Austria, Rex-Film, 1936, 101 minutes
Scriptwriter and director: Walter Reisch
Director of photography: Harry Stradling
Cast: Luli von Hohenberg - as Luli Deste, Fred Hennings, Poldi Dur - as Liesl Handl, Eduard Köck, Annie Markart, Frauke Lauterbach, Hedy Pfundmeyer, Lili Marberg, Fritz Imhoff
The Viennese Jew Walter Reisch (1903-83) came to the cinema as a teenager. Later he became an assistant to the legendary producer Alexander Korda, after that, a talented and original screenwriter and director of silent films. Reisch's characteristic wit and musical talent manifested themselves in full force with the advent of sound film. He co-wrote the major hits of the Berlin film studio UFA. For example, for the film "Floating Platform 1 Doesn’t Answer" (1931) Reisch wrote the words to the song "Flyer, Say Hello to the Sun" ("Flieger, grüß mir die Sonne"). Collaboration with actor and director Willi Forst (for example, “Masquerade”, 1934) made Reisch one of the key authors of the genre known as the “Wiener film”. After the National Socialists came to power, Reisch emigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1942. He easily found a place for himself there, began to write in English a lot, and became a co-author of scripts for such classic Hollywood films as “Ninotchka” (1939), “Gas Light” (1944), “Niagara” (1953), and “Titanic” (1953). For the script for “Titanic”, Reisch and his colleagues were awarded an Oscar.
Unlike Billy Wilder, to whom he has sometimes been compared and with whom he has worked many times on both sides of the Atlantic, Reisch never managed to transform his experience as a successful screenwriting into a career as a Hollywood director. At the same time, Reisch the director deserves to be rediscovered. His short but varied filmography - two key "Wiener films", two interesting English-language projects and two German post-war films - combined skill in creating entertainment films and creative daring.
Most clearly, his skill was manifested in his second directorial work: the outstanding film "Silhouettes" (1936). The film demonstrates Reisch’s personal touch as concerns tragicomedy. He complicates the classic elements of the "Wiener film", adds new shades of meaning to love dramas and jokes, to new wine, and songs from Heuriger, to romance and transience. This is the story of a ballet troupe that comes to Vienna during the ball season and its Russian leader (Luli von Hohenberg), who is courted by an American (Fred Hennings). In the course of the plot, a young dancer gets involved in the story, a typical Viennese girl (played by Reisch's wife, Lisl Handl). Her father runs a "silhouette theater" - animation fragments with silhouettes are made by the legendary animator Lotte Reininger. And the cult character actor Fritz Imhoff played the role of a servant so accurately that he was compared with the main Austrian comedian Hans Moser.