The Great Waltz (1938 film)

The Great Waltz is a 1938 American biographical film based very loosely on the life of Johann Strauss II. It starred Luise Rainer, Fernand Gravet (Gravey), and Miliza Korjus. Rainer received top billing at the producer's insistence, but her role is comparatively minor as Strauss' wife, Poldi Vogelhuber. It was the only starring role for Korjus, who was a famous opera soprano and played one in the film.

The Great Waltz
Directed byJulien Duvivier
Victor Fleming (uncredited)
Josef von Sternberg (uncredited)
Produced byBernard H. Hyman
Written byGottfried Reinhardt (story)
Samuel Hoffenstein
Walter Reisch
Vicki Baum (story, uncredited)
StarringFernand Gravet
Luise Rainer
Miliza Korjus
Music byArthur Gutmann
Dimitri Tiomkin
Paul Marquardt
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byTom Held
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
November 4, 1938 (1938-11-04)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,422,000[1]

Joseph Ruttenberg won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Korjus was nominated for Supporting Actress, and Tom Held for Film Editing. The film was popular in Australia, and was distributed largely throughout Sydney and Melbourne for two years after its initial release.

Plot summary

The highly fictionalised story sees "Schani" dismissed from his job in a bank. He puts together a group of unemployed musicians who wangle a performance at Dommayer's cafe. The audience is minimal, but when two opera singers, Carla Donner (Miliza Korjus) and Fritz Schiller (George Houston), visit whilst their carriage is being repaired, the music attracts a wider audience.

Strauss is caught up in a student protest; he and Carla Donner avoid arrest and escape to the Vienna Woods, where he is inspired to create the waltz "Tales from the Vienna Woods".

Carla asks Strauss for some music to sing at an aristocratic soiree, and this leads to the composer receiving a publishing contract. He's on his way, and he can now marry Poldi Vogelhuber, his sweetheart. But the closeness of Strauss and Carla Donner, during rehearsals of operettas, attracts comment, not least from Count Hohenfried, Donner's admirer.

Poldi remains loyal to Strauss, and the marriage is a long one. He is received by the Kaiser Franz Joseph I of Austria (whom he unknowingly insulted in the aftermath of the student protests), and the two stand before cheering crowds on the balcony of Schönbrunn.


Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $918,000 in the US and Canada, and $1,504,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $724,000.[1]


The film was re-made in 1972, with Horst Buchholz playing Strauss, alongside Mary Costa, Nigel Patrick, and Yvonne Mitchell.


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
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