|Before The Cafe, Lesser Ury, 1920s|
~ The Lady Eve
Classic films offer the viewer an opportunity to glimpse, however briefly and dimly, the world in which the audience and the performer lived. Classic films can also provide an imperfect record of the psychological and sociological issues of concern to the public. For many of us, German cinema during the Weimar era remains frustratingly elusive, while art and auteur
|Renate Müller performs "Castle in Spain" |
in Viktor und Viktoria
|She Represents |
Jeanne Mammen (1927)
Fans of Blake Edwards’s 1983 version of the film will find many similarities in Reinhold Schünzel’s dynamic and provocative original. Susanne Lohr (Renate Müller), a young aspiring actress, is befriended by Viktor Hempel (Hermann Thimig) after both audition for but fail to get work. The pair consoles one another in a local café, Susanne sharing her aspirations to become a cabaret performer, Viktor revealing his ambition to be a serious actor. Viktor admits that he is presently working as a female impersonator, and when illness prevents him from performing his act, he persuades his new friend to perform in his place. Susanne and Viktor’s luck changes over night and the pair is launched on a European tour that eventually takes them to London. Susanne becomes the toast of society, and the object of Robert’s (Anton Walbrook, billed as Adolphe Wohlbrück) fascination.
The film rightly deserves acclaim for achieving in the early sound era what others such as Rouben Mamoulian were not. Schünzel’s use of sound and image to comic effect, and his integration of singing and dancing in the plot, foreshadowed the integrated Hollywood musical. Viktor und Viktoria (1933) is not simply a brilliant example of the early sound era musical, but a joyous exploration of the rhythm of speech and music. The entire film is in blank verse, rhyme or sprechgesang (the spoken song), in combination with carefully orchestrated blocking, camera movement and editing. The film also reflects irony and nostalgia for operetta, once a part of the cabaret legacy and denounced in 1913 as ‘the worst enemy of German theatrical art’. The more optimistic film operettas of the late Weimar era reflect a myth that luck could bring overnight prosperity. Susanne’s discovery and instant fame integrate cabaret humor and the operetta myth in a post-Weimar era film.
|Georges et Georgette (1934)|
|First A Girl (1935)|
|Robert and Susanne get "uncomfortable"|
|Viktor und Viktoria's ensemble cast|
|Renate Müller |
in Sunshine Susie (1931)
|A musical number from Liebling Der Götter|
I would like to thank Lady Eve for her gracious invitation to contribute to her always elegant blog. I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help provided by DocTom (Thomas) in understanding certain nuances of the German language.
Reference Material: Berlin Cabaret, Peter Jelavich; Film and the German Left in the Weimar Republic: from Caligari to Kuhle Wampe, Bruce Murray; International Adventures: German Popular Cinema and European Co-Production, Tim Bergfelder; The Film Daily, December, 1930, March 1932, May 1947; Weimar Cinema And After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary, Thomas Elsaessar; World Film News and Television Progress: People Of The Studios, May 1937.
Click here for all of Karin's contributions to Reel Life.