Sog.: Günter Neumann. Scen.: Günter Neumann, Fritz Aeckerle, Hans Vietzke. F.: Fritz Arno Wagner. M.: Walter Wischniewsky. Mus.: Werner Eisbrenner. Int.: Willy Fritsch (August Schulze), Bruno Fritz (the host), Edith Schollwer (the singer), Erik Ode (the singer), Tatjana Sais (the singer), Ewald Wenck (the singer). Prod.: Alf Teichs, Heinz Rühmann per Comedia-Filmgesellschaft mbH. 35mm. D.: 95’. Bn.
One of the oddest works attempted in 1949 is this mix of found-footage collage and cabaret. Some might wonder while watching Herrliche Zeiten, haven’t I seen something like this before? Well, there is Kurt Hoffmann’s Wir Wunderkinder (1958), one of the few 50s FRG films celebrated and garlanded internationally back in the day, which was co-written by Herrliche Zeiten’s original genius, cabaret artist Günter Neumann. Structurally, the films are similar: both follow an everyman character called here August Schulze (played by Willy Fritsch, also seen in Film ohne Titel), and there Hans Boeckel, through roughly half a century of German history, from the days of the Reich’s last Emperor, Wilhelm II, to the end of WWII. There are some major differences: first, Ode presents history through compilations of already existing films (provided by Albert Fidelius, a private collector) whereas Hoffmann made everything of one fictional piece, including some key ‘newsreel’ footage. Second, Schulze has no unpleasant foil that would make him look less guilty, while Boeckel frequently encounters Janus-faced inflation-profiteer turned Nazi turned economic miracle-mover-and-shaker Bruno Tiches. Third, Ode and Neumann certainly have fewer hopes for Schulze then Hoffmann allows for Boeckel – the first FRG elections proved the former’s scepticism right, while Hoffmann’s rosy-eyed view was carried by developments since. Herrliche Zeiten is a strange in-between film: a prime piece of occupation-era spirit dropped into a young FRG that didn’t care for it (maybe because people guiltily sensed that they should?). Thus, it did so badly at the box office that the production company Comedia (owned by superstar Heinz Rühmann) was forced to close down.