The Emperor Waltz (1948)

103 mins | Romantic comedy | 2 July 1948

Director:

Billy Wilder

Producer:

Charles Brackett

Cinematographer:

George Barnes

Editor:

Doane Harrison

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Franz Bachelin

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Although official Paramount billing gives this film's running time as 103 min., contemporary and modern sources also list it as 105 or 106 min. The film's working title was Viennese Story . According to a HR news item, editor Doane Harrison took over direction for a few days while Billy Wilder underwent minor surgery. HR reported that the film cost over four million dollars to make. Paramount News reported the following information about the production: Oscar Karlweis was initially chosen to play the role of the emperor, but was later replaced. The studio-constructed Emperor Island, where "Virgil" woos "Johanna," was made of earth, rock and trees and placed on a wooded platform and floated on oil drums in Leach Lake in Alberta, Canada's Jasper National Park, where some of the film was shot on location. The island was ceremoniously turned over to the Dominion of Canada before the film crew left, and was rebuilt in Paramount's Hollywood studios for additional scenes. The rowboat used by Crosby to row out to the island was a "plaette," an eighteen-foot gondola-like boat used on the lakes of the Austrian Tyrol in the early 1900s.
       According to a Paramount studio press release, use of all-black dogs in the film was innovative because heretofore black objects appeared too dark when filmed in Technicolor; the dogs were adorned with ribbons and were powdered before each shot. As reported in Liberty magazine, the film's dog stars, "Scheherezade" and "Buttons," were owned by the Weatherwax brothers of Hollywood, who also owned the famous motion picture collie "Lassie." Bing Crosby's Beverly Hills tennis court was used for ... More Less

Although official Paramount billing gives this film's running time as 103 min., contemporary and modern sources also list it as 105 or 106 min. The film's working title was Viennese Story . According to a HR news item, editor Doane Harrison took over direction for a few days while Billy Wilder underwent minor surgery. HR reported that the film cost over four million dollars to make. Paramount News reported the following information about the production: Oscar Karlweis was initially chosen to play the role of the emperor, but was later replaced. The studio-constructed Emperor Island, where "Virgil" woos "Johanna," was made of earth, rock and trees and placed on a wooded platform and floated on oil drums in Leach Lake in Alberta, Canada's Jasper National Park, where some of the film was shot on location. The island was ceremoniously turned over to the Dominion of Canada before the film crew left, and was rebuilt in Paramount's Hollywood studios for additional scenes. The rowboat used by Crosby to row out to the island was a "plaette," an eighteen-foot gondola-like boat used on the lakes of the Austrian Tyrol in the early 1900s.
       According to a Paramount studio press release, use of all-black dogs in the film was innovative because heretofore black objects appeared too dark when filmed in Technicolor; the dogs were adorned with ribbons and were powdered before each shot. As reported in Liberty magazine, the film's dog stars, "Scheherezade" and "Buttons," were owned by the Weatherwax brothers of Hollywood, who also owned the famous motion picture collie "Lassie." Bing Crosby's Beverly Hills tennis court was used for the film's tennis scenes. Eleanor Tennant, who appeared as a tennis player, was a Beverly Hills Tennis Club pro, and supervised the tennis scenes. Paramount publicized the film as Bing Crosby's first love story (although he had appeared in a number of "love" stories prior to this) and Brackett and Wilder's first musical. Joan Fontaine was borrowed from RKO Studios to appear in the picture. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design (color), Edith Head and Gile Steele; and for Best Music (scoring a musical picture), Victor Young. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 May 1948.
---
Daily Variety
3 May 48
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 May 48
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
8 May 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 46
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 46
p. 6, 12
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 46
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 46
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 48
p. 3, 12
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 48
p. 6, 11
Liberty
9 Nov 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 May 48
p. 4153.
New York Times
18 Jun 48
p. 19.
Quick
1 Aug 1951.
---
Variety
5 May 48
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Fill-In dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Vocal arr
Mus assoc
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dances staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Jasper National Park supv
Loc mgr
Dog trainer
Tech adv
Tech adv on tennis scenes
Scr supv
Grip
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor color dir
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Kiss in Your Eyes," Viennese traditional, music by Richard Heuberger, special lyrics by Johnny Burke
"Friendly Mountains," based on two old Austrian yodel songs, lyrics by Johnny Burke
"The Emperor Waltz," music by Johann Strauss II, lyrics by Johnny Burke
+
SONGS
"The Kiss in Your Eyes," Viennese traditional, music by Richard Heuberger, special lyrics by Johnny Burke
"Friendly Mountains," based on two old Austrian yodel songs, lyrics by Johnny Burke
"The Emperor Waltz," music by Johann Strauss II, lyrics by Johnny Burke
"I Kiss Your Hand, Madame," music and lyrics by Fritz Rotter and Ralph Erwin
"Get Yourself a Phonograph," music and lyrics by James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke
"Santa Lucia," Neapolitan boat song
"Whistler and His Dog," by Arthur Pryor
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Viennese Story
Release Date:
2 July 1948
Premiere Information:
Hollywood, CA premiere: 26 May 1948
Production Date:
location shooting: 31 May--early July 1946
studio shooting: 5 July--mid September 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 July 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1712
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,522
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, an American crashes a ball at the emperor's palace in pursuit of a beautiful Austrian countess, who rebuffs him. As members of the aristocracy look on, one tells the story of the countess and the American's recent love affair: Phonograph salesman Virgil H. Smith, an amateur drummer from New Jersey, hopes to sell his "talking machine" to Emperor Franz Joseph I, whose endorsement would persuade many Austrians to purchase the product. Before he can see the emperor, however, he is tossed out by palace guards who think his phonograph is a bomb. Meanwhile, in the emperor's chambers, the Countess Johanna Augusta Franziska von Stoltzenberg-Stolzenberg and her bankrupt father, Baron Holenia, are thrilled to hear that their black pedigreed poodle, "Scheherezade," has been chosen to mate with the emperor's own poodle. As they leave the palace, they encounter Virgil, whose fox terrier mutt "Buttons" sniffs Scheherezade and thus provokes both a bloody dogfight and a heated argument about class relations. The antagonists meet again in the Austrian Tyrol, where Virgil plans to ambush the emperor's hunting party in order to make his sales pitch. Johanna, angry after another scuffle between Buttons and Scheherezade, arranges to have Virgil deported. When Scheherezade suffers a nervous breakdown, however, the countess is forced to seek Virgil's aid. Scheherezade is then treated by a veterinarian who attended the University of Vienna with Sigmund Freud, and advises that the poodle should be made to confront Buttons in order to dispel her fear. When the dogs are brought together, both the animals and their owners begin to fall in love. In the next two weeks, during which Scheherezade is officially mated with ... +


