Almost A Classic: Viktor und Viktoria (1933)

viktor und viktoria index

A German musical comedy from Reinhold Schünzel, this starts in a very modern manner with an Altman-esque shot where the camera floats through a theatrical agency and we’re presented with brief snippets of conversation about the acting world and allowed to witness a rather terrible audition from Viktor (Hermann Thimig), who hams it up so much that he could provide bacon sandwiches for life. Meanwhile Miss Susanne (Renate Müller) is told to come back when she has more experience, and so both leave dejected.

Afterwards Viktor tries to persuade Susanne that it was he who turned them down, and that he had a meeting with a famous director at a posh restaurant, but by chance she sees him at the Automat Restaurant and she calls him out on his lies. The two of them slowly bond and then after he is unable to perform one night in a vaudeville venue he persuades her to take his place, and a career as a drag artist is born.

From this point on Susanne has to pretend to be a man in real life and a man pretending to be a woman when on stage, which leads to a fair few farcical situations and some very confused feelings from a good deal of men, and a lot of fun is made of them struggling with their sexuality, although in a very subtle manner as this was the nineteen thirties after all. Susanne / Viktoria is also placed in some difficult scenarios and feels discomfort at having to share a dressing room with men, in a scene which goes on for far too long, though that’s the only part of the film which disappoints.

There’s a fair amount of slapstick involved and Viktor does his best to be protective over Susanne, while also attempting to seduce a young lady who initially rejects his advances. The film contains some strong mockery of actorly types, there’s some fun over the top drunken acting, and a few songs which aren’t exactly the catchiest ever but they lighten up proceedings and are never less than likeable.

Sometimes it is a little too farcical and a couple of moments haven’t aged too well, but the majority of the time this is one of the best comedies of the nineteen thirties. The ending is particularly effective and though nothing is quite as funny as the film’s beginning it certain feels very satisfying, and the source material is so strong that it’s very easy understand why this has been remade twice as a film and a third time as a Broadway musical.


Alex Finch.
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