review for The Emperor Waltz on AllMovie

The Emperor Waltz (1948)
by Aubry Anne D'Arminio review

Paramount touted 1948's The Emperor Waltz as Bing Crosby's first love story and Brackett and Wilder's first musical. In 1946, the screenwriting pair volunteered to help the studio develop a film for Crosby by supplementing their successful screwball comedy-romance formula with songs. The screenplay, then titled "The Viennese Story," crystallized into a promising "fish out of water" tale about a New Jersey-born singing salesman who must hawk record players to the Austrian upper-class. With Wilder in the director's chair, Paramount gave the picture one of the year's biggest budgets and even sent a film crew to Canada to re-create the Alps. Two years later, the studio was bashfully publicizing a commercial and critical bomb that truly felt like a novice effort. The love story, as enacted by Crosby and Joan Fontaine, drags while Fontaine's character lacks the irresistible spark of Wilder and Brackett's earlier heroines (such as Claudette Colbert in Midnight or Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor). The music is contrived and careless, as if it could not be melded with the dialogue and was simply tagged onto the film. Nonetheless, Wilder and Brackett's heralded brazenness and humor do occasionally shine through. Any fan of the duo will enjoy the film's jabs at the aristocracy, as well as its homage to the RCA dog -- Crosby's phonograph salesman owns a fox terrier.