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Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955)


Main image of Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955)
35mm, colour, CinemaScope, 101 mins
DirectorsMichael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Production CompanyAssociated British Picture Corporation
Producers/ScriptMichael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Written byMichael Powell
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Original operettaJohann Strauss Jr

Cast: Anton Walbrook (Dr Falke (The Fledermaus)); Anthony Quayle (General Orlofsky); Michael Redgrave (Colonel Eisenstein); Mel Ferrer (Captain Alfred Westerman); Ludmilla Tcherina (Rosalinda)

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During the four-power occupation of post-war Vienna, Rosalinda and her husband become embroiled in complicated escapades and subterfuges when Dr Falke exacts his revenge after being the subject of one of their practical jokes.

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After several years pursuing projects apart and various false-starts, Powell and Pressburger returned to the cinema with an updated version of Johann Strauss's 1874 operetta Die Fledermaus ('The Bat'). Although emphatically re-titled Oh... Rosalinda!!, the main character remains the bohemian Dr Falke, lustrously played by Anton Walbrook in the confiding, audience-embracing style he had already essayed in La Ronde (France, 1950). Falke is a typical figure from Powell and Pressburger's oeuvre, a mysterious manipulator of events, a magician of sometimes unclear motives clearly inspired by Prospero in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', which Powell tried unsuccessfully to film throughout his career. Akin to a director surrogate, the character has the same function as Colpeper in A Canterbury Tale (1944), Dr Reeves in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Lermontov in The Red Shoe (1948) and Mark's father (played by Powell himself) in Peeping Tom (1960).

With an eye on the box-office, Bing Crosby, Maurice Chevalier and Orson Welles were initially sought for the roles of Alfred, Eisenstein and Orlovsky, but Powell finally settled for a pallid if loose-limbed Mel Ferrer as the American, while Michael Redgrave and Anthony Quayle actually acquit themselves splendidly as the French Colonel and Russian General, even doing their own singing.

After four commercial disappointments in a row, Pressburger in particular apparently had high hopes for the prospects of Oh... Rosalinda!! Sadly, it was a gigantic flop, although recently it has attracted many new admirers, its influence quite apparent on Kenneth Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost (1999): its direct-to-camera addresses, linguistically-challenged funny-foreigners, CinemaScope compositions, spoof newsreels, resolutely studio-bound filming and its climactic masked ball, in which men are tricked into liaisons by women in disguise, are all elements common to both films.

By turns playful, impish and extravagant, Oh... Rosalinda!! is also intensely theatrical, the deliberately rarefied and artificial air emphasised by Hein Heckroth's set designs, which appear mostly in two dimensions, painted on flat surfaces without contour. Occasionally it also seems downright perverse: the flat-footed Redgrave spends more time dancing than ballerina Ludmilla Tcherina while, after the highlight that is Walbrook's fine and final speech against the Allied occupation, the film simply drifts away at the end, without Falke's concluding coda to the audience that conventional cinema symmetry would have normally demanded. Despite such questionable choices, Oh... Rosalinda!! retains an elusive and mysterious quality, a sense of hidden riches in the comic detail which repays further viewings.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. A practical joke (2:38)
2. Sweet parting (3:27)
3. Masquerade (2:01)
4. Seeing double (1:50)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Red Shoes, The (1948)
Tales of Hoffmann, The (1951)
Third Man, The (1949)
Challis, Christopher (1919-)
Heckroth, Hein (1901-1970)
Mills, Reginald (1912-1990)
Powell, Michael (1905-1990)
Pressburger, Emeric (1902-1988)
Price, Dennis (1915-1973)
Quayle, Anthony (1913-1989)
Redgrave, Michael (1908-1985)
Walbrook, Anton (1896-1967)
1930s: The Invocation of Theatre in Film
Late Powell and Pressburger