Patsy Brand is a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden music hall. She meets Jill Cheyne who is down on her luck and gets her a job as a dancer. Jill is engaged to adventurer Hugh Fielding and... See full summary »
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. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <email@example.com>
When Strauss is in the bakery, standing by the batter mixer, the complete waltz comes him. Just as he turns away, his back is spattered with dough, but an instant later he back is clear again. See more »
While Alfred Hitchcock did tell Francois Truffaut this film was "the lowest ebb" of his career, evidence on screen suggests nothing so dramatic. Two words come to mind here, neither what you associate with Hitchcock: "pleasant" and "inconsequential."
In 19th century Vienna, young Schani (Esmond Knight) dreams of a composing career. Unfortunately, his father Johann Strauss (Edmund Gwenn) is already Vienna's most successful composer and doggedly committed not to be superseded by his son. Can a crafty countess (Fay Compton) with amorous designs and a knack for lyrics help Schani break through?
"My father's a great man, you know, but great men are very peculiar," Schani says.
"Like all great men, he has a peculiar dislike of hearing youth knocking at the door," the countess replies.
Alternately titled "Waltzes From Vienna" or "Strauss' Great Waltz," this was based on a musical stage production, "the great London Alhambra success" as we are informed in the opening titles. In form and content, it's unlike anything you expect in a Hitchcock film. But is that necessarily bad?
The real problem may be that what's here is neither fish nor fowl. After agreeing to adapt the musical, Hitchcock decided to take nearly all the songs out, leaving his film's singing star, Jessie Matthews as Schani's sweetheart, with little to do but bat her eyes and look hurt. The father-son turmoil offers Hitchcockian dark territory which the film only limns over. Instead, an artificial merriness dominates, of pratfalls and double-takes.
What's left is a movie that can be enjoyed on its own merits as a light comedy or as an early rung on one of Hollywood's most celebrated ladders just not much in either direction. The comedy is much too forced, surprisingly so, watching characters fumble with a hose, a ladder, and a petticoat within the same minute while onlookers laugh forcedly. The conflict is likewise labored, with Gwenn glowering enviously in nearly every scene he is in.
Hitchcock enthusiasts point out, correctly, that "Waltzes From Vienna" is an important step in the evolution of his cinematic style. Scoring is used vigorously for the first time in a Hitchcock film, and elements are juxtapositioned through cross-cutting to simultaneously comment on and advance the story. As a director, he became quite the composer, and so naturally, making a film about a composer can't but anticipate some of that development.
But when the principal act of musical composition we see on screen involves Schani watching rolls being tossed in a bakery, it's hard to take matters seriously. In fact, what you get here is more enjoyable for the silliness, especially the performance of Frank Vosper as the countess's jealous husband who sells the funniest parts with his overripe performance. Vosper had no confusion what kind of film he was making; Hitchcock seems less sure, and here is one time ambiguity was not his friend.
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