In 1845 Vienna, Johann Strauß II - Schani to his friends - would rather write and perform waltzes than anything else, this at a time when a waltz is not considered proper society music. ... See full summary »
In 1845 Vienna, Johann Strauß II - Schani to his friends - would rather write and perform waltzes than anything else, this at a time when a waltz is not considered proper society music. After he is fired from his clerical bank job because of his preoccupation with composing, he decides to follow his passion and form an orchestra. After some famed opera singers, including Carla Donner, hear his music, they expose Schani's music to the masses, to royalty and to music publisher Julius Hofbauer. As such, Schani becomes the toast of Vienna. With his new found musical fame, Schani's life, which includes his work in the European Revolutions, changes. He becomes torn for his love for his loving and faithful wife Poldi Vogelhuber and his more emotionally passionate but somewhat destructive love for Carla Donner, who herself is involved with Count Anton Hohenfried. Written by
Julien Duvivier, the great French director, had a brief career in Hollywood during WWII. Alas, the movies he was involved with, didn't fare as well as the ones he did in France. It must have been difficult for a man of his stature to try his hand at film making in America because of problems with artistic control of his pictures and the way things were done in Hollywood.
"The Great Waltz" was a fine example of what M. Duvivier could do. This glorious 1938 MGM film was one of the most loved films of that period. Not only that, but even if the subject matter, Johann Strauss' life was not accurate, at least his great music is heard in the film. The exquisite art direction Cedric Gibbons gave the picture and the beautiful costumes from Adrian made this a favorite of the movie going public of that time.
The life of the struggling musician who had a lot of talent, but whose music was a departure from what has been heard in Vienna before him, was something movies loved to tell. Whether or not this was a true account of the composer's life, it's still a visually rich film.
Fernand Fravey as Strauss gives a good performance. Luise Ranier makes the suffering and self-sacrificing Poldi, one of her best creations. The true star of the film though, is Milizia Korjus, who as the gorgeous soprano Carla Donner steals the show with her singing and her looks. Hugh Herbert, Alma Kruger, Curt Bois, and the rest of the cast do great work for Julien Duvivier.
"The Great Waltz" is a film that's not seen often these days and it's a shame because it's an excellent excuse for going back to that period and the great music Strauss gave to the world.
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