Johann Strauss (Edmund Gwenn), the famous composer, had three sons. Two of them he encouraged to become composers themselves, but his youngest, Johann Jr. (Esmond Knight) lacked talent to his father’s eyes, and was relegated to being second fiddle amongst his father’s orchestra. Undeterred, Johann Jr. (also known as Johnny) attempts to write his own compositions anyway, and is thrilled when the Countess (Fay Compton) commissions him to apply music to some lyrics she has written. This perturbs Johnny’s sweetheart Rasi (Jessie Matthews) who, as the lowly daughter of the proprietor of a pastry shop (Robert Hale), believes she cannot hope to compete against such a fine woman.Waltzes From Vienna is one of those annoying romantic comedies that we still have hanging around today wherein the entire plot could have been resolved had the main characters been honest to everyone around them from the start, made all the more annoying by the fact that the activities they are undertaking in are for the most part not at all seedy. For most of the film (other than a brief dalliance at the end, which eventually leads nowhere) there is no romantic connection between Johnny and the Countess. The Countess is married to the Prince (Frank Vosper, a delight) who, despite being a bit of a fool, is still a good man, and whilst she remarks on how attractive and talented Johnny is, she makes no efforts to seduce him. Johnny, meanwhile, is hopelessly in love with Rasi, although she seems a little young for him, and acts younger still with her silly demands and inability to acknowledge a prosperous opportunity in Johnny’s career. For some reason Johnny keeps the identity of his new employer a secret from Rasi, even pretending it is a man he is working with, which of course comes back to bite him later on when Rasi finds everything out. Silliness.Anyway. This is quite a bland story, that takes a grand total of zero turns from a typical romantic comedy script, other than featuring a greater inclusion of classical music than usual, containing two full-length performances (one of which goes into full on group musical mode, with two characters singing it in one location, and another taking part from a separate place entirely). At least the second performance contains elements of plot to it. There are elements of humour in bizarre places – an early scene sees Rasi’s father’s restaurant almost burning down with Rasi inside, much to the apparent delight of the huge crowd that gathers, pointing and laughing at a baker attempting to ascend a ladder to save the girl. It’s at times akin to a Laurel and Hardy sketch but with less taste. Character-wise Johnny is dull and Rasi petulant and immature, with only the Countess shining within this love triangle. More than her, however, was Vosper’s Prince, who was a cartoonish caricature who lit up the screen whenever he came on with his sense of bombastic entitlement and ruddy-cheeked pomposity. One scene seems him barrage his way into a song rehearsal between Johnny and the Countess. He flings the door open and, without even looking, throws his hat full force at the young man. There’s so much about that character that is revealed in this moment. He doesn’t know who Johnny is, he just knows that this is a man he can throw his hat to, who will put it wherever the hats go, which at this moment in time should not be in the Prince’s possession. Also, the shouting multi-person conversation between the Countess and the Prince, via their respective hand servants, was well used, but brought back memories of the end of Crocodile Dundee, where the same concept was actually used better. That’s right, in at least one way Crocodile Dundee is better than an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I know everyone was thinking it, now I’ve finally put it out there.The ending of the film came as no real surprise, mainly because I recognised Johnny’s music as The Blue Danube (you’d recognise it too if you heard it), and seeing how little I know of classical music then it simply had to become famous. Also, the love triangle plot played out exactly as you’d expect, but it did feature more scenes with the Prince, so that was fine by me. However, his performance is not enough for me to recommend the film as a whole.
Choose Life 5/10
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