Movie Depictions of Boys Clothes: Austrian Films

Figure 1.--The movie "Almost angels" was shot in Austria, but was in fact an American Disney movie. Even so, it is virtually the only Austrian film that American movie viewers can name.

HBC at this time has almost know information about the Austrian film industry and the specific films made there. One American film was shot in Austria and used the Vienna Choir boys which as a result needs to be mentioned on a list of Austrian films. Of course the most famous film about Austrian children, in fact the most famous movie about Austria in general, is the American musical, The Sound of Music. One must wonder what it must be like to have the best known film about your country to be made by foreigners.

Individual Films

HBC at this time only knows of an handful of Austrain films or films about Austria. Interestingly many of the most important films about Austria were made by foreign studios, often in foreogn countries.

Almost Angels (Austria/United State, 1957/62)

I have not seen this film, but it has some important information on boys' clothing during the late 1950s and early 1960s. One HBC contributor, however, reports that there is a Disney movie in which an "all-American" boy joins the Vienna Boys' Choir, albeit Austrian. The film was entitled Almost Angels (1962). Almost Angels appears to be the only color movie which has a boychoir as its entire theme. For many Americans this movie was their first introduction to not only the Vienna Choir Boys, but also to the world of boychoirs in general. A new member of the Vienna Boys' Choir (Vincent Winter), eleven years old, doesn't find himself overly welcomed since the lad assigned to be his mentor is envious of the recognition his voice is getting. Soon, though, these two are pals, and the younger develops a plan to help the older go on tour even though his voice is breaking. A charming film which should be appreciated by fans of boy choirs and boy soloists as well as by those who wish to be introduced to the subject. Full of lots of music and boyish fun.

Colonel Redl (Hungary, 1984)

An interesting German-language account of Alfred Redla, a carrer-oriented soldier from a working-class background, who rises to a leadership position in the pre-World War I Austro-Hungarian Army. His working-class background is further complicated by Jewish-Catholic roots. Much of the film is set in Prague. The film opens at an Austrian military academy in the latter years of the 19th century. There are two uniforms worn by cadets: a dress outfit with silver buttons and a simpler everyday outfit.

(Die) Ministranten - (Austria, 1989/90)

A German reader has provided information about Die Ministranten. It was made in 1989/1990 by Wolfram Paulus, an Austrian. Two boys (Pauli a 11 and Sepp a 12 year-old) of an Austrian village in the "Salzburger Land" get to know each other in the lessons for acolytes (altar boys). They are founding a gang called "Die Wölfe" (The Wolves). Their aim is it to fight the boys of the neighbouring village. However, on Easter Day of 1962, when they launch their campaign, they are defeated by the others. It's a film about the ending of childhood. It is similar to the French film, "La guerre des boutons", that has a similar story.

(An) Orphan Boy of Vienna (Austria, 1936)

An Orphan Boy of Vienna is the touching story of an orphan boy who meets a street singer who gets him accepted by the Vienna Boys Choir. It is one of the few films in wich the Vienna Choirs Boys are involved. An Orphan Boy of Vienna will be of interest mainly to boy choir historians and serious film collectors. It was produced in 1936, a year before the NAZI Anchhluss, by a company operating in Vienna and Amsterdam. This early musical was directed by Max Neufeld and features songs by the actual Vienna Boys Choir.

(Der) schönste Tag meines Lebens" (Austria, 1957)

Der schönste Tag meines Lebens tanslates as "The most day of my life" in English and "Le plus beau jour de ma vie" in French. It is about a Hungarian orphan, who becomes in the end a Choirboy at Vienna. [Note: There is ba close association between Austria and Hungary as they were for a long time unified under Hapsburg rule.] The film involves the boys of the Wiener Sängerknaben with Michael Ande who plays Toni who is the main character--the Hungarian boy. Michaelwas a well known star at that time. Ellinor Jensen plays Toni's sister Maria. Josef Egger plays the capitan. The director is Paul Hörbiger. It is a Max Neufeld film.

