Dream of Schönbrunn

Original Title: Traum von Schönbrunn. (Schuld an allem ist die Liebe.) Musical 1932; 84 min.; Director: Johannes Meyer; Cast: Hermann Thimig, Mártha Eggerth, Hans Junkermann, Julia Serda, Ernő Verebes, Hilde Koller, Ilse Nast; Schulz & Wuellner-Tobis-Klangfilm.

An Austrian princess is expected to marry a prince. However, even before the planned bride selection, she falls in love with a man claiming to be an officer and fabricates a fictitious relationship with him as a temporary deception. As time passes, the princess comes to the realization that her infatuation is, in fact, the true prince meant for her.

Princess Christine, the youngest and most beautiful among the many princesses inhabiting the sprawling wings of Schönbrunn Palace, possesses the whims to keep the entire coarse court in constant motion, from the Chief Court Master down to the dignified footman.

Princess Christine is to be married in a customary union commanded from above for political reasons. There is little room for questions or concerns of the heart; it is a royal decree. Preparations are underway with carriages arriving one after another, bringing exquisite jewelry, the finest gowns, and an abundance of rare and precious items for the future bride. His Excellency, the Chief Court Master, is in a perpetual state of excitement. A grand festival is also planned, in which the princess is to play the leading role.

However, there is one who knows nothing of it, one who is kept in the dark about her own future: Princess Christine. They plan to discreetly introduce the “Christl,” as the princess is called throughout Vienna, to the prince during the festival, allowing them to meet “by chance.” Such is the custom and the arrangement. However, due to the Chief Court Master’s clumsiness, the “Christl” learns about her fate a bit too soon. In the midst of the main rehearsal for the festival, before the bewildered court can recover from its shock, the leading actress runs away.

Princess Christine is now being sought throughout Vienna. Court carriages roam the streets, and even “Putzi,” the adorable white poodle of the princess, is set on the trail of its mistress. Meanwhile, the “Christl” sits calmly at the “Praterhof” with her former maid and confidante, who married the innkeeper of the “Praterhof,” seeking advice on what to do next.

As the princess strolls through the streets of the imperial city, she spots a court carriage with the Chief Court Mistress from a distance. She knows they are searching for her, and on the deserted street, there is no escape. An empty fiacre stands by the roadside, and unnoticed, the princess slips inside at the last moment, hiding.

The fiacre jerks into motion, and as the princess straightens up, she finds herself sitting next to a young man who finds her embarrassment highly amusing. Two young people who don’t recognize each other, who know nothing more about one another than their youth and mutual attraction, ride together through Vienna.

She refuses to reveal her identity, and he lets her guess his profession: pianist, criminal, diplomat? Then she discovers a business card on him and takes it away. “I love Lieutenant Brandl,” proclaims the princess, who has returned to Schönbrunn, to the Chief Court Master, while secretly glancing at the business card she obtained from the stranger in the fiacre: War Councilor of the Court. They must find a way to neutralize this Lieutenant Brandl and end this liaison before the Prince of Lüneburg arrives. They promise this gentleman an immediate promotion to captain if he can convince the princess that it’s over between them.

When the real Lieutenant Brandl stands before his Excellency, he is more than surprised to hear that he is loved by the princess. However, when Brandl hears about his impending promotion, he agrees to everything his Excellency demands, including the rendezvous at the “Praterhof” with the princess, arranged by the Chief Court Master, where the lieutenant is supposed to sever his ties with the princess. Breaking off a relationship with a princess one doesn’t even know should not be difficult, Brandl thinks, already feeling like a captain.

Yet, he has forgotten about a certain Toni Tintner, a soubrette, who has been closely involved with Lieutenant Brandl for five years. Toni Tintner discovers that Brandl has an evening rendezvous. An anonymous letter from the court informs her gently. Now she sits in Brandl’s apartment, plotting revenge. Suddenly, someone comes to her aid. The young man from the fiacre, from whom the princess took Brandl’s card, pays a visit. The young man learns from the infuriated Toni who Brandl has arranged to meet, and together, Toni and he decide to thoroughly ruin the rendezvous at the “Praterhof” for the lieutenant and the princess.

