film from a print in the German language, with Czech subtitles. That print shows that the title under which it was issued in Czechoslovakia was, translated from the German original, SCANDAL IN THE Atlantic HOTEL. The Atlantic Hotel in the film is a grand hotel in Budapest where much of the action takes place. The film is a romantic comedy interspersed with occasional songs. It is interesting to see what kind of light and harmless entertainment the Germans and the Middle Europeans enjoyed just before the Nazi Era. One could describe it as good, frivolous fun. The story is based upon a play by the Hungarian playwriting partners, Sandor (aka Alexander) Farago (1899-1957) and Aladar Laszlo (1896-1958). Little seems to be recorded about Farago, who apparently fled to Sweden before the Nazis came, dying at Stockholm in 1957. His friend Laszlo fled instead to the United States and became an American citizen. The famous Hollywood film TOP HAT (1935) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was based upon another play written jointly by Farago and Laszlo. Laszlo wrote the original story for the Hollywood film BLONDE CHEAT (1938, see my forthcoming review), with Joan Fontaine. But Laszlo's initial Hollywood project was to allow his friend Ernst Lubitsch to direct a film from a play he wrote alone, the film being another famous one, TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), with Miriam Hopkins. (For that he was credited as Aladar Laszlo because the Hungarians, like the Chinese, put surnames first.) But back to Budapest, birthplace of the two playwrights. The story of the film concerns the charming ingénue Eva Balogh, played impishly and delightfully by the young Hungarian actress Franciska Gaal (then aged 29), mistaking a famous concert pianist for someone else and publicly slapping his face on the grand stairway overlooking the lobby of the Hotel Atlantic. Everyone in the crowded lobby gasps and stares, and this becomes (ironically) known as the 'Scandal in the Atlantic Hotel', as the newspapers call it the next day. The pianist Paul Murray (pronounced comically in German as 'moorai') is played by the German actor, born in Budapest, named Paul Hoerbiger, who in the same year also appeared in Schnitzler's LIEBELEI (1933) directed by Max Ophuls, a story I know well, as I have translated that Schnitzler play. He later appeared as Harry Lime's porter in THE THIRD MAN (1949, see my review) and acted in an incredible 263 films. This film was produced by the Romanian Joe Pasternak, who being Jewish as was his protégé Franciska Gaal, they fled together to America, where he became the mentor of Deanna Durbin and went on producing Hollywood films not unlike this one, in other words, light romantic comedies interspersed with singing. If the Nazis had not gone, the delightfully mischievous Gaal could have gone on to become a really famous German star in Europe. The closest thing to her in the English-speaking world was Clara Bow. Gaal died in New York in 1973, having made her last film in 1946. In the story, naturally, having met with a slap in the face, Murray and Eva inevitably fall in love. But she is temperamental and when she slaps him again in a fit of picque, the journalists present see a re-enactment of the famous scandalous slap. There are various comic misunderstandings in the story. Gaal is brilliant at doing bits of mischievous business. In the hotel lobby she naughtily steals a biscuit from a man reading a newspaper, and then cheekily eats it while reading his newspaper over his shoulder and munching in his ear. In anther scene she sings a song while seated in a chair which has the absent Murray's jacket wrapped round the back. She puts her left arm into the left sleeve and puts it round herself, caressing her hand as if it is his, and feeling 'his' arm romantically. The clever director of all this was Istvan (aka Steve) Sekely, who also ended up in Hollywood, where his first English language film was MIRACLE ON MAIN STREET (1939, see my forthcoming review). His best known film was perhaps the sci fi picture, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1963). In this film there is a wonderful bit of business at the beginning of the film where Gaal gallops on horseback and outraces the local steam train (this is in the countryside where her parents live). Near the end of the film, when she is despondent about her love affair, this scene is reprised and there are comical moments when the driver and coal man on the locomotive throw their hands up in dismay when they see her riding beside the train but ignoring its presence, lost in thought and failing to do her usual out-racing. This film set in Budapest and the Hungarian countryside is obscure and long forgotten, but it is interesting to trace the numerous progeny of the film and their works in later years. The pianist's manager is cheerfully played by the Hungarian Jewish character actor S. Z. Sakall (aka Szoke Szakall aka Sandor Gaertner), who also fled to America to avoid Hitler and appeared in many Hollywood movies, including CASABLANCA (1942, in which he played Carl) dying in 1955. Joe Pasternak certainly put together a lot of talent for this film, which was a kind of rehearsal for what might have followed. He seems to have been trying to create a team of 'regulars'. One can only imagine the wonderful films that would have followed, but for political events. Instead, the entire 'team' fled the country to save their lives and dispersed, though many of them led somewhat secondary existences in America, where at least they were still working and could pay the rent, even though they could never rise to the heights which would have been possible in their native land. We see how much Europe lost in terms of culture when it lost its Jews.
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