In turn-of-the-century Vienna, an American crashes a ball at the emperor's palace in pursuit of a beautiful Austrian countess, who rebuffs him. As members of the aristocracy look on, one tells the story of the countess and the American's recent love affair: Phonograph salesman Virgil H. Smith, an amateur drummer from New Jersey, hopes to sell his "talking machine" to Emperor Franz Joseph I, whose endorsement would persuade many Austrians to purchase the product. Before he can see the emperor, however, he is tossed out by palace guards who think his phonograph is a bomb. Meanwhile, in the emperor's chambers, the Countess Johanna Augusta Franziska von Stoltzenberg-Stolzenberg and her bankrupt father, Baron Holenia, are thrilled to hear that their black pedigreed poodle, "Scheherezade," has been chosen to mate with the emperor's own poodle. As they leave the palace, they encounter Virgil, whose fox terrier mutt "Buttons" sniffs Scheherezade and thus provokes both a bloody dogfight and a heated argument about class relations. The antagonists meet again in the Austrian Tyrol, where Virgil plans to ambush the emperor's hunting party in order to make his sales pitch. Johanna, angry after another scuffle between Buttons and Scheherezade, arranges to have Virgil deported. When Scheherezade suffers a nervous breakdown, however, the countess is forced to seek Virgil's aid. Scheherezade is then treated by a veterinarian who attended the University of Vienna with Sigmund Freud, and advises that the poodle should be made to confront Buttons in order to dispel her fear. When the dogs are brought together, both the animals and their owners begin to fall in love. In the next two weeks, during which Scheherezade is officially mated with the royal black poodle, Virgil, Johanna, and their pets share many secret rendezvous on a romantic island. Virgil gradually convinces a skeptical Johanna that their love can overcome class differences, and asks the emperor for her hand in marriage. The emperor, doubting that Johanna could remain happy living in Virgil's mother's Newark duplex, tells Virgil he will endorse the phonograph if Virgil gives up Johanna. Deciding that the emperor is right about their differences, Virgil breaks the engagement and tells Johanna he was only using her to gain the emperor's favor in the phonograph deal. On the night of the ball, Scheherezade gives birth to a litter of white puppies with black patches--clearly the offspring of Buttons. The countess' opportunistic father, fearful of losing royal favor, orders the puppies drowned and tells the emperor they were stillborn. Virgil, who has crashed the ball in order to make up with Johanna, rescues the puppies, shows them to the emperor, and defends the worthiness of himself and Buttons. The emperor agrees to let Virgil and Johanna marry if they will let him keep the puppies. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.