Operette has become Forst’s best-known work. It is certainly a high point in the Viennese Film genre and brings together all of Forst’s talents as auteur. As the film’s leading man, writer, director, producer, also responsible for overseeing the artistic and music direction, his superbly orchestrated and uniquely detailed Romantic/decadent style can only be compared to the baroque silent films of Erich von Stroheim, to the elegant comedies of French director René Clair, and to the later operatically orchestrated style of Italian director Luchino Visconti’s nineteenth century period films (Senso, The Leopard).
Forst gives an intelligently nuanced performance as the historical Franz Jauner, a provincial theatre director who rises to the heights of Viennese society as its opera director, but falls when he is imprisoned for his responsibility in the catastrophic 1881 Vienna Ringtheater fire. His rival, the diva and director of the Theater an der Wien, Marie Geistinger (Maria Holst), adores him, but has renounced love for a successful career in the more elevated world of opera, and she resists both Jauner’s advances and his promotion of Viennese operetta. —sensesofcinema.com
Willi Forst, born Wilhelm Anton Frohs (7 April 1903 in Vienna – 11 August 1980, in Vienna) was an Austrian actor, screenwriter, film director, film producer and singer. As a debonair actor he was a darling of the German-speaking film audiences, as a director, one of the most significant makers of the Viennese period musical melodramas and comedies of the 1930s known as Wiener Filme. From the mid-1930s he also recorded many records, largely of sentimental Viennese songs, for the Odeon Records label owned by Carl Lindström AG.
His first major role was opposite Marlene Dietrich in the silent film Café Elektric in 1927. He was best known however for his characters in light musicals, which rapidly made him a star. He developed the genre of the Viennese Film with writer Walter Reisch in the 1930s, beginning with the Franz Schubert melodrama Leise flehen meine Lieder (1933) which became an iconic role for actor Hans Jaray and Maskerade (1934), which launched his fame as a significant… read more