Bel Ami (1939)

Bel Ami
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Hans Fritz Beckmann, Axel Eggebrecht, Willi Forst
Based on: Guy de Maupassant‘s novel
Cast: Willi Forst, Olga Tschechowa, Johannes Riemann, Ilse Werner, Hilde Hildebrand, Will Dohm, Lizzi Waldmüller, Marianne Stanior, Aribert Wäscher, Hubert von Meyerinck, Hans Stiebner
Seen on: 25.2.2021
[Here’s my review of the 2012 film.]

Content Note: colonialism, racism

Plot:
Georges (Willi Forst) just returned to France after serving as a soldier in Algeria. Pretty much penniless, he tries to get by on his looks when he runs into an old colleague, Forestier (Will Dohm). Forestier invites Georges into his home, introduces him to his wife Madeleine (Olga Tschechowa) and several other influential people. Soon Georges’s luck is looking up, as he sleeps his way up the ladder: he starts an affair with Clotilde (Hilde Hildebrand) and works at the newspaper La Vie Française, though his articles are written by Madeleine who has her own goals.

Bel Ami wasn’t my cup of tea and probably the weakest of the Forst films I saw so far. Part of that reason was that Forst didn’t work for me as Georges. Another part was that I was a little (very) weirded out by the political angle here.

The film poster showing drawings of the main characters, above all Georges (Willi Forst) and the women around him.
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Re-Watch: Burgtheater [Burg Theatre] (1936)

Burgtheater
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Willi Forst, Jochen Huth
Cast: Werner Krauss, Hortense Raky, Olga Tschechowa, Hans Moser, Carl Esmond, Karl Günther
Seen on: 11.2.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: attempted suicide

Plot:
Friedrich Mitterer (Werner Krauss) is the star of the Viennese Burg Theater. The eccentric and basically socio-phobic star. He has the prompter Sedlmayer (Hans Moser) take care of most of his social interactions. Even when he meets the young Leni (Hortense Raky) who finds really charming, he relies on Sedlmayer to establish contact. With these social skills, it’s no wonder that he doesn’t notice that Leni is head over heels for the aspiring actor Josef (Willy Eichberger). When Leni finds an invitation for the Baroness Seebach’s (Olga Tschechowa) weekly party for the rich and famous at Mitterer’s place, she steals it without thinking and gives it to Josef, setting quite a few things in motion.

I had forgotten that I’d seen Burgtheater before. Seeing it again, I started to remember, but only vaguely. This time, I didn’t love it as much as the first time – and it generally struck me very differently. It does have a pretty great and very memorable character in Mitterer, though.

The film poster showing the audience at the Viennese Burgtheater and headshots of the three protagonists of the film - Friedrich Mitterer (Werner Krauss), Josef Rainer (Carl Esmond) and Leni Schindler (Hortense Raky).
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Maskerade [Masquerade in Vienna] (1934)

Maskerade
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Willi Forst, Walter Reisch
Cast: Paula Wessely, Anton Walbrook, Olga Tschechowa, Hans Moser, Walter Janssen, Peter Petersen, Hilde von Stolz, Julia Serda, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 9.2.2021

Plot:
The painter Heideneck (Anton Walbrook) tends to draw the attention of women. His latest flame is the married Anita (Olga Tschechowa), but Heideneck isn’t all that interested in her anymore. Anita’s sister-in-law Gerda (Hilde von Stolz) thinks that Heideneck could be a wonderful distraction from her rather boring marriage. After they meet at a grand masquerade, she simply comes to his studio and he paints her – in the nude. When nothing more happens, Gerda leaves disappointed. Unbeknownst to Heideneck, the drawing is delivered to the newspaper to be printed as his illustration of the masquerade. The drawing causes quite a stir in Viennese society and Heideneck has to make sure that the identity of his model is neither revealed nor falsely assumed. So he simply makes up a name – not knowing that there actually exists a Leopoldine Dur (Paula Wessely) who gets drawn into the scandal without even realizing.

Maskerade is absolutely fantastic. I already liked Leise flehen meine Lieder, but Maskerade is even better – funny and charming and very stylish.

The film poster showing Heideneck (Anton Walbrook) dipping Leopoldine (Paula Wessely) was they dance.
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Burgtheater [Burg Theater] (1936)

Burgtheater
Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Willi Forst, Jochen Huth
Cast: Werner Krauss, Hans Moser, Hortense Raky, Olga Tschechowa, Karl Günther, Willy Eichberger (aka Carl Esmond)

Plot:
Friedrich Mitterer (Werner Krauss) is the star of the Viennese Burg Theater. The eccentric and basically socio-phobic star. He has the prompter Sedlmayer (Hans Moser) take care of most of his social interactions. Even when he meets the young Leni (Hortense Raky) who finds really charming, he relies on Sedlmayer to establish contact. With these social skills, it’s no wonder that he doesn’t notice that Leni is head over heels for the aspiring actor Josef (Willy Eichberger). When Leni finds an invitation for the Baroness Seebach’s (Olga Tschechowa) weekly party for the rich and famous at Mitterer’s place, she steals it without thinking and gives it to Josef, setting quite a few things in motion.

I really enjoyed Burgtheater. It’s funny, charming and entertaining. And the cast is absolutely excellent .

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