Palace Cars and Paradise (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 15, Number 1, February 1985
- pp. 14-16
- Additional Information
Film Reviews Class of 39. Cinetel Productions, Sidney Australia, 1983. Color. 83 minutes The Vienna Mozart Boys Choir had just completed a highly successful world tour with an engagement in Melbourne, Australia, early in September 1939, when World War Il broke out. All twenty musicians aged nine to fourteen, and their director George Bruber, were interned in Australia as enemy aliens for the duration ofthe war. This videotape tells their story. The ensemble s initial protector was the Archbishop of Melbourne who needed a choir. He saw to it that most ofthe boys were educated in Church-run schools and found homes with local families. Only Gruber who was unmasked as a crypto-Nazi, and one ofthe choristers, an apparent fanatic, were interned in detention camps. After the war ended a few of the boys returned to their families in Vienna but most remained in Australia where they have made their lives. The film ends with a reunion in an Australian Heuriger where members of "the Class of 39" sum up their experiences. This is an unusual story and ofmore than routine historical interest. Though the ostensible purpose ofthe tour was to display the choir s musical gifts, the more subtle underlying purpose was to make a statement for German Kultur. Gruber, a member of the Austrian Nazi Party from its earliest beginnings, had intrigued his way to the leadership of a number of choirs. The Vienna Mozart Boys Choir was his creation and he had attracted its members with promises of free education and travel. None of this could have been achieved in Anschluss era Austria without the support of the National Socialist regime. After World War II he returned to Austria but was unable to remain because of his political past. He eventually settled in South Africa where he died in 1972. Class of39 reveals high production standards and could be used in part to demonstrate methods of cultural ideological infiltration. On the other hand, it also shows the malleability ofyoungsters in a different linguistic and cultural environment and suggests that living in a free and healthy society will quickly dispel any vestiges of totalitarian notions in young minds. The Austrians who remained "down under" are indistinguishable from native Australians and all those interviewed are thankful that their internment spared them from what probably would have been a much harsher fate. This film is a highly sophisticated production and demonstrates adept use of montage, and flashback techniques. It is ofvisual interest because it effectively demonstrates through the use of stills, film clips and interviews the possibilities of integrating complicated human developments with the resolution ofindividual fates. Richard Geehr, Bentley College Palace Cars and Paradise, (color, 28 minutes). Available on 16mm color film, 3/4" or 1/2" videotape for purchase (film only for rental) from the Illinois Labor History Society, 28 East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60604 14 According to its advertisement, Martin Buechley s "Palace Cars and Paradise" is the story of the Pullman model town [twelve miles south of Chicago on Lake Calumet], created in the 1880s by George Pullman as the ideal industrial community. Built to be a solution to the numerous labor conflicts and urban ills caused by the industrial revolution, the town became a controversial experiment. It was seen by some as a great success and by others, such as Eugene Debs, "to be slavery and degradation." The town s short life climaxed with the Pullman strike of 1894. After the death ofGeorge Pullman in 1 897, the company was forced by the Illinois Supreme Court to end the experiment and sell the homes. The film combines a tour ofthe town (now a part of Chicago) by William Adelman, author ofthe Illinois Labor History Society s guidebook, Touring Pullman, with accounts illustrated with contemporary prints and photographs of Pullman s probable motivations for building it and the history of its development and demise as a company town. As an overview ofthe subject, the film is excellent, but it aspires to do more than that; providing, for the viewer, the urban and labor history contexts within which the town developed as well as its philosophical underpinnings. In these the film is less successful. The...