Waltzes from Vienna, 1934 – ★★★

#40 in the Reverse Hitchcock project.

What’s this, a curious observer may ask. It is a romantic musical comedy directed by … Hitchcock?

A bit of explanation might be necessary. In the 1930s there was a real vogue for operetta in British film, many of which started leading lady Jessie Matthews, who also appears here. So it would not be unknown for a rising director to be assigned a film like this.

It was Hitch’s only project during 1934, and he has said he only made it in order to keep working. However, together with his wife and constant collaborator Alma Reville, he still worked out a meticulous shooting schedule and screenplay, including the inclusion of musical interludes.

Music matters in this surface biopic of the creation of Johann Strauss II’s seminal ‘Blue Danube’ (in an elaborate and comical bakery scene). It isn’t just there for pretty scene accompaniment, but also for dramatic effect here and there. And of course, being Strauss, the music is fabulous.

A note on the casting – the aforementioned Matthews is a spirited Resi, Edmund Gwenn (in his second appearance of four for Hitch) is an effective if brusque Strauss the elder, while Esmond Knight is almost unrecognisable – being so young and before he was partly blinded in the Second World War – as a floridly romantic Strauss the younger.

In terms of a successful biopic, ‘The Great Waltz’ (1938) covered similar ground (and was even sillier – a horse and carriage ride provides musical inspiration), and as a Hitchcock film, this could be filed under ‘minor’, but I enjoyed watching it again.

Watched on the French DVD (Le chant du Danube) released in 2005, which has better picture and sound quality than the one in Network’s Jessie Matthews series.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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