27 Days With Billy Wilder And Me

Every Movie He Directed…From Mauvaise Graine to Buddy Buddy

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Day Seven: The Emperor Waltz

July 6th, 2011 · No Comments · 1948, Bing Crosby, Charles Brackett, Color, Emperor Waltz, Joan Fontaine, Lucile Watson, Musical, Richard Haydn, Roland Culver

Emperor WaltzBilly Wilder’s seventh movie, The Emperor Waltz, is a light comedy starring Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine. It was released in 1948. Billy was 42 years old.

The title card at the start of the movie sets the stage…

On a December night, some forty-odd years ago, His Majesty Francis Joseph the First, Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, and so for and so forth, was giving a little clambake at His palace in Vienna.

Well, that tells me what we’re about to see. “Clambake” is a word rarely associated with royalty. So this must be some kind of comedy, right?

And in color, too. This is the first movie Billy Wilder directed in color. The color is weird, though. Bing looks embalmed.

Joan Fontaine is a hottie. But she’s so prim, smug, and proper in this movie — and she speaks with such a tight-lipped English accent — that she’s irritating.

Thankfully, she’s not mousy like she was in Rebecca and Suspicion. I can’t stand mousy women. My biggest pet peeve when I watch a movie is seeing characters on screen who are emotionally stunted in some way, meek, passive, and prone to making decisions that I just wouldn’t make in those same circumstances. Joan Fontaine in Rebecca drove me up the wall.

Gee, whiz. Bing just broke into song — a yodel, no less. In the Alps.

I haven’t a clue what this movie is about. It’s very talky. And kind of slapstick. Lots of barking dogs. And campy music. And over-the-top dialogue with overwrought emotions.

My guess is this movie is about a guy trying to sell a new phonograph to the emperor of Austria. Is he from RCA? The guy’s main roadblock appears to be Joan Fontaine’s character, who thwarts (and torments) him at every turn. There’s no chemistry between Bing and Joan. All Bing does is sing.

There are too many people talking to too many dogs, and way too many dogs whining and barking. I’m getting a headache.

Principle Cast:
Virgil Smith…………………………Bing Crosby (1903–1977)
Johanna Augusta Franziska……………..Joan Fontaine (1917- )
Baron Holenia………………………..Roland Culver (1900–1984)
Princess Bitotska…………………….Lucile Watson (1879–1962)
Emperor Franz-Josef ………………….Richard Haydn (1905–1985)

It appears the only member of the cast of The Emperor Waltz who is still alive is Joan Fontaine. Everyone else I checked on IMDB is dead.

This movie tries hard to be a 1940s romantic musical comedy. But it is neither romantic nor particularly musical.

What surprises me most is that the screenplay was written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. I guess even Oscar-winning professionals can have an off day.


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