Comedian Harmonists (English title: The Harmonists) is a 1997 German film, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, about the popular German vocal group the Comedian Harmonists of the 1920s and 1930s. The film is supported by German and Austrian film fund.
|Directed by||Joseph Vilsmaier|
|Produced by||Reinhard Klooss|
|Screenplay by||Klaus Richter, Jürgen Egger|
|Music by||Harald Kloser, Thomas Schobel, Walter Jurmann (Songs)|
|Edited by||Peter R. Adam|
Perathon Film und Fernseh GmbH
|Distributed by||Senator Film (Germany)|
Miramax Films (USA)
In 1927, unemployed German-Jewish actor Harry Frommermann is inspired by the American group The Revelers to create a German group of the same format. He holds auditions and signs on four additional singers and a pianist. Naming themselves the "Comedian Harmonists", they meet international fame and popularity. However, they eventually run into trouble when the Nazis come to power, as half the group is Jewish.
Comedian Harmonists succeeded in Europe. U.S. President Bill Clinton told critic Roger Ebert it was among his favorite films of the year, although the movie did not get widespread release, hence reception in the United States.
Bernd Reinhardt of the World Socialist Web Site called it "an exciting film which is well worth seeing and which pays proper attention to the sextet's music." He also remarked on the film's attention to historical detail and the importance of its theme of musical internationalism.
At the 1998 German Film Awards, Comedian Harmonists won the awards for Best Feature Film, Best Editing (for Peter R. Adam), Best Actor (for Ulrich Noethen), Best Supporting Actress (for Meret Becker), and Best Production Design (for Rolf Zehetbauer). Joseph Vilsmaier was nominated for Best Direction, losing to Wim Wenders for The End of Violence. At the 1998 Bavarian Film Awards Joseph Vilsmaier won the awards for Best Director. Ben Becker, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Noethen, Heinrich Schafmeister, Max Tidof and Kai Wiesinger won a Special Prize
The U.S. Miramax release contains at least one difference from the original: in the original, there is a scene, when the Harmonists arrive in New York and perform in front of the U.S. Navy, where the camera singles out one African American navy man who is visibly enjoying the music, until he gets a stinging look of rebuke from a superior officer. This segment was cut from the American release.
The film led to the writing of a musical play, Veronika, der Lenz ist da - Die Comedian Harmonists, which opened at the Komödie on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin on 19 December 1997. When this production closed, the actors who had played the original sextet formed themselves into a new group called the Berlin Comedian Harmonists, which was still in existence in 2012.