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Traveling Salesman Virgil Smith wants to sell his Grammophones in pre-WWI Austria. To enhance this, he especially wants to sell one to Emperor Franz Joseph, but at first the Austrian palace guards think he is carrying a bomb. He meets the Countess Johanna von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg and after the usual misunderstandings, falls in love with her, this is especially assisted by his dog Buttons. But the relation between a Countess and an ordinary U.S. citizen cannot work in Austria, that is the Emperor's opinion. Is he wrong ? Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
The mystery is that it took me so long to succumb to the charms of this musical. There are few writer/directors I admire more than Billy Wilder and few entertainers I enjoy more than Bing Crosby. I don't know what I expected when they got together, but I guess it wasn't "The Emperor Waltz". Initial disappointment was erased on a recent viewing.
Our story is set in the long ago Austria of Emperor Franz Josef and concerns the love affair between a haughty widowed countess (Joan Fontaine) and a brash American salesman (Crosby). Ditto her purebred poodle and his mutt. There is a lot of talk about class differences and bloodlines and, through the years, this has been my major gripe with the script. Perhaps at the time in the late 40s Bracket and Wilder felt the need to make some sort of a statement, but it's a tad heavy handed and detracts from the fun - and there is fun.
The musical numbers are presented wittily. For "In Dreams I Kiss Your Hand" Bing sings, then brings in a piano, then two policemen pick up violins and then the domestic staff starts to dance. When our countess swoons after a few boo-boo-boo's, you know it's all in fun. The uninspired humorist often remarks when watching a musical "where did the orchestra come from?". In the enchanting "The Kiss in Your Eyes", there is no need to ask as an entire village puts bow to string to accompany this most stirring of love songs.
The Technicolor filming is sumptuous and truly befitting the operetta-like sensibility of the movie.
Joan Fontaine is every inch the royal lady, looking lovely in her costumes and easily handling the comic and dramatic portions of the script. A nice transition from her young, vulnerable characterizations to the more confident females she portrayed in the 50s.
Early in the film Bing Crosby tends to shout his way through Virgil, but his character is a lone fish out of water with no kibitzing pal such as a Hope or Fitzgerald. Once he starts to sing - well, like the Countess, it is easy to fall for the go-getting salesman.
Lucile Watson is a delight as a dowager princess with a penchant for storytelling and for our Countess' profligate father played in fine style by Roland Culver.
The top performance comes from Richard Hadyn as Emperor F-J himself. Unrecognizable under the whiskers and make-up, and foregoing his famous nasally precise delivery, Mr. Hadyn gives us a very interesting Franz-Josef. A petulant, funny, irritating, thoughtful and memorable character. You will pinch yourself to remind you of who you are watching.
I heartily recommend this musical of much charm. Mystery solved.
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