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13 December 2014

Der letzte Walzer (1927)

This week's film special is about that typical German phenomenon, a silent film musical. The Ufa production Der letzte Walzer/The Last Waltz (Arthur Robison, 1927) was a successful example. The stars were Willy Fritsch, Suzy Vernon, Liane Haid, Hans Adalbert Schlettow and Ida Wüst. In France, ACE published a series of postcards for the French release, La dernière valse.

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 10. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of Suzy Vernon and Willy Fritsch in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 23. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of Suzy Vernon and Willy Fritsch in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

A Viennese operetta in Berlin


Der letzte Walzer/The Last Waltz (Arthur Robison, 1927) was based on a Viennese operetta, composed by Oscar Straus and with a libretto by Julius Brammer and Alfred Grünwald.

The original operetta had opened at the Berliner Theater in Berlin on 12 February 1920 and starred Fritzi Massary. It was a huge success, and soon followed international adaptations.

In Vienna it was first presented at the Theater an der Wien on 5 October 1923, with Betty Fischer, Max Hansen, and Richard Tauber in the leading roles.

On 10 May 1921, an English adaptation for Broadway was prepared by Harold R. Atteridge and Edward Delaney, with additional music by Al Goodman. The Last Waltz, directed by J. C. Huffman, opened at the Century Theatre in New York and ran for 185 performances.

Another English adaptation was prepared for the West End by Robert Evett and Reginald Arkell. This version opened at the Gaiety Theatre in London on 7 December 1922 and starred Jose Collins. This adaptation ran for 240 performances.

The next logical step was a film version.

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 25. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of Hans Adalbert Schlettow in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 26. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of Liane Haid, Sophie Pagay, Hans Adalbert Schlettow and Ida Wüst in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

Foolhardy Swains


In 1927, the Ufa studio produced the German silent film Der letzte Walzer, directed by Arthur Robison and starring Liane Haid, Willy Fritsch and Suzy Vernon.

At AllMovie, Hal Erickson summarizes the plot: "Hans von Schlettow plays the caddish Crown Prince of a mythical European country. Eve willing to sacrifice his honor in favor of a good wine or a pretty girl, the Prince is publicly chastised by his aide, the Count (Willy Fritsch). The two men prepare to fight a duel, whereupon their respective sweethearts, the Princess (Liane Haid) and the Countess (Suzy Vernon), conspire to knock some sense into their foolhardy swains."

The New York Times reviewed the film positively at its US-premiere in 1927: "there is some successful tilting at satire, fun, melodrama and the inevitable romance. This film has a certain charm because it never has to be taken seriously, not even for its type of story, a Teutonic Graustarkian sketch."

The anonymous reviewer adds: "The stage settings and the scenic effects are quite good, especially the sleigh episodes. The players acquit themselves with no little skill, notably Hans von Schlettow as the Crown Prince, Sophie Pepay (sic, Sophie Pagay) as the Queen, Willy Fritsch as Dimitri and Suzy Vernon as the Countess."

Der Letzte Walzer was filmed again as a sound film in 1934 by Georg Jacoby and starring Iván Petrovich, Camilla Horn and Adele Sandrock.

After the war followed two more German screen versions: Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1953) with Eva Bartok, Curd Jürgens and O. E. Hasse, and the TV version Der letzte Walzer (?, 1973) starring Jürgen Feindt, Ivan Rebroff and Marika Rökk.

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 31. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of Hans Adalbert Schlettow, Suzy Vernon, Liane Haid, Willy Fritsch and Ida Wüst in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

La dernière valse
French postcard by ACE, no. 33. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still of  Hans Adalbert Schlettow and Willy Fritsch in Der letzte Walzer (Arthur Robison, 1927).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), The New York Times, The Guide to Musical Theatre, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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