Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Waltzes From Vienna (1933)

Main image of Waltzes From Vienna (1933)
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
A Production byTom Arnold
Production CompanyGaumont-British Picture Corporation
ScenarioAlma Reville
 Guy Bolton
PhotographyGlen MacWilliams
Music DirectorLouis Levy

Cast: Jessie Matthews (Therese 'Rasi' Ebeseder); Esmond Knight (Schani Strauss); Frank Vosper (Prince Gustav van Stahl); Edmund Gwenn (Johann Strauss the Elder); Fay Compton (Countess Helga von Stahl)

Show full cast and credits

Young Johann 'Schani' Strauss is torn between two women and two career choices - bakery or music? - and his arrogant composer father is no help: he thinks Schani's new 'Blue Danube' waltz has no musical merit. Will it ever get performed?

Show full synopsis

Although one would have to be psychic to guess its director if the opening credits were omitted, on its own terms Waltzes From Vienna is an enjoyable musical comedy with enough imaginative touches to ensure that its resolutely old-fashioned plot never outstays its welcome throughout a comparatively brief running time.

The screenplay was credited to Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville and Guy Bolton, who had worked extensively in musical comedy, often alongside P.G.Wodehouse. If the latter's influence is more obvious than Hitchcock's, there are nonetheless a few touches characteristic of the Master of Suspense, especially in the lead-up to the waltz's premiere as the Countess's cunning subterfuges keep Johann Strauss Senior at bay.

Unsurprisingly, Waltzes From Vienna contains the most extensive use of music of any Hitchcock film up to then, matched by a corresponding improvement in technique. By 1933, sound recording and dubbing had progressed far beyond the relatively primitive Blackmail (1929) and Murder! (1930) to the point where impressively sophisticated soundtracks could be assembled.

This is seen to best effect in Waltzes From Vienna in two scenes: the one where Schani is finding inspiration for the 'Blue Danube' waltz in the bakers' various activities, and especially when the orchestral version of the waltz (performed in full) is premiered. Here, the sound mix subtly shifts from shot to shot so that individual musicians receive both visual and aural close-ups, letting us see and hear their particular contribution.

The film also has a few witty visual ideas, ranging from a hoary old gag involving a fireman's hose that goes back to the dawn of cinema (followed by billowing smoke that turns out to come from a fireman's pipe), to a rather more visually and dramatically sophisticated scene involving two amorously intertwined servants relaying subtly distorted (or indeed blatantly censored) messages between the Countess and the Prince.

Esmond Knight makes an appealingly naïve Schani, neatly contrasted by Fay Compton's older, more experienced Countess, while Edmund Gwenn and Frank Vosper provide plenty of comic relief as Strauss and the Prince, pompous heads of their respective professions.

Jessie Matthews, nominally the lead and certainly the biggest name in the film at the time, has a relatively thankless part, and it probably didn't help that Hitchcock disliked both her and indeed the entire project - though it's greatly to his credit that this isn't at all clear from the finished film.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Schani's humiliation (1:45)
2. Bakery inspiration (3:45)
3. Schani's big chance (6:34)
Production stills
Frend, Charles (1909-1977)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Junge, Alfred (1886-1964)
Knight, Esmond (1906-1987)
Matthews, Jessie (1907-1981)
Reville, Alma (1899-1982)
English Hitchcock
Musical Comedy in the 1930s