Sound of Music - (US, 1965)

The most famous movie ever made about Austria is the American musical, The Sound of Music" It was the musical version of the Trap family saga. The film is based on a true story, but thr Trapps thought the film was rather soppy. It was a block buster long-running hit on Broadway with Mary Martin before finally being made into a film musical with Julie Andrews. The children first appear in identical grey sailor suits with green trim. I'm not sure how common that combination was. I'm also not sure how common this was in Austria, it is likely that blue and white suits were more common. Some boys did wear sailor suits in Austria and Germany into their early teens, especially before the NAZI era. The two boys in the film wear short pants and the girls skirts, bith with white kneesocks and white shoes. They also wear play suits, and lederhosen, mostly in short pants and knee socks. The only difference between the older an younger boy is that when they wear leder hosen, the older boy wears the knicker style. Often the boys and girls all wear similar outfits. In one scene, the younger boy wears a night gown. Costuming of the wedding scene, however, is very plain.

Wenn die Glocken hell erklingen (Austria, 1959)

An Audtrian reader has nentioned a favorite filn of his, "Wenn die Glocken hell erklingen" (When the Bells Sound Clearly) (1959). We know very little about the film except that is about the Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben). Hopefully our German and Austrian readers will be able to tell us more about the film.

Young Torless (France/Germany, 1966)

This powerful allegorical German film is based the novel (Die Verwirrungen des Zoglings Torless written by Robert Musil in 1906. (Musil at age 12 entered an Austrian boarding school. He served in World War I and was decorated for valor. He mairred a Jewish woman and fled to SWitzerland after the Anchlus. His books were banned by the NAZIs.) Young Torless is set at an Austrian military school and is based on the author's own experieces. This penetrating study of young cadets offers a preview of coming power of Facist movements. Mathieu Carriere plays Torless, a student in a prestigious boarding school during the waning, but still proud days of the Hapsburg empire. Torless witnesses the sadistic behavior of fellow students Alfred Dietz and Bernd. He at first watches with fascination, but does not intervene or to assisst the hapless victims. When Torless does finally report his former friends, it is he who has to leave the school. There may have been a remake in 1996. One reviewer writes, "Young Torless has gone down in film history as a seminal work that announced a new German cinema of international stature."


The Austrian film industry has gone through several distinctive periods of film making.

Imperial Austria ( -1918)

HBC has no information on film making in the old Austr-Hungarian empire.

Inter War era (1918-37)

HBC has no information on film making in independent Austria after World War. It was a time of great uncertainty. Vienna which had been the center of a great empire, was now religated to a European backwater.

Third Reich (1937-45)

The Austrian people overelmingly voted in 1937 to join with Hitler's Germany. The vote after the Anchluss was ruigged, but most historians feel that the Austriand enthisiuastically joined with the Germans. The Austrians like to view their countrynas one of the ioccupied countries, but most historians view them more as a willinly participant in the NAZI New Order. Hitler himself was actually Austrain. After the NAZI takeover of Germany (1933) and Austria (1937), considerable resources were given to cinema and other media. Lavish resources were provided the industry. Making money was no longer the primary goal For the NAZIs, the primary purpose of the movies was to manipulate popular thought. Technically the movies continued at a high level, but the propoganda element stifiled creativity, There were some powerful films, like Triumph of the Will. Another important production was Hitler Youth Quex. The overall quality of the films declined during the NAZI period. They were still often high quality productions technically. The originality and creativity so imprtant in films was lacking in the NAZI films.

Occupation (1945-53)

Austria was occupied by the Allies in 1945. At first there were four zones, but soon this transitioned into a Soviet and western zone. Austria became a center of Cold War intrigue during the 1940s and 50s. Austria was the only country that the Soviets willingly withdrew from during the Cold War. They withdrew on the strict condition of permanent Austrian neutrality. Austria was not even allowed to join the Common Market until many years later.

Modern Austria (1953- )

HBC has no information on modern Austrian films.


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Created: August 13, 2000
Last updated: April 14, 2004