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>
Biography of the Strauss boys set in Vienna in mid 19th century. The stars are Jessie Matthews as Rasi, the daughter of a confectioner, Esmond Knight as Strauss Jr., and Edmun Gwenn as Strauss Sr. Also notable are Fay Compton as the countess, Frank Vosper as the count, and Robert Hale as the confectioner.
What makes this film notable is that the director is Alfred Hitchcock. Alma Reville is listed as one of the writers.
From the opening scene, the film is unusual. The film starts with a closeup of a fire team racing to a fire in a confectioner's shop. The scene is obviously fake because of the background and the fake horses. The actors jostle about and spout wisecracks. At the scene of the fire, we see a madhouse of onlookers and employees. The employees are taking tables and chairs out of the shop and setting them up in the street to avoid losing customers. The confectioner is in a panic as he tries to save a huge wedding cake. Smoke billows from the building but upstairs there is music and singing as Strauss and Rasi go through one of his compositions. The sequence is manic, full of pratfalls and sight gags.
At a dress shop across the street the countess is trying to buy a dress but the models are all watching the fire. When a bumbling fireman carries Rasi down a ladder, she tears her dress off and must run to the dress shop for clothing. She meets the countess who is asking to meet the man playing that piano. Thus begins the triangle.
Almost as a subplot, we get the adversarial relationship between the father and son since the film really focuses on the "love story." Although Hitchcock always thought this film his worst, there is much to enjoy. The pacing is brisk. The dramatic story is lightened by comic episodes. The direction is very fluid (if not florid) like the music, and the music is terrific, especially the climactic "Blue Danube" number.
Also notable are the sets. You would expect very fussy, claustrophobic rooms filled with furniture and ponderous draperies but the sets are mostly spartan, white, softly lit. In one scene the countess sits having coffee in a huge white room before huge curtainless windows. Not what you'd think of for 1850s Vienna.
The acting is uneven, with Matthews and Knight overacting and Gwenn and Compton underacting. The comic scenes are very broad and involve pratfalls into cakes, slapping, falling down stairs, etc. Yet it all seems to work.
Matthews hated this film and Hitchcock. England's premiere musical star of the time doesn't get to dance and only warbles here and there. She definitely takes a backseat to the Strauss music, but she's at her prettiest in this film. Esmond Knight's character reminded me of Marius Goring's manic composer in THE RED SHOES right down to the hair cut. Gwenn, for all his billing, gets less screen time than Matthews, Knight, and even Fay Compton.
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