A rich man wins a vacation at a hotel but takes it in the disguise of a poor man under the supervision of his butler. The hotel manager gets tipped off about the plot, but misidentifies a money-less doctor as the eccentric.
The original stage musical "Im weissen Rössl" was a huge international hit in the early 1930s. It probably enjoyed success beyond its merits, but it did have certain factors in its favour. First, amid the turmoil of the Great Depression, it harked back nostalgically to the 'good old days' of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Secondly, it was a spectacle, with fancy stage effects, a large chorus, and elaborate choreography. Thirdly, its music appealed to a wide audience by mixing traditional Viennese operetta with Broadway styles.
Strangely, the makers of this 1960 film adaptation, while basically retaining the original plot, dispensed with most of the show's advantages. For a start, they opted for a modern setting: the girls wear bikinis, and Sigismund arrives by helicopter. The Emperor Franz Josef does not appear in this production! True, the natural scenery of the Wolfgangsee is more spectacular than any stage set, but there is little ensemble singing and dancing. As for the music, they simply ditched the majority of it and appointed a largely non-singing cast. Only six or seven songs remain, and they are nearly all shortened and assigned to Leopold (Peter Alexander). The leading lady (Josefa), with nothing to sing, makes very little impression. In the absence of songs, the backing track keeps repeating a couple of the main melodies in jazzy re-arrangements under the dialogue.
Take the music out of a musical, and you are left with very thin fare. The main substitute here is slapstick in the style of Norman Wisdom, e.g., the accidental water-skiing scene and the business with the fire-hose and the toupée. Peter Alexander, apparently a star in Austria, clowns his way through the film energetically, but it isn't enough.
Visually, the film is striking. The very bright colours are those of picture postcards and holiday brochures, which is apt for a story set in the tourism industry. Of course, IMDb's inclusion of 'Kitsch' as a keyword is absolutely justified. Unfortunately, "The White Horse Inn" (1960) lacks the charm that might have redeemed it.
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