The Great Waltz was the first of two films bearing the same title which told the life story of Austrian "Waltz King" Johann Strauss. European singing sensation Fernard Gravet stars as Strauss, while MGM's two-time Oscar winner Luise Rainer is top-billed as Poldi Vogelhuber. Poldi is the wife of Strauss, but she is forced to sit and sulk as her husband carries on a lengthy affair with opera singer Milza Korjus (in her only American film). Husband and wife mend their differences shortly before being introduced to the court of Emperor Franz Josef. The scene everyone remembers is the one in which Gravet and Korjus improvise "The Tales of the Vienna Woods" while taking a buggy ride in the country. It's as corny as all get out, but never fails to earn applause when seen today. Dmitri Tiomkin was given the unenviable task of adapting the original Strauss tunes to conform with the concept of the film, while an uncredited Josef Von Sternberg assisted official director Julien Duvuvier in several crucial scenes. The 1972 The Great Waltz, which starred Horst Buchholtz, is generally conceded to be a disaster.
by Hal Erickson synopsis