The Great Waltz


1h 42m 1938
The Great Waltz

Brief Synopsis

Composer Johann Strauss risks his marriage over his infatuation with a beautiful singer.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life of Johann Strauss
Genre
Drama
Musical
Biography
Release Date
Nov 4, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chino, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In mid-nineteenth century Vienna, Johann "Schani" Strauss, the son of the well-known waltz composer, whose name he bears, works as a clerk in a bank. Johann also wants to write waltzes and has difficulty concentrating on banking matters. When he is caught composing a tune one day, he is fired, but is happy because he will now have more time to devote to music. Johann's sweetheart, Poldi Vogelhuber, the daughter of a baker, is happy with his decision, and while Johann visits her father's shop, baker Kienzl, who is an amateur musician, suggests that he and other friends help Johann to start an orchestra. A short time later, they get a job at the popular Donmayer's Cafe, but their music does not seem to appeal to Otto Donmayer's patrons. Just as he is about to dismiss Johann, however, Fritz Schiller and Carla Donner, two stars from the Imperial Opera, arrive at the cafe and ask to have the orchestra play for them. Johann plays a new waltz, "Artist's Life," and the cafe is soon crowded with music lovers. Schiller, is impressed with Johann and arranges for him to attend a party at the palace of Count Hohenfried. Carla sings one of Johann's waltzes, which attracts the attention of the music publisher Julius Hofbauer, but Johann is insulted by what he perceives to be both Carla and Hofbauer's interest in him only as an amusement. He storms out of the party and soon marries the devoted Poldi. A short time later, a revolution breaks out and Johann writes a march that becomes the anthem of the revolutionaries. One day, as marchers start to sing the song in the streets, they surround the coach of an aristocrat. Just as violence is about to erupt, Johann notices that Carla is in the coach and rescues her. They then drive through the Vienna Woods and Johann is inspired by the sounds of the forest to compose a tune, which he and Carla joyously sing. They are then caught in a rainstorm and take cover at a small inn where the innkeeper, who thinks that Carla is Johann's wife tells her "it must be wonderful to be the wife of Johann Strauss." After she wistfully agrees, Johann leads the inn's small orchestra in one of his compositions and he and Carla realize that they are in love. Soon Count Hohenfried arrives after looking frantically for Carla and takes her home. The revolution has failed, and Johann returns home to Poldi, but cannot get his mind off Carla. He resolves to leave Vienna and take Poldi with him, but soon Carla tells him that he has been commissioned to write an opera for her. While the opera is being rehearsed, Carla and Johann fall more deeply in love. When the opera opens, the count discovers that Poldi, who has remained silent about Johann's relationship to Carla, has not come to the opening. The count goes to her and urges her to stop the affair before they run off together because he knows that such a relationship will only bring unhappiness to all of them. Poldi then goes to the Imperial Opera House but, when he sees Johann's triumph, she decides to go to Carla to tell her that she is planning to give her husband up because she could not help and inspire him as Carla does. Touched, Carla tells Poldi that she cannot accept her sacrifice and leaves without Johann. In the following decades, Johann becomes world famous and is given every possible honor for his waltzes. Despite his feelings for Carla, he remains with the devoted Poldi.

Photo Collections

The Great Waltz (1938) - Publicity Still
Here is a photo taken to help publicize MGM's The Great Waltz (1938), starring Luise Rainer and Fernand Gravet. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life of Johann Strauss
Genre
Drama
Musical
Biography
Release Date
Nov 4, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chino, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Wins

Best Cinematography

1938

Award Nominations

Best Editing

1938
Tom Held

Best Supporting Actress

1938

Articles

The Great Waltz (1938)


A lavish MGM production, The Great Waltz (1938) comes complete with elaborate sets, meticulous design and brilliant photography. It's a Hollywood version of the early life of Johann Strauss, the Viennese "waltz king." Set in the mid-19th century days of Emperor Franz Joseph, the film overflows with Strauss waltzes which are played, sung and danced to varying degrees of success; the most imaginatively staged is "Tales from the Vienna Woods."

