The Great Waltz is a field day for music lovers plus elegant entertainment. Producers were nearly two years on this film, but the extra effort shows in the nicety with which its many component parts fit together. It is Luise Rainer who makes the film.
While primarily a fanciful tale of Johann Strauss II’s rise in the musical firmament [from an original story by Gottfried Reinhardt], entire plot has been constructed around his outstanding works.
The youthful Strauss (Fernand Gravet) is shown quitting his job in a Vienna banking house to carry on as a musician, first as a director of his own neighborhood orchestra playing his newest compositions, and then as a composer whose waltz tunes are recognized even in official court circles, something unheard of in those days.
Strauss marries the baker’s daughter soon after he wins his first success. His part in the short-lived revolution serves to develop romance with the opera singer Carla Donner (Miliza Korjus). It is the sudden decision to fight for her mate, after months of self-sacrifice, that takes Mrs Strauss (Rainer) storming backstage after the successful premiere of his first opera.
Not cast in a thoroughly sympathetic role, operatic singer Korjus suffers at times from photographic angles and does not arouse as much excitement as obviously was intended [in her first American picture].
Besides Rainer’s sterling portrayal of the adoring wife, Gravet does surprisingly well as the younger Strauss. Burden of romantic scenes rest on his shoulders and he comes through with elan. His singing measures up also. [Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.]
1938: Best Cinematography
Nominations: Best Supp. Actress (Miliza Korjus), Editing