Wednesday, March 30, 2011
THE EMPEROR WALTZ: A 1948 REVIEW
A New Bing Film
by Bosley Crowther
Imagine our old friend Bing Crosby as a Yankee at Franz Joseph's court, peddling a newfangled phonograph and wooing a countess on the side, and you have a thumbnail synopsis of Paramount's "The Emperor Waltz," the light-hearted musical farce-romance which came to the Music Hall yesterday. Picture it all in Technicolor, with the courtiers in flashing uniforms, the ladies in elegant dresses and Bing in an old straw hat, and you have a fair comprehension of the prospect and atmosphere. For "The Emperor Waltz" is a picture which can be characterized in a few words, but which is much more entertaining if you see it from beginning to end.
Not that there's anything staggering in the way of music or plot in this spoof which Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder produced, directed and wrote. A dash of "The Prisoner of Zenda," a twist of old Viennese "corn" and plenty of any "Road"-show nonsense and you have a composite of the plot. Likewise, three musical numbers are the extent of the score—and only one of these items is unfamiliar and new.
Nothing he says is likely to be mistaken for deep philosophy but it all has the sound of observation which lightens the weariness of life. If it's boop-boop-adoing "Santa Lucia" while sculling a Tyrolean lake boat, with the off-hand explanation, "I used to travel for a Venetian-blind company," or merely calling his sweetheart "Honey Countess" in a thoroughly natural way, Bing has the air of a fellow to whom the artificial is a bore.
Best of the musical numbers is "Friendly Mountains," a yodel song which Bing ripples over his tonsils while walking down an alpine road, to be answered by magical echoes and a swarm of slap-dancers in the dells. It's a charming, melodious ditty and as cute in its staging as a cuckoo clock. Also amusing is a pick-up of the oldie, "I Kiss Your Hand, Madame," which is used to put the bashful canines—and also the countess—in the mood. Roberta Jonay and Bert Prival skip a lively dance to it, too. And the final romantic number, which Bing sings, "The Kiss in Your Eyes," is a pleasantly sentimental re-write on Heuberger's "Chambre Separée."
Set against gorgeous mountain scenery and richly palatial rooms, "The Emperor Waltz" is a project which should turn the blue Danube to twinkling gold...