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Archive for the ‘Luise Rainer’ Category

The Great Waltz

27 Jul

The Great Waltz – Julian Duvivier. Semi Classical Musical. Johann Strauss makes a hit in Vienna but two-times his wife with a coloratura.  104 minutes Black and White. 1938.

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It is interesting to me how the photography (Joseph Ruttenberg) of a picture should cause one to become so dazed that one sits right through to the end of what is a fifteen courses, one after another, of Viennese pastry. Fernand Gravet plays Strauss as well as could since he is obliged to wave a baton up and down and up and down till he looks like a little toy drummer. The coloratura Miliza Korjus plays the other woman: she just sings the bloomers off those songs. Her tessitura is something to hear, all right, all right, and her big scene introducing Strauss waltzes to high society gives her something wonderful to do and she does it. She trills around the ballroom flirting with the men, one after another, with her tinkling soprano. It’s a super scene which she does charmingly. She was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, one of the few women singers ever to be thus signaled. Luise Rainer is the star. The Teardrop Actress she was called. She is a sort of human dimple. She is appealing – by which I mean begging. She begs with her tiny voice, her lustrous eyes, and her enchanting mouth – and, boy, does she ever steal focus with ‘em. You can’t watch anything else while she’s on screen. At time she seems to fade into inertia. At other times she seems cloying. She makes you either want to protect her or give her a vitamin shot. But she is a real actress and therefore mysterious. She was a great master at delivering characters of pure innocence to the screen and had won two Oscars for best actress back to back just before this. But the trouble is, what she was really good at was being cast as women who were doormattishly co-dependent. I find such characters sympathetic to the point of annoyance. It’s not her fault. She was a sensitive honest and intelligent woman and a real artist. She made very few films after this because MGM was too crude a place for her. And you can see by this film just how that was expressed. Irving Thalberg probably never produced a movie that was not like this over-rich dessert –  immaculately candlabraed, stuffed with marzipan, and lavishly butter-creamed with icing.

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