While Frenchman Julien Duvivier received directing credit, one wonders how much control he really had over such a big production, especially since this was his first American film. He had just made two masterpieces of French cinema, Pepe Le Moko (1937) and Un Carnet de Bal (1937) - the latter of which he would soon remake for Alexander Korda as Lydia (1941) - and The Great Waltz doesn't really bear the same personal feel. (Bits and pieces of the movie were even directed, uncredited, by Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming.)

New York Times film critic Frank Nugent essentially realized this, too. He wrote of the film: "A stupendous show. Stunning, opulent and melodious. All of which does not prevent it from being a bit of a bore. Metro, of course, makes the most beautiful bores in the world. They are designed by Cedric Gibbons, gowned by Adrian and have dollar signs all over them. No other studio in Hollywood can build such ballrooms and fill them with such lovely, lacy ladies. No other studio makes such enchanting beer-gardens, with the moonlight just right and the dance floor perfection. No other studio can make so big a picture out of so small a script."

Other critics, however, were more positive about The Great Waltz, and the film did well at the box office. It even garnered three Oscar® nominations, for Best Supporting Actress (Miliza Korjus), Best Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and Best Editing, and it won for Cinematography.

Over a long casting process, MGM considered many possible leading men including Nelson Eddy, Brian Aherne and Fredric March, until Belgian-born Fernand Gravey finally won the part of Strauss. He was billed as "Fernand Gravet" so as to avoid possible ridicule by American audiences. Also cast were recent double Oscar®-winner Luise Rainer and Polish soprano Miliza Korjus, appearing in her only American film. Of Korjus, film critic Nugent wrote that her "resemblance to Mae West and difficulties with the recording in the upper registers tend to offset a lively and full-throated performance."

MGM spared no effort on the music for The Great Waltz. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin adapted Strauss' compositions and conducted them with a 90-piece orchestra. According to studio notes, Dr. Arthur Guttman, conductor of the Johann Strauss Theater in Vienna, was brought to Hollywood to aid in the music's overall authenticity. Even more impressively, fourteen of the violins used in the scoring were Stradivarius models, including one - the so-called "Da Vinci Stradivarius" - which was at the time acclaimed as the world's most valuable violin.

Two hundred sets were built for The Great Waltz, including grand ballrooms, staircases, Vienna Woods resorts and a replica of the court of Franz Joseph. Some props, such as cabinets, were owned and lent by the Strauss family. A harpsichord loaned for use in the film by composer Sigmund Romberg had actually been played in the Imperial Opera in the 1840s.

MGM's press book for The Great Waltz also claimed that "Miliza Korjus eats 12 raw eggs daily to preserve her voice," and "Joan Crawford, visiting the set, sang in the 'Vienna I Love You' chorus on a dare."

Producer: Bernard H. Hyman
Director: Julien Duvivier
Screenplay: Samuel Hoffenstein, Walter Reisch, based on a story by Gottfried Reinhardt
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin, Arthur Guttman
Film Editing: Tom Held
Costume Design: Adrian
Cast: Luise Rainer (Poldi Vogelhuber), Fernand Gravey (Johann Strauss II), Miliza Korjus (Carla Donner), Hugh Herbert (Julius Hofbauer), Lionel Atwill (Count Anton Hohenfried), Curt Bois (Kienzl), Leonid Kinskey (Dudelman).
BW-107m.

by Jeremy Arnold
The Great Waltz (1938)

The Great Waltz (1938)

