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by Georg Jacoby

grade: 7

Spring on Ice, alongside a rather simple and linear screenplay, sees a mise-en-scène that is predominantly theatrical, but also extremely spectacular, colourful and lively, within which elegant figures move in front of the camera, in a series of carefully choreographed performances that successfully create a balanced mixture of modern dance and Viennese waltz.

A dancing Vienna

Until most of the 1950s, many Austrian production companies specialised in making sentimental comedies mainly set in the world of the Viennese upper class. Not infrequently, then, such feature films also had a musical character and, in this respect, the film Spring on Ice (original title: Frühling auf dem Eis) – made by Georg Jacoby in 1950 – belongs to the aforementioned standards and, in particular, stands out thanks to its meticulously designed sets and elaborate costumes (also a speciality of the so-called Wiener Film, which used to be set in the past decades).

And so, in this little elegant Spring on Ice, a tender love story is staged, a story whose main setting is an ice skating rink. This, then, is the story of Eva (the talented ice-skater Eva Pawlik), who, because of her talent and the public’s numerous plaudits, triggers the envy of her colleague Alida (Herta Mayen), who is much better known than her and the wife of Herbert Gordon (Oskar Sima), the producer of some ice-skating shows in which both Eva and Alida take part. In order not to be eclipsed by her young colleague’s fame, Alida will ask her husband to cancel Eva’s show, who will find herself jobless. Nevertheless, someone will immediately be ready to help her: we are talking about the journalist Thomas Haller (Hans Holt), who will investigate the matter and, at the same time, help Eva and her company to organise an open-air show in a much more picturesque location.

Spring on Ice, then, opts for a rather simple and linear screenplay (written by Johannes Mario Simmel, and what could be considered the weakest element of the film), but also for a highly spectacular, colourful and lively mise-en-scène, in which elegant figures move in front of the camera, in a series of carefully choreographed movements that, from time to time – and especially in the final scene – successfully create a balanced mixture of modern dance and Viennese waltz.

Spring on Ice, on the other hand, while fully corresponding to the canons of the Wiener Film, is also reminiscent of the Hollywood musical, which was in its heyday at the time. It was only natural, then, that in Austria, too, an attempt should be made to give the film the most possible international character, while at the same time also showing a purely national reality. And this little film by Georg Jacoby succeeds, without too much pretense, in its intent, also making use of dance professionals, in addition to names particularly well-known in film industry (just think of Hans Holt, Oskar Sima or Harry Fuβ).

Music, colours (still sporadically used in Austrian-produced films at the time), dances and visual suggestions above all, then. Even at the expense of a predictable story, similar to many other stories told through images in this particular period, but also – and above all – capable of bringing more than a smile, for a welcome breath of optimism and romanticism. And the moments in which we see a shy Eva Pawlik sitting at a cafe table together with the much more self-confident Hans Holt while a small orchestra plays a love song just for them are a clear example of this.

Original title: Frühling auf dem Eis
Directed by: Georg Jacoby
Country/year: Austria / 1950
Running time: 95’
Genre: musical, romance
Cast: Eva Pawlik, Herta Mayen, Hans Holt, Oskar Sima, Harry Fuß, Albin Skoda, Karl Skraup, Robert Tessen, Erich Auer, Heinz Conrads, Helmut Janatsch, Ilse Trenker, Gaby Philipp, Ernst Waldbrunn, Erich Dörner, Joseph Egger, Wiener Eisrevue
Screenplay: Johannes Mario Simmel
Cinematography: Hanns König
Produced by: Wien-Film, Nova-Film

Info: the page of Spring on Ice on iMDb; the page of Spring on Ice on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria