Countess Mariza

Original Title: Gräfin Mariza. Operetta 1932; 114 min.; Director: Richard Oswald; Cast: Hubert Marischka, Dorothea Wieck, Charlotte Ander, Ernő Verebes, S.Z. Sakall, Anton Pointner, Ferdinand von Alten; Roto-G.P.-Klangfilm.

An impoverished count must earn a dowry for his sister and becomes an estate manager. He falls in love with his capricious mistress, who returns his affection, but only becomes his own after a misunderstanding is cleared up. Her pseudo-fiancé marries the count’s sister.

Captain Count Wittemburg, under the name Török, has taken on the position of administrator on Countess Mariza’s completely run-down estate because he has lost his fortune. However, he has never met the estate’s mistress because she hasn’t visited her property for several years.

One day, he learns from Baron Liebenberg, who, along with Prince Popow, is one of Countess Mariza’s most ardent admirers, that she will finally pay a visit to the estate. On this occasion, her engagement to Koloman Szupan, whom no one knows because she made him up, is supposed to take place. She wants to avoid the marriage proposals of the Prince, who is her main creditor. Accompanying her is Lisa, Török’s sister. Lisa has become friends with the Countess but knows nothing about her brother’s occupation.

When Countess Mariza arrives at the estate, there is general surprise because the groom has not arrived. To the Countess’s great astonishment, a certain Mr. Koloman Szupan, who actually exists, presents himself to her just as they are about to sit down to dinner. He had read the engagement announcement in the newspaper and, since he has substantial debts, believes this could help him recover financially.

Meanwhile, Countess Mariza has met her new estate manager. Although she likes him, she must pretend to play along with the charade. Gradually, she and Török grow closer, but when Mariza sees him with Lisa, she becomes jealous. She still doesn’t know they are siblings because Lisa had to promise to keep his incognito.

Countess Mariza now believes that Török has been playing a comedy with her and insinuates that he is only interested in her for her money. Deeply hurt, he decides to leave the estate. Now, Lisa intervenes and reveals the truth to the Countess, allowing for the celebration of two engagements. Not only have Count Wittemburg and Countess Mariza finally found each other, but Lisa and Koloman Szupan have also discovered their love.

-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 223 (September 21, 1932)
Kalman’s Gräfin Mariza is one of the few operettas that have managed to maintain their title and music’s freshness over the years. Even those who have never seen the operetta perk up a few times while watching the film: You know that melody—it’s from Mariza.

These hit songs are the mainstay of the film. By the way, about hit songs: There’s a difference between those of the past and those of today. The ones from the past were initially called modestly waltzes or czardas. Then they became successful and earned the honorary title of “Schlager.” Nowadays, light music is usually launched under ambitious names, although their resonance with the audience isn’t always confirmed.

Richard Oswald’s Viktoria und ihr Husar was one of the strongest box-office draws last season. All indications suggest that this new operetta adaptation has also struck a chord with the masses. Kalman’s music triumphs over the weaknesses in the script, direction, and performances.

It would be misguided to expect higher standards from the plot of an operetta adaptation than from an operetta itself. Fritz Friedmann Frederich has adapted the libretto by Brammer and Grünwaldt. Certainly, one could imagine many aspects being more cinematic and logical, and it would be worth considering whether the film could have satisfied a larger audience by carefully revising the screenplay. However, the author’s cliché work will not detract greatly from the film’s success.

Richard Oswald’s work deserves recognition for freeing the material from the confines of the stage through the effective use of outdoor shots. As for the direction, it can only be said that it transfers the proven stage moments to the screen without displaying particular ambition in terms of actor guidance.

Hubert Marischka possesses a very appealing tenor voice that brings Kalman’s melodies to life in abundance. In lighter passages, Marischka also presents a good performance, although he should have been spared from excessive facial exaggerations during the dramatic highlights by Oswald.

Dorothea Wieck presents Countess Mariza as a beautiful and noble figure. Some poorly framed close-ups should be removed.

Ernő Verebes and Charlotte Ander have an easier time as the comic couple compared to the serious characters. They were very likable. Once again, S.Z. Sakall steals the show as the eccentric factotum who forcibly brings the events to a happy ending when the authors find themselves at a standstill.

Also starring Anton Pointner and Ferdinand van Alten.

Heinrich Gärtner handles the cinematography, Franz Schroedter provides appealing set designs, and Fritz Seeger is responsible for the sound.

The film received a very warm reception in both premiere cinemas.