'Alma: A Show-Biz Comes to Its End' is a dramatised re-enactment of the life of Alma Schindler (1879-1964). And what a life she had! This Viennese woman of startling beauty must be the all-time champion artistic muse. In her girlhood, she kissed Gustav Klimt. Over the course of her life, she married successively the composer Gustav Mahler, the architect Walter Gropius and the novelist Franz Werfel. In there someplace she spent two years as the lover of painter Oskar Kokoschka, serving at least once as the model for one of his paintings ('Bride of the Wind'). I find it deeply intriguing that Fraulein Schindler's list of men includes artists in so many different creative forms, almost as if she were some sort of collector.
She apparently had considerable talent as a painter and musician, but her first husband Mahler demanded that she give up those pursuits ... which prompted her to pursue her next husband. In fact, Alma was sexually involved with Gropius while still married to Mahler, and ditto with Werfel while still married to Gropius. She was quite a beauty! In this miniseries, Alma is played at different stages of her life by no fewer than three different actresses ... all of whom are quite pretty, but who failed to convince me that they were the same woman at different ages.
Not counting some Ken Russell incoherence, there has been at least one other dramatisation of Alma's life: Bruce Beresford's 'Bride of the Wind'.
Some of the episodes in this German-language TV serial seem a bit far-fetched, including the Werfels' escape from the Nazis by fleeing to Marseilles, across the Pyrenees to Spain, to Portugal, to New York and then (of course) to Hollywood. Apparently this actually happened, but the way those scenes are depicted here is not conducive to belief.
Watching this serial, I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of Leon Askin, the Viennese-born actor who is inevitably best known for his performance in the US sitcom 'Hogan's Heroes'. I was even more pleasantly surprised when I realised that Askin is here speaking as himself, not portraying an historical personage. Askin and his wife Liese were friends of Alma Werfel in New York City, where she spent the last 19 years of her life following Werfel's death in 1945.
I was also *very* pleasantly surprised that this film does NOT include any rendition of a certain annoying song written about Alma Werfel by an American named Tom Lehrer. I'll rate this fascinating biographical drama 8 out of 10. Well done, Alma!
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