The life and career of German composer Richard Wagner.



(screenplay), (screenplay) (as E. A. Dupont) | 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frederick Valk ...
Minister von Moll
Gerhard Riedmann ...
Erik Schumann ...
Robert Freitag ...
August Roeckel (as Robert Freytag)
Heinz Klingenberg ...
King of Saxonia
Charles Regnier ...
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Fritz Rasp ...
Kurt Großkurth ...
Magdeburg Theatre Manager (as Kurt Grosskurth)
Hans Quest ...
Robert Hubner


The life and career of German composer Richard Wagner.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

trucolor | based on novel | See All (2) »


Biography | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

29 March 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frauen um Richard Wagner  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


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Did You Know?


Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who supervised and arranged the music of Wagner for this, his final film assignment, also appears on screen as famous conductor Hans Richter. Korngold had to take the small role when the actor originally cast failed to show up. With over 1000 extras in full costume on set, director William Dieterle pleaded with Korngold to take the non-speaking part, to save the shoot. See more »


Overture and Venusberg Ballet
from "Tannhauser"
Composed by Richard Wagner
Conducted by Alois Melichar
See more »

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User Reviews

Powerful Music, Very Rich Production; Fascinating Life of a Complex Man
23 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

This was an extraordinarily difficult production, one featuring full-color, on-site locations, staged opera performances, a ballet, large parties where music was featured, rooms in palaces, street scenes and more. Moreover, anyone who does not put the charismatic career of Richard Wagner into the context of the 1848 revolutions and beyond seems fated to misunderstand the revolution parallel to the political unrest that creative artists--Liszt, Wagner and so many others--lived through in Europe. The biography may not be perfect but it is based on Bertita Harding's well-written "Scenes about the life of Richard Wagner"; so as with "Young Bess" one might expect, as is true, that such a fictionalized biography would be far more interesting than the life at some places (see also "The Great Ziegfield", "The Glenn Miller Story"). The film was directed by the great William Dieterle, and it is an undeniable masterpiece in many ways, with stunningly beautiful scenes, rich colors and intelligent acting (he was a Wagnerophile of course). The narrative takes young rebellious and ambitious Wagner from his youth trying to start as a composer to his death in Bayreuth, noted by the world. In between we see Wagner (Alan Badel) in many guises--as rebel, husband, ardent pursuer, jailed pauper, aspiring champion of a new music for a new Age, conductor, hero, exile, composer, friend and more. His first wife wants him to conduct a choir and live quietly with her and his Newfoundland, Robber (pretty Yvonne de Carlo); the woman who champions him (lovely Valentina Cortese) must give him up since she is the wife of a jealous man (Peter Cushing); and his second wife Cosima Liszt, daughter of Franz Liszt (Carlos Thompson) played at award-level by gorgeous Rita Gam, makes him an idol and devotes her life to him, even going against her father who has now taken holy vows. At the end, Wagner's individualism turns into the usual mysticism--he, a sybarite, advocates renunciation--but the real story lies in the sensitivity and intelligence of the man who challenged the music world's doltish "old gods" and forced them to adopt leitmotifs--meaningful themes--in place of long-winded musical tylenol pieces heavy in chromatics and lacking a central purpose. The bright script, filled with good short dialogue scenes, was the work of David Chantler and Ewald Andre Dupont. In the cast besides the principals are Gerhard Riedmann as touching Ludwig the Mad, Erik Schuman as Hans Von Bulow, powerful Frederick Valk, Charles Regnier, Robert Freitag and many other European actors. This is a different age, an age of monarchs, power-struggles and formal music, formal costume, formal manners. Artists then needed a patron--and this was Wagner's problem and his ultimate personal challenge; he resented the need for such a being, and found himself comfortable pursuing the position and the material goods accompanying it. He was impossible and kind, honest and in denial, hard-working and vain; but unlike most central characters, he was worth making an attractive film about. Ernest Haller provided cinematography; the many costumes were the work of Ursula Maes. Robert Herith did fine and consistent art direction. In the central role, Alan Badel is often good and he understood the character of Wagner very well. Cortese, Valk and Regnier are very good; and Carlos Thompson very powerful as Franz Liszt. This is a lovely film, miles above almost anything else like it . To its attractions, we owe the few films about serious musical artists that followed it. A ground-breaking effort.

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