Time for a trip to Austria in the early 1900s, courtesy of the 1948 movie The Emperor Waltz, starring Bing Crosby as Virgil Smith, Joan Fontaine as Johanna, the Countess Von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg, and Richard Haydn (in another Austrian-set movie pre-dating his famous role as “Uncle Max” in The Sound of Music) as the Emperor Franz-Josef.
In this movie, which proves that Vienna had “gone to the dogs,” we find the Emperor has summoned the Countess Von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg and her father, the Baron Holenia (Roland Culver), to tell them about an arranged marriage: between their dogs! At the same time, traveling salesman Virgil Smith has arrived with his fox terrier, Buttons, planning to sell a phonograph to the Emperor in the hopes that the country would buy it because he did. Buttons ends up getting into a fight with the Countess’s poodle Scheherezade, which later causes her to suffer a breakdown. At the advice of the veterinarian (who had studied alongside Dr. Freud), she brings Scheherezade to Virgil and Buttons, for them to make peace. In doing so, we see the dogs falling for each other, as well as Virgil and the Countess. After a while, Virgil gets an appointment with the Emperor to ask for the Countess’s hand in marriage. The emperor talks him out of the idea, instead opting to buy the phonograph. You want more than that? Watch the movie!
This is a movie that I very much enjoy. A few of the songs in this movie are worth mentioning, such as the song “Friendly Mountains,” which is apparently based on some Austrian yodeling songs, and allows us to hear Bing singing with his echoes a little (cue at least one comedic moment of one “echo” intentionally being different than what was said). Another song would be “I Kiss Your Little Hand, Madame,” used when Bing is trying to help the two dogs learn to get along (and he and the countess end up falling for each other, with the song affecting her afterwards when she can’t sleep), and we see a brief, balletic dance from two women working at the inn it is staged at and the countess’s driver.
The dogs themselves help make the movie, especially as they go along with their owners (while using a little more sense, since they aren’t as divided by class). The movie works well for me, and it is one I highly recommend you see if you get a chance! This movie is available on DVD from Universal, and is about one hour, forty-six minutes in length.
My Rating: 9/10