Classical Music in Old Movies: The Blue Danube Waltz

Statue of Johann Strauss II, Vienna Austria

What do old movies and classical music have in common? I’m sure there are many possible answers to that and you could name a few of your own, but for me it’s that I once thought they were both boring and something I would never enjoy. Which makes me wonder now, what the heck was wrong with me?! I only have myself to blame for the way I felt about old movies, but with classical music? I sort of blame McDonald’s for that one! :-)

Okay, so I’m only half joking about that but if you remember this popular McDonald’s Commercial from 1986 it might help to understand why (although after reading the comments on YouTube, I think I may be the only one who didn’t like it!)

After seeing and listening to that commercial a million times, not only did I find the little girl annoying, but the piece she was playing on the piano became unpleasant for me as well. As much as I now cringe at the thought of not liking Beethoven’s Fur Elise or any Beethoven piece for that matter, that only added to my dislike of classical music.

I remember how I came to love old movies, but I’m not even sure when or how I changed my mind about classical music. Suffice it to say though that I now love and appreciate it more than I ever thought I would! It’s the one type of music I can listen to anytime, anywhere, and it has become a recent goal of mine to study it in more depth.

The Blue Danube Waltz in Movies and Television

Goodbye Mr. ChipsSo when I was watching the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) earlier this week and saw the beautiful scene of Greer Garson and Robert Donat dancing to The Blue Danube waltz, it gave me an idea.

Since I’m sure there are many other examples of classical music being associated with old movies, I thought of doing a series of posts starting with this one discussing various ties between the two.

I’m guessing it only takes a few seconds of watching that scene for most to recognize the well known tune, even if they can’t quite remember where they heard it before. Composed in 1866 by Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, The Blue Danube waltz was also featured in the movies A Night to Remember (1958), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Titanic (1997).

If you haven’t seen any of those movies, it’s quite possible you heard it in one of the numerous television commercials it has appeared in over the years including recent iPhone, Doritos, and Subway commercials. I’d even bet that some of you are a bit tired of hearing it much like I was with Fur Elise back in the 1980’s. :-)

Future ‘Classical Music in Movies’ Series Topics

Two future topics I plan on exploring for this series are how earlier classical music influenced classic film score composers and the use of classical music in the animated Disney film Fantasia (1940). I’ve been meaning to watch more classic Disney movies for some time now, so I’m looking forward to starting with that one.

Do you enjoy listening to classical music? Can you think of other classical music pieces that have been featured prominently in old movies?

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One comment

  1. John says:

    I really don’t listen to classical music but the first time I was introduced to it was probably when I was real young and heard Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture in The Bad News Bears 70’s film. It really hit you with all them cannons going off.

    I really appreciate the great film composers like Max Steiner and Alfred Newman. I always see their names pop up in classic films. A film score can definitely make the film. Even in movies other than musicals the back ground music adds to the scene. The drama and tension is all accented by the background music. Sometimes we take this for granted when watching a movie.

    I did discover a new great composer in the relatively modern film A league Of Their Own with Hans Zimmer. His moving piece Life Goes On was so fitting.

    There is so much great music out there I guess it is hard for me to get into classical music in earnest. I would love to learn more about it. But for me there are so many great songs in the past I am constantly rediscovering in The Great American songbook it makes it hard to delve into the classical genre.