Austria, Gloria-Film, Horus-Film, 1936, 90 minutes
Scriptwriter: Philipp Lothar Mayring
Director: Carmine Gallone
Director of photography: Franz Planer
Cast: Jan Kiepura, Friedl Czepa, Luli Deste, Theo Lingen, Fritz Imhoff, Anton Pointner
A sign of the times - in the film “Thank You, Madame”, the Polish tenor Jan Kiepura sings Giacomo Puccini's arias in German on the stage of the Vienna Opera House. Cinema, which had only recently begun to speak, became a "polyglot". But the arrival of sound also brought serious economic problems. The war of patents on sound systems resembled a division of Europe. Filmmakers began to look for new material: stories that could only be told in their native language. In 1933 Germany began to boycott films made by non-Aryan filmmakers. For a country where many immigrants and Jews were involved in film production (one only has to take a look at the management of the Tobis-Sascha studio), this meant the loss of a large part of the film market. In response to the boycott for domestic distribution, the "emigrant cinema" (Emigrantenfilm) appears. With the signing of the Rome Protocols (1934), a period of Austrian-Italian co-productions begins, which become the industry’s salvation. Prominent Italian directors Augusto Genina and Carmine Gallone film “Flowers from Nice” and “Thank You, Madame” in Austria.
Gallone is a pioneer of Italian cinema. In the 1910s, he made silent films with the divas Soava Gallone (his wife) and Lida Borelli. The 1926 blockbuster "The Last Days of Pompeii" became a milestone in his early career; for his skill in creating "epics" Gallone would later be called the European DeMille.
To the image of Vienna, Gallone brings Italian authenticity of the image, which since the time of Verism has been based on carefully arranged poverty. The capital, traditionally presented in the "Wiener films" in the form of a holiday city, is shown in his film without a carnival attire. It has unsightly outskirts and neighborhoods destroyed by poverty.
In “Thank You, Madame”, the character of Jan Kiepura, Toni Kowalski, is a small man from a big city, a taxi driver in love with the flower girl Mizzi (the name Mizzi in German-language literature is given to simpletons). The miracle it “fitted” between a sudden downpour and a bowl of soup. Toni walks into a diner for a free lunch, and accidentally participates in a song contest, and conquers everyone with his talent. But Toni Kowalski does not want to be a star. He prefers to drive a taxi, love Mizzi, and sing in front of a street crowd.
This could be a Hollywood “a star is born”-type success story, but Gallone's main plot is Toni Kowalski's departure from the opera stage. Instead of painted sets, there is a real city behind the singer, instead of the front rows of the orchestra, there is a street crowd in front of him. A street triumph organized by taxi drivers who blocked traffic becomes a performance that overshadows the finest hour on stage.
The main character in the film is the city. An opera singer needs a stage, but for an amateur singer a street is enough. This is a rare example of a film with a “Viennese spirit”, filmed on the real streets of Vienna, not on sets. In the crowd, which in "Wiener films" is usually depersonalized, certain types stand out. Old people and children, the poor, and the rich all listen to Kiepura's songs. He sings from the roof of a car and from a boat. His song sounds on the streets and flows down the Danube.
Carmine Gallone was a talented conformist, which allowed him to make almost opposite things equally well. After the film "Thank you, Madame" he made "Scipio the African" (1937), known primarily for the apocryphal phrase allegedly said by the director: "If Duce does not like this film, I will shoot myself". Mussolini did not like it. But Gallone did not shoot himself. After the war, he will supplement his filmography, consisting of dramas featuring divas, musicals, and peplums, with film operas, acquiring the reputation of a European director who could have become a Hollywood one.
An ordinary Viennese taxi driver, Toni Kowalski, wanders into a diner, where a singing competition is taking place, and decides to take part in it. He is recognized as a maverick, the owner of an amazing voice, and is awarded the victory in the competition. Toni is patronized by an influential socialite.