Maria Ilona

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Original title Maria Ilona
Country of production German Empire
original language German
Publishing year 1939
length 94 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Geza from Bolvary
script Werner Eplinius
Richard Billinger
Philipp Lothar Mayring
production Viktor von Struve
music Alois Melichar using the music from Die Entführung aus dem Serail by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and other classical compositions
camera Ewald Daub
cut Wolfgang Wehrum

Singing: Erna Berger , Eduard Kandl , Walther Ludwig , Carla Spletter , Erich Zimmermann

Maria Ilona is a German historical drama from 1939 by Geza von Bolvary , set at the time of the Hungarian Revolution 1848/1849 , which was conceived as an anti-Habsburg pamphlet. The title role is played by Paula Wessely , with Willy Birgel as Prince Schwarzenberg and Paul Hörbiger as Austrian Emperor Ferdinand. The plot is based on the 1937 novel Ilona Beck by Oswald Richter-Tersik .


The plot begins in the European year of crisis and revolution, 1848. There is great unrest in Hungary, which is striving for independence from Austria. Numerous officers have already deserted and are committed to the independence of young officers in the country. The emperor in Vienna is angry about this and unceremoniously refuses entry to the Hungarian officers who have already been invited to the annual court ball at Schönbrunn Palace. One of the young officers turned away at the door is the patriotic Hungarian Imre von Hontos, whose older sister Maria Ilona was married to the Austrian nobleman Baron von Wolkersdorf, who had died three years earlier. This makes her the ideal person for both sides when it comes to mediating between the two antagonists Austria and Hungary.

At the ball, the young widow meets the much older Karl Felix Fürst zu Schwarzenberg. Love quickly develops from the acquaintance. The prince, who is the state's prime minister, entrusts Maria Ilona with a delicate mission: Maria Ilona, ​​who is completely inexperienced politically, is supposed to try to arrange a settlement with the Hungarian officers who are prepared to revolt against the House of Habsburg. Loyal to her old emperor, the Austrian Hungarian, who lives in both cultures, is ready to travel to the ringleader Ludwig Kossuth and ask for a discussion. Both have known each other since they were children, so Maria Ilona can win his trust. Kossuth is actually ready to make written concessions when alarming news arrives: the old Emperor Ferdinand has abdicated in favor of his nephew Franz Joseph, and he is not necessarily considered a man of compromise.

Franz Joseph does not wait for the result of Maria Ilona's delicate mission, but on his mother's advice, sends troops under the leadership of Prince Windischgrätz to occupy Hungary. With that he succeeds in a very short time in turning the Hungarians against him in unison. When Prince Schwarzenberg then asks the young monarch to resign, Franz Joseph rejects this request. Maria Ilona, ​​who was not informed about this, has to believe that her beloved Schwarzenberg participated in this military operation against her Hungarian homeland. She feels lied to and betrayed by him.

Kossuth and her brother Imre are now trying to persuade Maria Ilona to switch completely to her political camp and only fight for the Hungarian cause. She agrees and, on her return to Vienna, lies to Prince Schwarzenberg, claiming that there is no longer a Hungarian army at all. In reality, however, the junior officers have withdrawn to the Carpathian region to regroup and train junior officers. Maria Ilona even deceived the Austrian military leader Windischgraetz by luring him away from Budapest with his troops so that the Hungarian soldiers could recapture their hometown at a favorable moment. A major attack on Vienna is to be launched from there.

Meanwhile Imre was arrested by the Austrians. His death seems certain, as Emperor Franz Joseph I ordered the strictest possible punishment for all Hungarian officers involved in the uprising against the Habsburg crown. Maria Ilona appears in Vienna with the news that Hungary is finally free, Kossuth and his men have triumphed across the board. She asks her fiancé Schwarzenberg to plead for Imre's pardon, because Austria would gain absolutely nothing with his execution. The prince and prime minister is ready, but expects Imre to break away from Kossuth. But the Hungarian patriot cannot bring himself to do it; his pride prevails over reason. With this, Schwarzenberg's hands are tied. Now, in desperation, Maria Ilona confesses to her fiancé that she had deceived him with a message of victory from the Hungarian nationalists. This ends the relationship between the two lovers.

Lajos Kossuth, the leader of the Hungarian independence movement (lithograph from 1848)

Production notes

The shooting of Maria Ilona , planned under the title The Woman Between the Fronts , began on April 24, 1939. The interior shoots were made in the UFA town of Babelsberg, the exterior shots in Küstrin and at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. The premiere took place on December 14, 1939 in Berlin's Gloria Palast .

The production costs amounted to an above average 1.305 million Reichsmarks. By February 1941 the income amounted to 3.045 million RM. This made Maria Ilona a huge box office success. The film, which opened there on December 20, 1939, also showed excellent results in Hungary. The Film-Kurier reported on the reaction in Switzerland: "The entire press paid full recognition to Paula Wessely's acting performance".

Manufacturing group leader Viktor von Struve also acted as manufacturing and production manager. Robert Herlth and designed the film structures. The costumes are from Eleanor Behm-Techow. Fritz Böttger studied the dances. Erich Leistner was responsible for the sound; the film editor Wolfgang Wehrum was also one of two assistant directors. Hans Brunow took over the dialogue direction.

The then 22-year-old Swiss Paul Hubschmid in the role of a hot-tempered Hungarian patriot and brother of the heroine made his debut in German film in Maria Ilona .


On you can read: “The film knows how to convince in terms of equipment and time color, but Paula Wessely is not really getting going as a“ woman between the fronts ”- under this title the film was initially announced - probably because she is about to has little to do, cannot achieve anything and in the end has to passively watch the goings-on of the men. Above all, the Austrian audience was not expected to identify with Hungarian nationalism, but in Germany too, when it was finished, the film had already outlived its political usefulness. "

"Although neither the historical references nor the drawing of the characters are consistently consistent, the pre-war film is still entertaining today because of its atmospherically accurate staging and captivating presentation."

Boguslaw Drewniak summed up: “The writers of the text and the director Geza von Bolvary thought more of Paula Wessely (who this time was not always at the height of her earlier achievements) than of the historical and legendary Hungarian baroness Ilona Beck and the prince and diplomat Karl zu Schwarzenberg. The political topicality was also in the background. "

See also

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Biography of Geza von Bolvary in: Kay Less : Das große Personenlexikon des Films , Volume 1, S. 460. Berlin 2001
  2. cf. on this Boguslaw Drewniak: The German Film 1938-1945 . A complete overview. Düsseldorf 1987, p. 415
  3. Ulrich J. Klaus: German sound films, 10th year 1939. P. 130 f. (069.39), Berlin 1999
  4. The German Film 1938-1945 . A complete overview. Düsseldorf 1987, p. 416
  5. ^ Film-Kurier, January 23, 1940
  6. Maria Ilona on
  7. ^ Maria Ilona in the Lexicon of International Films , accessed April 1, 2019 Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used
  8. The German Film 1938-1945 . A complete overview. Düsseldorf 1987, p. 415

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