Renate Müller in Viktor und Viktoria.
I have never been a big Blake Edwards fan. The one time I encountered him he was very unpleasant, and even before that I’d never cared for most of his films—I feel his idea of “sophisticated” was less “Ritz-Carlton” and more “Ritz Brothers.” So his Victor/Victoria failed to impress me. For one thing, Mrs. Edwards—Julie Andrews—was 25 years too old for the part, and would have been miscast in it even when she was young. (I am going to be stoned to death for this, but you know who I think would have made a fabulous Victor/Victoria in 1982? Madonna! Go ahead, come at me with your stones.)
Then I saw the original, Viktor und Viktoria, starring the adorable, ill-fated Renate Müller, and made in 1933 Germany—the last moment when such a naughty, sexually adventurous film could be made there (it was also filmed in England with Jessie Matthews as First a Girl in 1935, and again in Germany in 1957, with Johanna von Koczian). The original Viktor und Viktoria reminds me of Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight, with dialogue and music flowing into each other, and a lighthearted sexual freedom that ended with the Hays Code (and much worse unpleasantness in Germany).
Here I offer you Susanne (Renate Müller) in her first nervous, stumbling appearance as Viktor, singing about her castle in Spain, while the real Viktor (Herman Thiming, camp as a row of tents) frantically coaches her:
And one of my favorite numbers (helpfully subtitled in French, thanks a lot), Renate and Herman’s “An Einem Tag im Frühling” (“Today I Feel So Happy”):
See if you can find the film—there’s an English-subtitled copy available on DVD. And if you can read German, look for Uwe Klöckner-Draga’s 2006 biography of Renate Müller, which I really hope someday gets an English-language release.