History -- The Austrians: A Thousand-Year Odyssey, Gordon Brook-Shepherd: Historian Brook-Shepherd looks at Austria's long history to explain its people: who they are, how they got there, and where they're going.
Fin-de-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, Carl E. Schorske: This landmark book takes you into the political and social world of Vienna during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889, Frederic Morton: Morton uses the mysterious deaths of Archduke Rudolf and Baroness Marie Vetsera at Mayerling as a point of departure to capture in detail the life of Imperial Vienna at its glorious height.
The Hapsburgs: Embodying Empire, Andrew Wheatcroft: Here is the full sweep of the Hapsburg dynasty, from the Middle Ages to the end of World War I, focusing on such remarkable personalities as Rudolph I, Charles V, Maria Theresia, and Franz Josef I.
Art, Architecture & Music -- J. B. Fischer von Erlach, Hans Aurenhammer: This entertaining volume illuminates the life, times, and aesthetic vision of the court-appointed architect who transformed the face of 18th-century Vienna and Salzburg.
Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture, and Design, Kirk Varnedoe: During the late 19th century, Vienna's artistic genius reached dazzling heights of modernity. These movements are explored in this appealing primer.
On Mozart, Anthony Burgess: Set in heaven, amid a reunion of the greatest composers of all time, this controversial book creates debates about music that never occurred but should have. Condemned by some critics as gibberish and praised by others as brilliant and poetic, Burgess's work is highly recommended for musical sophisticates with a sense of humor.
Music and Musicians in Vienna, Richard Rickett: Few countries in Europe pride themselves as thoroughly as Austria does for its music. This brief, wisely created volume offers a broad overview of the country's musical heritage. It makes a good introduction to the subject.
Biography -- Freud: A Life for Our Times, Peter Gay: Gay's biography is a good introduction to the life of one of the seminal figures of the 20th century. Freud, of course, lived in Vienna until he fled from the Nazis in 1938, settling with his sofa in London.
Haydn: A Creative Life in Music, Karl and Irene Geiringer: This is the best biography of composer Franz Josef Haydn, friend of Mozart, teacher of Beethoven, and court composer of the Esterházys.
Mozart: A Cultural Biography, Robert W. Gutman: Music historian Gutman places Mozart squarely in the cultural world of 18th-century Europe.
Empress Maria Theresia (Harper & Row), Robert Pic: The life and times of the greatest, most colorful Hapsburg monarch is richly treated in this engrossing biography.
Though Austrians have played a major role in world cinema, most film artists made their movies in such places as Berlin or Hollywood. Austrians who went on to international film fame have included Erich von Stroheim, Josef von Sternberg (who masterminded the career of Marlene Dietrich), G. W. Pabst, Max Reinhardt, Richard Oswald, Curt Jurgens, Hedy Lamarr, Maximilian Schell, and the great actress Elizabeth Bergner.
Among the distinguished directors who hailed from Austria, Billy Wilder made some of the most classic Hollywood pictures of all time, such as Sunset Blvd. (1950) with Gloria Swanson and Some Like It Hot (1959) with Marilyn Monroe. Fred Zinnemann directed 21 feature films, including The Men (1949), High Noon (1951), and Julia (1976).
A first-rate film that hauntingly evokes life in postwar Vienna is The Third Man (1949), starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. And who could visit Austria without renting a copy of The Sound of Music (1965)? The film won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Starring Julie Andrews, it was filmed in the lovely city of Salzburg.
Fritz Lang (1890-1976) was an Austrian-born film director whose success was proven in Europe before his eventual naturalization as a U.S. citizen. Often criticized for his persistent emphasis on fatality and terror, his films were hailed for their intellectualism and visual opulence. In Europe, especially Germany, his films included Metropolis (1924), whose stark portrayal of automated urban life has been praised as revolutionary, and, on the eve of the rise to power of the Nazi regime, the eerily clairvoyant Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933). Welcomed into Hollywood by the avant-garde, he directed sometime-successful films which included Fury (1936), Western Union (1941), Clash by Night (1952), and Rancho Notorious (1952).
Erich von Stroheim (1886-1957) was the pseudonym of Oswald von Nordenwald. He was one of the most innovative and exacting film directors in the history of cinema. Born in Vienna, he served in the Hapsburg cavalry before rising within the ranks of Berlin's golden age of silent films. After immigrating to Hollywood in 1914, he worked for legendary director D. W. Griffith, eventually becoming noted for his minute realism and his almost-impossible demands on the actors and resources of Hollywood. As a director, his most legendary films were Blind Husbands (1919), Foolish Wives (1922), the epic masterpiece Greed (1928), and the spectacularly expensive flop that almost ended Gloria Swanson's film career, Queen Kelly (1928). As an actor, his most famous roles were as stiff-necked but highly principled Prussian military officers (often wearing monocles) in such films as Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937). Most young movie fans know him for what he called "the dumb butler part" in Billy Wilder's 1950 classic, Sunset Blvd.
Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000), born in Vienna, was a plump little baby girl who rose out of Austria to become one of the shining lights in MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer's cavalcade of stars. She was, at least in the 1940s, acclaimed as "the most beautiful woman of the century." Achieving world notoriety by her nude scenes in Ecstasy, she later played opposite such stars as Clark Gable and made such films as White Cargo and the epic Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza Samson and Delilah.
Although Mayer considered Lamarr "beautiful but stupid," her stunning face concealed an inventive mind. In 1942, while filming White Cargo, she came up with an idea for radio control torpedoes, in itself not a new idea. But her concept for "frequency hopping" was innovative and was two decades ahead of its time. The Navy turned a deaf ear to her invention. However, in 1957 the concept was picked up and, in time, became a primary tool for secure military communications. Regrettably, Lamarr let her patent expire, and she never gained any royalties from her invention. Her declining years were marked by tragedy, including arrests for shoplifting.
A more recent Austrian actor to achieve world fame is Klaus Maria Brandauer, who appeared in Russia House and White Fang. Born in 1944 in Austria, this pudgy, balding, and short actor -- not your typical leading man -- is best remembered in America as the villain in the James Bond thriller Never Say Never Again and as the husband of Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, for which he was nominated as best supporting actor in 1985.
Some film critics have hailed Austria today as "the world capital of feel-bad cinema." The most internationally known director of this movement is Michael Haneke, who came to prominence with The Seventh Continent in 1989. He had a great hit in The Piano Teacher in 2001, which was set in the world of Viennese high culture.
The Austrian actor -- now a governor -- whose name is most instantly recognizable around the world today is, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the son of a policeman from Graz who became a multimillionaire superstar in America. He turned his body-building career into a world class action star, going from The Terminator to Governator.
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