Willy Schmidt-Gentner

Willy Schmidt-Gentner (6 April 1894 – 12 February 1964) was one of the most successful German composers of film music in the history of German-language cinema. He moved to Vienna in 1933. At his most productive, he scored up to 10 films a year, including numerous classics and masterpieces of the German and Austrian cinema.


Schmidt-Gentner was born in Neustadt am Rennsteig in Thuringia, Germany. During his childhood he learnt the violin and took lessons in composition from Max Reger. After World War I Schmidt-Gentner worked as a civil servant checking that cinema owners were paying their full taxes. Through one of his clients he got a position as a band leader at film theatre performances. This raised his interest in films and as early as 1922 he produced his first composition to accompany a silent film. He performed many of his new pieces himself on the piano during films. He was also already responsible at this period for the sound tracks of a number of German classic films, for example Alraune (1928), Die weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü (1929) and Hokuspokus (1930)

With the arrival of sound films he quickly became one of the most sought-after filmscore composers in Germany, so that for a time he was scoring up to 10 films a year. He had a preference for light comedies and cheerful musical romances, but occasionally he took on more heavyweight productions with political overtones, for example the National Socialist propaganda film Wien 1910 (1943) or the historical film Spionage (1955) about the k. u. k. spy Colonel Redl.

In 1933 he moved to Vienna, where he directed his only two films, Die Pompadour (1935) and Prater (1936), for the company Mondial-Film. For Sascha-Film he composed the music for some of the greatest specimens of the Wiener Film genre, among others Maskerade and Hohe Schule (both 1934). After the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Germany) he became the "house composer" for the National Socialist-owned Wien-Film, which had developed out of the former Sascha-Film. For them he scored not only their many escapist romantic comedies, but also some of their few overt propaganda films such as Heimkehr (1941), Wien 1910 (1942) or Das Herz muß schweigen (1944). He was also repeatedly commissioned by the top directors of wartime Vienna, Willi Forst and Gustav Ucicky, whom he already knew from previous work, to write scores for their productions, such as Der Postmeister (1940), Operette (1940), Wiener Blut (1942) and Wiener Mädeln (1943/1949).

After the end of the war Schmidt-Gentner remained loyal to Vienna and successfully continued his composing career for many more films, predominantly musicals set in Austria, until he retired in 1955. Altogether he composed the music for about 200 films. He died in Vienna on 12 February 1964.

Selected filmography

A selection of films scored by Willy Schmidt-Gentner, with names of directors:

Silent films

Sound films


Stefanie Job: Die vernachlässigte Muse (Romanbiographie des Filmmusikers und UFA-Generalmusikdirektors Willy Schmidt-Gentner). Verlag Frieling, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-89009-804-5

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