After the premiere of Johann Strauss's famous waltz 'The Blue Danube' and the male fascination of one Marie Geistinger (Cheryl Kennedy), the episode begins with full pomp of Schani's smashing success. This time, its location is not the ballrooms of Vienna but the New World. Calling London 'wet' and America 'enormous' Schani (Stuart Wilson) together with his older wife Hetti (Margaret Whiting) soon comes back to Vienna. The king of waltz is back to his hometown, 'the only king in America they wanted to crown...' However, he does not appear so successful within his own family. This not only refers to his closest family but also to women that seem to admire him like an idol and fail to see him as a human being.
a note about the musical pieces: While episode 6 "Hetti" included 'The Blue Danube,' in episode 7 "Lili" we can admire 'Wienerblut' (Viennese Blood) and operetta 'Die Fledermaus.' They marked the pinnacle of success for the composer.
In the first half of the episode, the director along with the screenwriter do not call our attention to one of those young delicious 'darlings' - the title character Lili (played by Georgina Hale) but to Hetti because she sets the accurate context for the events to come. She changes her attitude completely from what was in the previous episode and feels herself useless, old, unattractive and not fitting for so great a composer as Johann Strauss. With reference to many women in STRAUSS FAMILY, she is a true embodiment of artificial attempts to make herself a center of attention by all means despite some natural state of events. Schani gets bored with her. Moreover, the shocking fact of her grown up son who claims certain rights impacts their marriage even more negatively (in STRAUSS DYNASTY, this plot is more dramatically developed by the fact that this is her son of Johann Strauss the Elder and, consequently, Hetti commits suicide out of fear that the truth could be revealed - as I have stated before, Cherie Lunghi is better than Margaret Whiting in the role). As a result, Schani's attention is drawn to other women...and there are many among his fans.
The problem, however, is the fact they are much younger than him yet much more experienced in how to allure a man. Although we first may think that this woman will be Marie Geistinger, as the previous episode would anticipate, she is more like Anne Baxter in the role of Eve in Mankiewicz's ALL ABOUT EVE being more independent, saying straight to the theater director Max Steiner (William Dexter): "I belong to no one!" Marie (whose counterpart in J Chomsky's STRAUSS DYNASTY is sexy Eva played by Paris Jefferson) is talented, beautiful and extremely ambitious. But Lili? Before I move to Lili, the title character of the episode and, perhaps, the most tragic, disastrous femme fatale for a Strauss, let me make some brief note about Edi (Tony Anholt).
The episode contains a truly splendid depiction of close family relations not only in Strauss family but in any family of famous people where jealousy, prejudice, psychological wounds, neglections and rivalry may appear. This jealousy of Edi Strauss that grew more intense after the death of their brother Josef is unrestrained. His wife Marie fans the flame of those negative emotions when she asks: "Does Edi always have to be the second best?" As Schani's popularity grows and he is more and more widely acclaimed as 'The Strauss', Edi grows horns. The sisters are of no comfort or constructive help. Schani is more reasonable in this brotherly rivalry and he states clearly that he is not "entering any contest of popularity" with his brother, but the situation becomes more serious when his private life breaks into pieces.
a little note about a performance: Tony Anholt portrays a jealous man a little bit too gently. We can deduce the turmoil that takes place in his mind but it's all too little dramatic, wild, neurotic).
Hetti falls ill and dies and Schani, in the sorrow of loss, comes across Cafe Victoria where Lili is introduced to him. Much to the surprise of his family, in one of the most hilarious scenes of the episode, he introduces her to his brother and sisters as a newly wed wife. Young, beautiful, sexy, making him much younger, just sweetness and pleasure itself! Consider the decor of their bedroom as a terrific visual/symbolic aspect. It is a place of illusion, a lustful pleasure itself, a short-lived substitute for true love. Schani is no longer bored but the problem is that soon Lili is bored. She wants life full of extravagant pleasures, constant fun, company of various people and wild nights. He is too tired and too busy working for such a lifestyle and temper. A taste of disappointment goes with a taste of treason...a marriage doomed to fail.
Georgina Hale gives a very good performance as Lili highlighting this balance of cheap sentiment, lust and hidden personal motives. Emma Bowe in STRAUSS DYNASTY portrays just a silly, ridiculous woman in love with jewels and nudity. Stuart Wilson as Schani is, for the first time in the series, laughable and pitied. The final scene when he plays his waltz at the portrait of Hetti embraces all emotional turmoils herein depicted. Does not appear to anticipate much, though.
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