Hitchcock said that Waltzes from Vienna was ‘the lowest ebb of his career’. Admittedly, he said it to Truffaut in the middle of all the Auteur bobbins, so he was probably playing it down, as it’s not full of Hitch tropes, but really, I think it’s because he reputedly didn’t like working with Jessie Matthews. We’ve all had things we’ve done that are actually good but the process was horrible so we have bad memories. Also, he’d yet to make Family Plot, so really, give me a 'lesser’ early one any day.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this life from being an Orson Welles obsessive, it’s to take anything directors say in interviews with a shovelful of salt. All this is to say that despite hating Strauss, (oh, how I have suffered through a lot of it due to Anton Walbrook), I actually enjoyed this film quite a lot. If you’re expecting a classic Hitchcock, or a Jessie Matthews vehicle, you’ll be disappointed. But if you fancy a rather comic little film about how Strauss wrote The Blue Danube, full of nice little moments of fun, as well as a lot of baking and girls in underwear (see, it IS a Hitch film) it’s well worth an hour or so of your time.
You get Esmond Knight being alternately mopey and enthusiastic as young Strauss, all free-roaming hair and lovely voice. You get Edmund Gwenn being uncharacteristically unpleasant as Strauss senior, worst dad in Vienna. You also get great comic turns from Frank Vosper (previously only known by me as the man with too much brilliantine in his hair in The Man Who Knew Too Much) as the hot-tempered Prince, and - my new favourite minor Hitch character - Hindle Edgar as Leopold, the jealous baker. He’s ace.
Jessie Matthews has the thankless role of the girl demanding that Strauss choose between her and baking and his music (mmm, emotional blackmail) but Fay Compton as the Countess is very good. And it is of course more than competently directed by Hitch, with pace and some great cutting, and an excellent understanding of what to do with the music in a film - it’s obvious that in many scenes he’s cut the film to the music, and not the other way round, as the rhythm of the shots is marvellous.