I first became a fan of Romy Schneider when I saw her in Woody Allen’s What’s New Pussycat? Surrounded by an array of fabulously beautiful women–Ursula Andress, Capucine, Paula Prentiss–I watched Schneider and Peter O’Toole tear through the countryside in go-carts, shimmy like eels in French nightclubs, and play “Foreign Movie Time” in the shower. (Could someone please tell me what “Foreign Movie Time is?) The film is dated and bizarre, but charming.
Thanks to Netflix Instant, I recently watched Schneider’s breakout film, the German-language Sissi. It’s a classic that’s played every Christmas in Austria. The fashion in the film puts “Gone With The Wind” to shame; it embodies a glamorous mix of 50s fashion and period costume. Even on film, you can see the quality of the fabric. One of my pet peeves is that many of today’s period films use cheap textiles that create a theatrical quality.
Schneider was only 16 when she played the role of Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria, eventual Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, and she’s as pure and airy as the driven snow in the film.
The real-life empress was also something of a fashion hound, reportedly traveling the world (Madeira, Hungary, England, Corfu, Egypt, etc.) and shopping relentlessly. She often stopped at the famous Hungarian boutique, Antal Alter, which was popular in the 19th-century.
I’ve tried to find a few clips from Sissi to share, but I’m unable to locate one with English subtitles. Instead I’ve included a German clip and another in Italian to satisfy the germanic and the latinate palates.