Ein Stern fällt vom Himmel is maybe the most lighthearted of all Joseph Schmidt films -and he made only seven. He plays the role of Joseph Reiner, a talented music student who is offered the chance to stand in for famous tenor Lincoln (Egon von Jordan) who has an accident during the making of a movie and doesn't loose time flirting with Joseph's love interest Annerl (Evi Panzner). But the offer involves only voice-doubling, which becomes quite frustrating for Joseph. We see a film in the making into the film, the stage and behind it too. Schmidt sings amongst others Hans May/Ernst Neubach passionate Ich singe dir ein Liebeslied and light Wenn bei Wien ein Walzer klingt, where his voice gracefully climbs the steps to the high tones to the waltz rhythm. In this picture his relative shortness is disguised, while Ein Lied geht um die Welt (1933) openly deals with it and offers a tragicomic and maybe more realistic approach (he had to be convinced to go through with it, as he wasn't very happy with the plot).
Austro-Hunagrian-born tenor Joseph Schmidt made only seven films. In fact he was already a radio hit not only in Germany but in many European countries before he entered the movies, and his pictures were resounding successes. He would have made more had he lived any longer, but his life ended abruptly at 38 at a Swiss inn near the work camp where he had been temporarily interned as an illegal foreigner, after a sudden heart attack preceded by chest pains which had been ignored at the local hospital. He had endured the hardships of several attempts to cross the Swiss border escaping from occupied France and the Nazis (he was a Jew and had been banned to work in German dominated countries), and was expecting a work permit that would arrive the day after he died. Fluent in many languages, he was in fact a citizen of the world, like many singers are, and a gifted "star from heaven" as this film is entitled, who started singing in synagogues and evolved to opera. But the essential thing about him is his singing. Listen to him sing. Thanks to those seven films plus a couple of them duplicated in English versions (Ein Lied geht um die Welt 1933 and Ein Stern fällt vom Himmel 1934), we can today watch him perform as well as listen to his extraordinary voice. A warm, bright, strong and sometimes grave voice, easy on the high notes and full of resources which are developed in an unnoticed and fluent way.
All of these films deal with some personal aspect in his life : his limiting height, love troubles, the strive for success which is better accomplished through radio and the wish for an opera stage career, melting events with popular songs and operatic arias. If as an actor he is a bit stiff, the films are simple but touching, and the singing makes all the difference. This is well reflected in the sequence where he sings Land so wunderbar (O Paradis) from Meyerbeer's L'Africaine at the recording house in Venice in Ein Lied geht um die Welt. Tauber wasn't either the typical leading man, and precisely because of this his films are equally charming. Schmidt gives more restrained performances, with a graveness that often matches his character's sorrows. Also, these are European musical films, soberer than American ones from the same era. Some of Schmidt's real-life dreams were nevertheless to be accomplished : he became a most loved radio broadcasting star and finally sang opera onstage playing Rodolfo in La Bohème. Such a pity he couldn't go on making more films for us all to enjoy; such a luck we have quite a few.