The Song is Over
Director: Geza von Bolvary
Year:  1930
Rating: 8.0

Country: Germany

AKA - Das Lied Ist Aus
AKA - The Song is Ended

This charming romantic musical was one of the first sound pictures produced in Germany. Once sound came in 1930 German and Austrian audiences embraced musicals and this enthusiasm was to last through the remaining years of the Weimar Republic and into the years of the Third Reich. It is an elegant sophisticated witty script that brings to mind the early Hollywood musicals of Ernst Lubitsch. This is not too surprising since Lubitsch was enormously influential on German films even though he was now working in America. The Viennese scriptwriter Walter Reisch in particular had been influenced by Lubitsch and he was to write a number of comedic film scripts during the 1920's into the 30's. When Lubitsch returned to Germany for a holiday he met with Reisch to talk about working on a film at some point. That was not to happen though till Reisch left Germany with the rise of Hitler and ended up working for MGM and became a very close friend of Lubitsch. It was Reisch's home that became the hub for German-Austrian exiles and his house was often filled with the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder, Lubitsch and others. The film that Reisch helped script for Lubitsch was Ninotchka. He was later to work on Gaslight, Niagara, Titanic, That Hamilton Woman and for Lubitsch again, That Uncertain Feeling.

Tilla (Liane Haid) is a famous operetta singer and is out celebrating with her three suitors - distinguished by the number of pearls on their cravat - a catty observer says - the one with two pearls is her future lover, the one with one pearl is her current lover and the one with none (the Baron) is her past lover. Yet they all adore her and beseech her to sing - she does and sings Farewell My Little Grenadier (it became a hit) and the audience is enthralled. Except for one man sitting alone in the corner who during her song asks for his bill and leaves. It is a scandal! No one leaves when Tilla sings and she demands that he be found and punished!

Instead he (Willi Forst) coincidentally shows up in response to an ad that she put in the paper looking for a Private Secretary. She immediately recognizes him and hires him with the intent of making his life miserable. But you know how these things go - or perhaps you don't in this case. There is that class difference between a star and her Private Secretary. Hollywood would never have approved of the ending here but this is the Weimer where no one was expecting a happy ending. Everybody is wonderful here - Forst is the man who can do everything - even putting on an operatic puppet show, Haid is so full of lust at times I expected her to burst and the three suitors and her friend are the chorus or comic relief. It is all shot on set perhaps to make it easier to record sound. The Germans had a word for this as they seem to for everything - Kammerspiel or "chamber drama".

The film made a star out of Austrian Willi Forst in light musicals and then as a director of what were termed Wiener Films which were musicals or operettas that took place in Austria's past - usually with Reisch writing the screenplay and often the lyrics. Forst doesn't strike me as a particularly charismatic or handsome star - but he has charm, is debonair and can sing. Sort of a Fred Astaire without the dance steps. During the years of the Third Reich and after Germany annexed Austria he made only a few more films and refused to make ones for the Nazis. The female star of the film is Liane Haid, also Austrian, who was already a star in the silent era but was an accomplished singer. She fled to Switzerland in 1942. Her female friend in the film is the vivacious Margarete Schlegel who was also a star and who left Germany to join her Jewish husband in England and then broadcast anti-Nazi propaganda on the radio.

The Baron is played by Otto Wallburg who won the Iron Cross in WWI but that wasn't enough because he was Jewish. He left Germany but returned to the Netherlands where he was caught and sent to Auschwitz where he died. Ernő Verebes who plays one of the three suitors left Germany in 1937 for Hollywood where he had many small roles. It is knowing what the future holds for these very gay actors in this lovely frivolous film of parties and friendship that overlays a certain tragic shadow over it. But Hitler was still a fringe candidate when this film was made - taking place in a Vienna full of song, nightclubs, romance and drinking. Of course, the Depression had also hit in 1929 so in a sense this is similar to many American Depression films focusing on the wealthy as if there were no problems outside of the sets. I am curious as to how many of the Weimar musicals have survived as I would love to see more of them.