19 August 2015 | HarlowMGM
A Family's Affairs
Henrietta Stein is a young woman on the back side of twenty having a discreet affair with Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria in the 1880's. Their relationship is little more than a friendship to Rudolf although Henrietta is in love. 31-year-old Rudolf in fact openly confesses his love for a seventeen year old to Henrietta. Realizing their is no future with Rudolf, Henrietta accepts the proposal of Alt, a prosperous piano manufacturer. Rudolf commits suicide on the night of the wedding although his actions appear to be unrelated to the marriage.
Henrietta has a comfortable, settled life as Mrs. Alt but by the turn of the new century has become bored and is neglected by her husband. A Baron friend of Rudolf's whisks her away to a week of public if chaste romance which results in a duel fought between the Baron and Alt. The film then follows the family through two World Wars and a changing Austria.
This ambitious British film seems to be two movies tacked together, the first half seems to be a fictionalized period biopic along the lines of The Great Waltz but with the dawn of World War I for the section half becomes a Cavalcadesque family saga. The cast is very good, particularly Eileen Herlie although she absurdly ages in a period of six years (still having her youthful beauty in 1914 but becoming an old lady by 1920). This film has likely been seen by more American audiences in the past decade than in it's original release back in 1950 due to it's availability online and on public domain DVD releases. The movie looks a bit more of an epic than it really is with the lavish Alt home and the decades sweeping story but sets are somewhat limited and one can't help noting the cast is rather small for a film covering such a long period. This mix of history with fiction (the movie suggests Rudolf's suicide was due to his frustrations with his father and their differences on running the country) and undeveloped plot suggestions (there's a very light hint that Henrietta is pregnant with Rudolf's child at the time of her marriage to Alt but that story is never confirmed or acknowledged in the film) doesn't always work but it holds one's interest until the last reel if not quite succeeding in making one care about the characters.