Waltzes From Vienna

Legend has it that, before shooting the climactic ball sequence of this comic, fictionalized 1935 biopic of Johann Strauss II, Alfred Hitchcock assembled the entire cast and crew and said, “I hate this film, I hate this kind of film, and I have no feeling for it. What I need is a drama!” The result is more graceful than this possibly apocryphal quotation suggests; some of the elegant camera movements even anticipate the celebrated long-takes of Notorious and Under Capricorn. The movie is also more personal than his words acknowledge, presenting Strauss as a serious though self-effacing artist (read: Hitchcock) who sought to radicalize a popular form (read: genre cinema). The tone is bright and the action brisk, and there are fun turns from Edmund Gwenn (as the priggish elder Strauss) and Fay Compton (as the younger Strauss’s matron and would-be seductress).