In the evening, the princess waits at the “Praterhof” for her young man from the fiacre. However, the Brandl who arrives is a complete stranger to her, and he has had one cognac too many to bolster his confidence. Furious, she urges the lieutenant to leave immediately. Then she spots the Chief Court Master and his Excellency, the Chief Court Mistress, appearing in the opposite box. In their presence, she must maintain her act with Brandl and continue the charade. Brandl is quite surprised when the princess charmingly asks him to stay and have champagne with her.

And now, a third party bursts into the “Praterhof,” intensifying the princess’s confusion. Brandl is horrified when he suddenly sees the young man from the fiacre and Toni Tintner sitting across from them. During a dance, the princess and Brandl manage to escape to the Prater, and they become separated in the crowd at the entrance of the Ferris wheel. As the Ferris wheel slowly starts to move, Brandl and Toni find themselves in one cabin, facing the Chief Court Master and his Excellency beside them.

In another cabin of the Ferris wheel, completely alone, the polite young man and the princess find themselves together. The young man comforts the bewildered, crying princess, and as they exit the Ferris wheel, they are in complete agreement. They also agree that it would be great fun to lock up the other four people in their cabin for the night, so that they won’t appear as troublemakers anymore. At the gate of Schönbrunn’s grand wrought-iron doors the following morning, the young man and the princess bid farewell. The high gates are about to close behind her, and the young man has already walked to his carriage when the door of the fiacre opens, and the princess sits next to the young man. And in the carriage with which they were planning to escape to a free life, she now accompanies the man she loves, the Prince of Lüneburg, for an audience with the Emperor.

j-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 285 (December 3, 1932)
The connection between this dream and Schönbrunn Palace is tenuous at best, as its geographical boundaries are only suggested. However, since dreams typically disregard geography, it is initially unclear why the unreal elements of the dream are juxtaposed with the reality of Schönbrunn.

Consequently, one might expect a film focused on the extensively portrayed and historically rich story of the Habsburgs. Yet, once you adjust your expectations and realize that director Johannes Meyer thankfully avoids following well-established historical paths, you willingly immerse yourself in the unfolding events.

The Habsburg court is represented by a chief court master and a lady with the neutral title of “palace lady.” Ahoy!

As you witness the ever-ready comedic talent of Hans Junkermann as the court master, you understand that Schönbrunn serves as a mere backdrop—a stunning Rococo setting that, together with the nearby Vienna Prater and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, enhances the dreamlike quality that everyone longs to experience.

In the quest for escapism from everyday life, which many seek when they go to the movies, there are no limits here. Everything is in perfect harmony.

Martha Eggerth portrays a graceful and determined princess who is destined to marry a prince from Lüneburg. However, she vehemently opposes this arrangement as she is in love with a lieutenant, unaware that he is the very prince who has been assigned to her.

Eggerth’s performance is entirely natural and uninhibited. Johannes Meyer exhibits exceptional understanding of each character’s nature in directing the entire ensemble. It is delightful to see Eggerth, with her headstrong and mischievous persona, effortlessly winning over the audience with her captivating authenticity, eliciting bursts of laughter even when humor is not expected.

The success of this film lies in the actors’ performances. They don’t simply coexist; their spirited and seamless interaction is evident.

Hermann Thimig skillfully portrays the mischievous fairy-tale prince, growing increasingly relaxed and composed as Eggerth becomes more playful. He effortlessly rides the wave of playful energy, always fostering a positive atmosphere.

Ernst Verebes presents a new side, displaying helplessness rather than quick-wittedness or verbal and physical agility in every situation. And he does it with charm! Julia Serda portrays the palace lady with a superior and ironic attitude. Hilde Koller, in the soubrette role, is gracefully embraced.

The screenplay is by Wassermann and Schlee. Unfortunately, Wassermann is not a connoisseur of champagne, and Schlee is not a hapless character. However, the actors’ enthusiasm does not falter, carrying the authors through to an effective ending that elicits thunderous applause from the audience. Karl Drews, with his agile camera work, captures the essence of the performers. W. A. Herrmann’s set designs embody the style of dreamlike unreality. A. Guttmann’s lively and whimsical composition produces some memorable hits.