Füringk, Marielies, ''Besuch in Wiens kleinstem Film-Atelier,'' in

Mein Film (Austria), 7 March 1947. Von Dassanowsky, Elfi, ''Märchen vom Glück am Bauernmarkt: Erinnerungen an die Belvedere-Filme und das Aufbruchstadium im österreichischen Nachkriegskino,'' in Wiener Zeitung (Austria), 10-11 September 1999.

Märchen vom Glück was the final and most ambitious production of Vienna's Belvedere Film company, which was created in 1946 as the first new studio in postwar Austria. During that period, all of Austria's major studio facilities were controlled by the four-power Allied occupation administration, which encouraged the birth of many short-lived independent production companies. Belvedere, however, was conceived as a traditional studio responsible for and housing all aspects of its productions. It began modestly, but soon gained wide attention and was responsible for having cultivated major talent on both sides of the camera. "Kick-starting" postwar German-language film, as John Walker, author of Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies 13th Ed. put it, the studio also attempted to reconnect with the provocative entertainments of the interwar period and the Viennese musical-comedy genre of the Reich's semi-autonomous WienFilm Studio. It also hoped to reinvent genres that had been tainted by Nazi cinema—the Heimatfilm, provincial comedies, and operetta— for a new, more sophisticated postwar audience exposed to British, French, and American film.

The studio produced only seven films, but it satisfied its goals in presenting new and important talent (on both sides of the camera), exporting its work, and attaining, if not always critical praise, then certainly popular appeal. The studio was headed by August Diglas and producers Emmerich Hanus—famed silent-film director and brother of Heinz Hanus, one of Austria's film pioneers—and Elfi von Dassanowsky. It is Von Dassanowsky, the second female film producer and studio administrator in Austrian cinema history, who has brought Belvedere's important but nearly forgotten history and legacy back to the cinematic canon in recent years. Along with many other cinema classics, all of the studio's films had been missing since the withdrawal of Soviet Occupation forces in Austria in 1955 and were deemed lost. In 1998, however, Elfi von Dassanowsky discovered a print of Märchen vom Glück, and an incomplete copy of another Belvedere Film, Dr. Rosin, in the Austrian Film Archives. As many so-called "lost" Austrian films, particularly from the pre-Anschluss era, have recently turned up in Russia and Eastern Europe, there is now an effort to locate the rest of this maverick studio's creations.

Märchen vom Glück may have been envisioned as a light, star-studded musical comedy destined for audiences tired of what had become a long postwar occupation trauma (see The Third Man), as its banal and escapist title suggests, but its risky, progressive quality makes it a stand-out in the era. The film was populated with famous character actors and provided the comeback roles for two young stars popular during the Reich: leading man O.W. Fischer, who had his only singing role in this film and went on to become one of the major figures in German cinema; and Maria Holst, an attractive musical actress who later specialized in playing elegant ladies. Märchen vom Glück gave German and Austrian cinema and television comedian Gunther Philipp his first film role as Jean, servant to Fischer's reticent Security Chief. The Miss Austria of 1949, Nadja Tiller, who gained international fame as a film star in the 1950s and 1960s, also had her film debut here. Additionally, singer and actress Evelyn Künneke and cinematographer Hanns Matula mark this film as the start of their long careers. The film was the most expensive one Belvedere produced and among the most expensive in postwar Austria to that date—one of the factors that contributed to the eventual shuttering of the studio.

The plot is a simple one, designed to allow a maximum of cinematic excursions into song and dance numbers, comedy set pieces, and parody. In Utopistan, a country with dictatorial overtones, shy but wealthy Fernando (Fischer), rejected by the bored socialite Danielle (Holst) for being unexciting and weak, concocts a Don Juanlike persona who kidnaps women for three days, in order to fulfill their personal romantic fantasies. The members of the government panic but fail to capture this love-bandit. Ultimately, it is Danielle's turn but Fernando reveals himself, proving he could be "dangerous" but also that she misunderstood what she truly wanted in a man. The swipes at an arrogant but incompetent authoritarianism are an obvious reaction to the Nazi past and the occupation of Austria, and the film

Märchen vom Glück

deals with officialdom in an iconoclastic manner reminiscent of the Marx Brother's Duck Soup.

Märchen vom Glück demonstrates the particular affinity Viennese comedy has for the American Screwball style with its manic language-based comedy of manners, a concept fostered in early Viennese film and exported to and developed in Hollywood by many of the exiled Austrian film talents. In overall style, the film is a precursor to such sociopolitical satires as Billy Wilder's 1961 One, Two, Three (itself a product of an original Austro-Hungarian text and an Austrian-American director), and the kaleidoscopic all-star international comedies of the mid-1960s, such as Casino Royale (1967), Bedazzled (1967), The Honey Pot (1967), and Candy (1968). The episodic structure, cameo appearances, and the anarchic feel of such ''experimental'' pastiches are already apparent to a large extent in Märchen vom Glück. Although it is unique, it is not surprising given the roots of such psychedelia in the screwball comedy, and given the shared (albeit different) ''crisis society'' which both films reflect. Von Dassanowsky maintains that the film was actually directed by Emmerich Hanus and August Diglas under the ''de Glahs'' pseudonym. Certainly the strong visuals and the brevity of dialogue in this film and in the other ''de Glahs'' opus, Dr. Rosin, suggests the technique of a silent-film maker (Diglas also began his career in silents) which find similarities to Chaplin's late sound work.

The film is subversive of static ''cultural tradition'' from the start: the pre-title vignette features a cameo of Hanus putting aside a copy of Goethe's Faust, to read the tale that is the film. Obviously deflating the cliché male-power role of the Nazi period and the lingering militarism of Cold War Europe, Fischer's Fernando is a bespectacled intellectual, a gentle-man, who is able to slip into an aggressively sexual pose at will. His character suggests that gender roles are chosen, but also that society prefers to uphold archaic ideals. He is no less a man of many costumes than the women he targets (designs by the legendary Gerdago at her best), but his alter ego, a foretaste of Jerry Lewis' Buddy Love in The Nutty Professor (1963), alters himself to suit the personality of the particular woman. He even rejects the amorous notions of the too-young daughter of the President, giving her instead a three-day return to the enjoyment of being a child. The ''victims,'' who appear as strong, intelligent, and independent women in comparison to their addled men, never divulge that the only thing that happened with Fernando is that he appreciated their desires and entertained them with their fantasy. The film's revision of the image of the ''leading man'' and the recognition of female sexual desire, fantasy, and self-realization are far beyond its era. Märchen vom Glück inspired other forays into experimentation in mainstream Austrian and West German entertainment films in its time, most notably Wolfgang Liebeneiner's futuristic satire on Austria and the Cold War, 1 April 2000 (1952). Nevertheless, its unfortunate long disappearance makes it a missing piece in Austrian cinema history that has yet to find its deserved classic status.

—Robert von Dassanowsky

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