A lavish MGM production, The Great Waltz (1938) comes complete with elaborate sets, meticulous design and brilliant photography. It's a Hollywood version of the early life of Johann Strauss, the Viennese "waltz king." Set in the mid-19th century days of Emperor Franz Joseph, the film overflows with Strauss waltzes which are played, sung and danced to varying degrees of success; the most imaginatively staged is "Tales from the Vienna Woods." While Frenchman Julien Duvivier received directing credit, one wonders how much control he really had over such a big production, especially since this was his first American film. He had just made two masterpieces of French cinema, Pepe Le Moko (1937) and Un Carnet de Bal (1937) - the latter of which he would soon remake for Alexander Korda as Lydia (1941) - and The Great Waltz doesn't really bear the same personal feel. (Bits and pieces of the movie were even directed, uncredited, by Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming.) New York Times film critic Frank Nugent essentially realized this, too. He wrote of the film: "A stupendous show. Stunning, opulent and melodious. All of which does not prevent it from being a bit of a bore. Metro, of course, makes the most beautiful bores in the world. They are designed by Cedric Gibbons, gowned by Adrian and have dollar signs all over them. No other studio in Hollywood can build such ballrooms and fill them with such lovely, lacy ladies. No other studio makes such enchanting beer-gardens, with the moonlight just right and the dance floor perfection. No other studio can make so big a picture out of so small a script." Other critics, however, were more positive about The Great Waltz, and the film did well at the box office. It even garnered three Oscar® nominations, for Best Supporting Actress (Miliza Korjus), Best Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and Best Editing, and it won for Cinematography. Over a long casting process, MGM considered many possible leading men including Nelson Eddy, Brian Aherne and Fredric March, until Belgian-born Fernand Gravey finally won the part of Strauss. He was billed as "Fernand Gravet" so as to avoid possible ridicule by American audiences. Also cast were recent double Oscar®-winner Luise Rainer and Polish soprano Miliza Korjus, appearing in her only American film. Of Korjus, film critic Nugent wrote that her "resemblance to Mae West and difficulties with the recording in the upper registers tend to offset a lively and full-throated performance." MGM spared no effort on the music for The Great Waltz. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin adapted Strauss' compositions and conducted them with a 90-piece orchestra. According to studio notes, Dr. Arthur Guttman, conductor of the Johann Strauss Theater in Vienna, was brought to Hollywood to aid in the music's overall authenticity. Even more impressively, fourteen of the violins used in the scoring were Stradivarius models, including one - the so-called "Da Vinci Stradivarius" - which was at the time acclaimed as the world's most valuable violin. Two hundred sets were built for The Great Waltz, including grand ballrooms, staircases, Vienna Woods resorts and a replica of the court of Franz Joseph. Some props, such as cabinets, were owned and lent by the Strauss family. A harpsichord loaned for use in the film by composer Sigmund Romberg had actually been played in the Imperial Opera in the 1840s. MGM's press book for The Great Waltz also claimed that "Miliza Korjus eats 12 raw eggs daily to preserve her voice," and "Joan Crawford, visiting the set, sang in the 'Vienna I Love You' chorus on a dare." Producer: Bernard H. Hyman Director: Julien Duvivier Screenplay: Samuel Hoffenstein, Walter Reisch, based on a story by Gottfried Reinhardt Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Dimitri Tiomkin, Arthur Guttman Film Editing: Tom Held Costume Design: Adrian Cast: Luise Rainer (Poldi Vogelhuber), Fernand Gravey (Johann Strauss II), Miliza Korjus (Carla Donner), Hugh Herbert (Julius Hofbauer), Lionel Atwill (Count Anton Hohenfried), Curt Bois (Kienzl), Leonid Kinskey (Dudelman). BW-107m. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

An early working title for the film was The Life of Johann Strauss. According to contemporary news items, M-G-M originally had planned to make the picture in late 1935 or early 1936. In early 1935, it was announced that Dmitri Tiomkin was doing advance music work for the film, and a short time later, Nelson Eddy was announced as the lead. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was initially announced as the film's producer. Several possible leads other than Eddy were considered in 1935, among them Francis Lederer, Brian Aherne, Clifton Webb and Fredric March. After more than a year of preparations, however, in November 1935, M-G-M announced that they were postponing the project to wait for the "right" operatic lead. In the released film, the male lead, Fernard Gravet, does not sing. The only singing done by his character was dubbed by two baritones. Backgrounds for the film were shot on location in Chino, CA, under second unit director Richard Rosson. This was the only American film of Polish soprano Miliza Korjus, and the last American-made film for almost thirty years for Ferdinand Gravet, who returned to France in 1939. According to modern sources, portions of the film were directed by Josef von Sternberg.
       Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg received an Academy Award for his work on the picture. The film was nominated for two other Academy Awards-Best Supporting Actress (Miliza Korjus) and Best Film Editing (Tom Held). A 1934 British film entitled Waltzes from Vienna, starring Jessie Matthews and Edmund Gwen, and the 1963 Disney film The Waltz King, directed by Steve Previn and starring Kerwin Mattews and Brian Aherne were also inspired by the life of Johann Strauss II.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1938

Fleming took over when original director Duvivier left the project. He actually shot most the film in seven weeks.

Released in United States 1938