There are approximately one hundred and forty films in which Hans Moser took part during his career. And the characters that most succeeded in touching audiences were those of tender father figures, sometimes clumsy and awkward, who often went through important changes or, in any case, served to introduce small comic elements into often dramatic feature films. And so, his unmistakable mumbling voice, his reassuring appearance, as well as his innate comic verve soon became symbols of the glorious Wiener Films.
Everyone loved him
Unmistakable is his mumbling voice, his reassuring, paternal appearance, as well as his innate comic verve that made him one of the most famous figures of the so-called Wiener Films, but also of the theatre world in glorious early 20th century Austria. Yet if the name Hans Moser is, today, in the hearts of all Austrians, few know the name Johann Julier. Because, in fact, it was only at the beginning of his career that the young Johann Julier decided to change his name, choosing Hans Moser as his stage name, in homage to the stage actor Josef Moser, who had first given him some elocution lessons.
As time went by, he became one of the best-known and best-loved faces in show business. Initially, young Johann Julier – born in Vienna’s Margareten district on August 6, 1880 and the third of four children – was not supposed to become an actor. His father, the French-born sculptor Franz Julier, would, in fact, have wanted his son to pursue his same career. Not feeling suited to this particular activity, however, Johann first started working as an accountant in a leather goods shop. Nevertheless, his desire to act was growing stronger every day, despite his parents’ initial disapproval.
So it was that the boy began to take elocution lessons from Josef Moser himself, immediately changing his name to Hans Moser and slowly beginning to take his first steps on the city’s stages. The apprenticeship, however, was to be a long one, and only after a first, important engagement at the Stadttheater Reichenberg in Bohemia was he finally able to return to his native Vienna to audition for a job at the prestigious Theater in der Josefstadt. This, however, was unsuccessful: the young Hans was too short for the required roles – his height of only 1.57 metres made him unsuitable for the roles of tall, young protagonists – but this was not enough to discourage the actor, who toured the country several times, initially with smaller companies, and only managed to get leading roles as a comedian at a small theatre in the basement of the St. Anna Hof building in Vienna, called ‘Max und Moritz’.
This, however, happened in 1913. And although, both professionally and privately for Hans Moser this was a particularly interesting time (in 1911 he had married Blanka Hirschler, who was to become his life partner, and, just two years later, the two had celebrated the birth of their little daughter Margarete), World War I was unfortunately just around the corner. Hans, too, had to give up the stage for a while and go, like many of his peers, to the front. During such an event, however, he never lost his good humour and, during breaks, he used to entertain his comrades-in-arms with jokes and gags improvised for the occasion. In short, a born cabaret artist.
And, fortunately, his comic verve was soon noticed by various theatre directors: already after the end of the war, a particularly productive period began for Hans Moser’s career, starting initially with small cabaret shows, and then gaining more and more important roles that would finally lead him to the stage of the Theater in der Josefstadt, which had refused him years before. Now, however, the music had changed. Now Hans Moser was no longer just a willing young actor, whose physicality was not suited to certain roles. Now more and more people had come to know and appreciate him. And among them was also the director Max Reinhardt, who first wanted him at the Theater in der Josefstadt and who, after giving him increasingly prominent roles in plays by Johann Nestroy, Ödön von Horvath or Arthur Schnitzler, even took him with him to America.
By this time, everyone had finally noticed the undisputed talent of Hans Moser. And people even began to refer to him directly as ‘der Moser’ (the Moser). It was not long, then, before the film world also began asking for his presence. And Hans’ first experiences in front of the camera date back, in fact, to the silent era, immediately after the end of the war. After a debut in the short film Das Baby, directed by Hans Karl Breslauer in 1918, the first important feature film he took part in was The City without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden), directed by Breslauer in 1924.
From then on, his name rightfully became part of the Olympus of the Greats. And alongside his successes on stage, film also began to become a familiar environment for Moser: the golden age of the Wiener Film would begin in the 1930s. Passionate melodramas and impossible love stories complete with singing, dancing and elegant costumes would play a central role in the Austrian films of the time. Despite the fact that film was still not given the space it was due, at least in Austria. And despite the fact that World War II was just around the corner.
Even during this second war, Hans Moser had to face numerous difficulties. Firstly, because his wife Blanka was of Jewish origin, he was forced to divorce her. He, of course, refused and was consequently forced to emigrate with her to Hungary, while their daughter Margarete, now married, emigrated with her husband to Argentina. This was not an easy time for the Moser family. And yet, precisely because Hans was by then an established actor, much loved by the audience, he could continue to work, only being able to return to his native Vienna after the war, settling permanently, together with his wife, in the district of Hietzing.
There are approximately one hundred and forty films in which Moser took part during his career. And the characters that most succeeded in touching audiences were those of tender father figures, sometimes clumsy and awkward, who often went through important changes or, in any case, served to introduce small comic elements within feature films with often dramatic tones. Among the most important roles he played were Maskerade (Willi Forst, 1934), Court Theatre (Willi Forst, 1936), both cult films Mariandl and Mariandl’s Homecoming (Werner Jacobs 1961 and 1962) and, last but not least, Hallo Dienstmann, directed by Franz Antel in 1951. In this bizarre comedy of errors, which has now become a cult in Austrian cinema, Moser played the role of a funny bellhop. Memorable is the scene, played together with his lifelong friend Paul Hörbiger (who, after seeing Moser in the theatre in the role of a bellhop, wanted him in the film at all costs), in which the two attempt to carry a heavy trunk up the stairs. A scene, this one, which entered so deeply into the hearts of spectators that even today, at the entrance to the Prater playground, one can see a small fresco depicting both Moser and Hörbiger happily embracing each other wearing their bellhop hats.
Until the last, Hans Moser played for his audience. Until 1964, the year of his death, when he appeared for the last time in the television series Das Leben ist die größte Schau. Yet, even today, audiences remember him with great affection. And even today, watching old films from the past, Hans Moser still manages to make audiences of all ages laugh. And if one happens to take a walk along the avenues of Vienna’s historical Zentralfriedhof, among the graves of honour, barely hidden among the hedges, one can also find that of Hans and his Blanka, who remained together for almost sixty years.