Original Title: Liebe auf den ersten Ton. Musical 1932; 95 min.; Director: Carl Froelich; Cast: Carl Jöken, Lee Parry, Lico Suhrmann, Lizzi Waldmüller, Adele Sandrock, Johannes Riemann, Rudolf Platte, Hans Leibelt, Arthur Mainzer, Karl Etlinger; Märkische Filmges.-Tobis-Klangfilm.
A duchess is devoted to an unmarried tenor, “makes music” with him, and has no intention of marrying the prince who was chosen for her. The prince, observing the proceedings from the background, finds the duchess rather appealing and, after the inevitable conflict, overrides the role of the husband.
The tenor Rudolf Niemeyer is plagued by a heartfelt desire: the title of “Chamber Singer.” Even his charming wife and sweet little boy cannot console him for the lack of this title before his name.
Finally, the theater agent Wartenberg offers him this title in exchange for a guest performance in the Duchy of Liebensfein, where a young duchess, who is passionate about music, is seeking a tenor. However, this engagement is conditional: the tenor must be unmarried.
After a domestic scene at Niemeyer’s home, Mrs. Hilde finally gives her consent to this guest performance. “You don’t have to say that you’re married…” However, as a precaution, she asks the agent to confirm that the duchess is an “old shrew.” But she discovers in a magazine shortly after Niemeyer’s departure that the agent has shamefully lied to her and that the duchess is, on the contrary, a very attractive young lady. Jealousy awakens, and Hilde decides to follow her Rudi to observe him.
Niemeyer achieves great success as Lohengrin in Liebenstein. The duchess is delighted. Prince Bernhard von Hassenstein wants to marry the duchess. Under peculiar circumstances, he and Hilde meet at the hotel and attend the Lohengrin performance together. As the prince is unmusical, his chances with the duchess are not very good. Moreover, he experiences the mishap of dropping his opera glasses into the large timpani during the Lohengrin performance in the ducal theater. The performance that the duchess was looking forward to is interrupted. She orders the man to be arrested. However, the Prime Minister, who has since recognized the prince, dares not carry out this order.
Nevertheless, the next morning, the duchess and the prince face each other. The duchess believes that she is being forced into marriage with the prince but refuses to be commanded to love him. In the meantime, she arranges a meeting with the tenor, and Hilde, who managed to gain entry to the castle in a strange way, bursts into the musical gathering of the two. The completely bewildered director introduces her to the duchess as the tenor’s sister. The duchess, still indignant about her encounter with the prince, confides in Hilde and confesses that she loves Hilde’s “brother” and has a rendezvous with him tonight at 11 o’clock. Hilde, fearing for the survival of her marriage, is shaken by this confession and turns to the prince to ask for help. This opportunity is very welcome to the prince, and he promises to assist her.
At 11 o’clock at night, Hilde fails to hold back her husband while, instead of him, the prince meets the duchess in the dark pavilion. The next evening, there is chamber music at the duchess’s. The duchess’s aunt, with whom she has a strained relationship, finds the tenor’s scarf in the pavilion and accuses the duchess vehemently of her relationship with the tenor, which the duchess dismisses with a smile.
Niemeyer has come to the castle with Hilde for the concert, and he is greatly afraid that the duchess will hold his absence at yesterday’s rendezvous against him. But Hilde reassures him: “I sent the prince to the pavilion…” However, Niemeyer is still not reassured; he fears a major scandal. Meanwhile, the prince encounters a nanny with a little boy at the hotel who is looking for Mr. Niemeyer. The prince learns that the boy is Niemeyer’s son and takes him to the castle. At the moment when Niemeyer holds the long-awaited decree appointing him Chamber Singer in his hands, the child bursts into the hall. All eyes turn to the duchess, fearing the worst. Instead, the duchess is delighted by the charming family because she knows who her partner was in that pavilion that night, and she gives her consent to the prince.
Georg Herzberg’s review in Film Kurier No. 272 (November 18, 1932)
This comedy is undeniably a success. While it lacks outstanding thematic features, it offers a fresher and more nuanced approach compared to the majority of competing works.
Is it truly fair to expect German film production to deliver 150 films each year, each with a completely original and guaranteed storyline? Especially considering the boundaries imposed by censorship, political stratification, and other factors? How many newly released books are based on entirely unused material? Furthermore, the challenges faced by film producers, who must invest a significant six-figure sum before a work sees the light of day, are even greater.
In “Mieter Schulze,” Carl Froelich has ventured into new territory and has been fortunate as stepping into the unknown could have easily led to disaster. Hence, he arguably has the right to adapt Ilgenstein’s charming comedy “Kammermusik” from his silent film repertoire for the talkies. Walter Supper, Franz Landry, and Felix Joachimson are credited as the authors of the well-structured screenplay, which provides ample opportunities for the cast and director to shine, thereby offering a delightful experience for the audience.
In these times, when one can smile and laugh for an hour and a half during a film without being bombarded with noisy slapstick, and when one can select their favorite star from a well-directed ensemble, then such a film has undeniably fulfilled its purpose to the fullest.
The story of “Kammermusik” is well-known: a youthful and extravagant duchess becomes infatuated with a tenor, unaware that he is married and approaching the residence despite the strict prohibition. Despite some challenges, the tenor’s marriage remains intact for both partners, and the duchess finds a suitable husband who will guide her musical enthusiasm into acceptable channels for domestic life.
Blond, feminine, and in high spirits, Lee Parry skillfully navigates her singing husband through the obstacles of the film. She truly shines when she unleashes her Munich charm, feeling completely at ease. And she can sing as well—this model of a wife, a living advertisement for swift matrimony.
Carl Jöken, finally honored with the title “Kammersänger” at the film’s end, desperately needs the support. He portrays a naive, good-natured, and clumsy bear who benefits from the ring in his nose. Jöken’s vocal performance is somewhat uneven, with his rendition of a children’s song being the highlight.
Lizzi Waldmüller delivers a highly effective performance as the duchess, although some may argue she leans towards being a bit too vampish. Well, that’s a matter of personal opinion. Johannes Riemann, as charming and superior as ever, offers hope that he will find ways to tame the wildcat.
Adele Sandrock grumbles, takes offense, and delivers punchlines in a highly amusing manner. However, one must not exploit Sandrock’s talent, as she seems to appear in nearly every film nowadays.
Hans Leibelt skillfully earns his laughs as the foolish director. Arthur Mainzer, Carl Ettlinger, Rudolf Platte, Gugo Froelich, and Lotte Holz also make noteworthy contributions. Additionally, there’s a lovable chubby child who doesn’t actively perform but adds a delightful presence. His name is Lico Suhrmann.
Froelich ensures a lively pace and maintains a cohesive narrative rhythm, well supported by Schroedter’s imaginative sets, Weitzenberg’s exemplary photography, Hrich’s crisp sound, and the charming music composed by Milde-Meißner. The song lyrics, occasionally cleverly pointed, are written by Carl Behr and Franz Landry.
The thoroughly entertained audience did not hesitate to offer well-deserved applause at the end. The distributor collective can confidently expect a guaranteed hit from this film in their program.