Vienna, City of Song

Original Title: Wien, du Stadt der Lieder. (Donauwellen.) Farce 1930; 100 min.; Director: Richard Oswald; Cast: Charlotte Ander, Paul Morgan, Max Hansen, Igo Sym, Irene Ambrus, Grete Natzler, Dora Hrach, Sigi Hofer, Sig Arno, Paul Graetz, Max Ehrlich, Gustl Stark-Gstettenbaur; Oswald-Tobis-Film.

A music dealer and a tailor master, whose children have been engaged against their fathers’ wishes, a typesetter who has been flirting with the former’s wife, and a butcher who loves the girl hopelessly – these are the characters of this story. The two businessmen’s supposed masterstroke, concocted by the typesetter, has thrown them into a frenzy. However, the revelation of the error brings them back to their senses. Since it was the children who made the masterstroke, they are allowed to marry.

Steffi, the beautiful daughter of Ignaz Korn, a Vienna instrument dealer, loves Pepi, an unemployed musician. Despite his father, tailor Mr. Pokorny, being against the marriage, Steffi’s father, Korn, is also opposed to it. Korn would have preferred to see Steffi marry his card-playing partner, the adoring butcher Burgstaller.

Korn, Pokorny, and Burgstaller are regular patrons at Café Bock, which is owned by the lovely young widow Bock. The guests are well looked-after by the head waiter Ferdinand, who is a friend to them all. He ensures that their orders are attended to and, unfortunately, tends to spend more time sleeping than he should.

Ilona, the long-time salesperson at Burgstaller’s store, sadly sees the affection Burgstaller has for Steffi. He and Korn both play a quarter class, each the same number.

Cäsar Grün, the newspaper typesetter who meddles in an unseemly way, gets thrown out of the coffee house one day. Through the waiter Ferdinand, he learns of the number of the lottery ticket that Burgstaller and Korn are playing. In the afternoon, when he is supposed to set the lottery list in the newspaper, he notices that a number similar to that which Korn and Burgstaller are playing has drawn the top prize. Out of revenge, he prints the number and brings the newspaper to Korn and Burgstaller, from which it becomes clear that their ticket has drawn the top prize.

Burgstaller and Korn are ecstatic and invite everyone to the Heurigen. Even the Berlin traveler Piefke comes along with his Berlin schnauze that makes everyone quiet. In a burst of megalomania, Burgstaller smashes his old rickety car, gifting Ilona the whole business while Mrs. Korn orders completely new furniture and has the old ones picked up immediately. Joy fills the Heurigen. Korn and Burgstaller pay for everything and the mood rises. But with the consumption of alcohol, the “big fight” slowly starts, one word leading to another, the table rounds dividing and even Pepi and Steffi getting angry with each other.

The next day, the hangover hits and the lottery numbers prove to be wrong, leaving Burgstaller and Korn poorer than before. Burgstaller, who no longer owns his business, hopes to marry Steffi, but when he goes to propose, he finds that Steffi and Pepi have won a few thousand with their lottery and are about to go to the registry office to order their marriage banns. Burgstaller stays behind wistfully. Then Gustl, the porter from the Kaffee Bock, arrives to fetch Burgstaller for a card game and gives him a lecture on “women”.

Burgstaller is about to leave when Ilona appears and sadly informs him that she does not intend to accept the business. She wants to say goodbye and leave the position. But Burgstaller does not let the loyal and good support of his business go. Even the headwaiter Ferdinand, who had participated in Korn’s lottery winnings due to a loan of 10%, remorsefully returns to his wife Bock.

Over at the music shop, Pepi and Steffi sit blissfully, their wedding invitations in hand, and in the courtyard a band plays: “Vienna, City of Song”.

E. J.’s review in Film Kurier No. 77 (March 29, 1930)
This film is a 100% German-speaking and singing film and it has been receiving many rounds of applause, proving that soon we won’t have to proclaim the “100%” of German-speaking films with fanfare – it will be taken for granted. If a professional like Oswald handles the microphone with ease, then we won’t be discussing the language used in the German manufacturing industry for much longer. The new film made by a group of independent filmmakers makes it abundantly clear: film sound is not a dangerous invention of a few electricity companies, intended solely for enslaving the film world; it truly “belongs” today. Oswald composes his farce quickly and with few resources, which will no doubt inspire many producers to think. He has gained much insight, such as about the humour in his farce, and he will surely bear this in mind the next time. Mr. Neubach, the author, is an educated gentleman who has seen all the comedians of the Berlin stages. He has seen Arno standing in his undershirt in a suit in the Viennese Heurigen, and has made a few rolls for Ehrlich, Hofer, Morgan, Hansen and Graetz so that they can speak as comedians to an even funnier audience. Indeed, with comedians, one can truly say it all!

One suggests that Vienna humor is a Berlin invention. The person is not entirely wrong. There is less “Nestdroy” than “Kadelburg” being played here; the characters of our grandparents’ suburbs are conveniently arranged for the actors. At the craftsmen festival, the big lottery, “Guten Morgen, Herr Fischer,” and the “White Horse Inn,” even the dramaturgy is without scruples, as the disappointment of the alleged big lottery winners is clumsily steered to a hurried end in some scenes. But Oswald’s film certainly has a pleasant side too: that it sticks with the farce and stands 1000 kilometers away from the stage and literature, even though it works almost exclusively with stage actors. The show’s speakers frolic in farce mood and this is contagious. Through the laughter atmosphere permeating the film, which may be too forced for some tastes and served with a ha-ha-ha tickle at any cost, all the effort and every hint of “technology” is covered up, resulting in a comedy film.

He is fortunate when it comes to music; Hans May has found his ideal field of work. He blends two popular songs, “Wien, du Stadt der Lieder” and “Ohne dich kann ich nicht leben . . .”, and when Hansen and Luigi Bernauer perform them, they receive rapturous applause. The sound engineering (camera: H. Stoer) adjusts quickly to the fast-paced worker Oswald, despite the accelerated shooting schedule. While there are some minor issues with the microphone and playback, the language is remarkable – the gruff Schnodder and Graetz, the delightful Gustl Gstellenbauer’s youthful resolution, and the silent technicians Behn-Grund, Holzki, Schrödter, all trusted assistants – their voices now emit their full original appeal.

Max Hansen delights as a sound film debutant, winning the hearts of all who witness his performance. His skill in the competitive world of sound film editing will take him further and no doubt propel sound films into the future. Though he still has some mimetic weaknesses, he should not succumb to maudlin tendencies, as his only recourse is to parody such behavior. With the right role, there is no doubt that Max has a bright future in sound films. Max Ehrlich presents a unique class of characters: the beggar and back-alley newspaperman. Sarcastic, gluttonous, funny, and sly, he almost surpasses Anzengruber in his antics, earning special applause from the audience. Among the other comedians are Charlotte Ander, who looks pretty; Grete Natzler, who wants to sing; Igo Sym, who struggles with language; Dora Ilrach; Irene Ambrus; and many others.

The situation of the action does not need to be narrated; at the Heuriger, the butcher’s, the instrument dealer’s, the tailor’s, the café, and the bar, there is enough curious and tumultuous activity to amuse the audience for two hours. The raucous and applause-filled atmosphere at the premiere indicates that the audience is getting their money’s worth with Oswald and his six ace comedians. Such a game is surely bound to win!