Culture > Events > Romy Schneider and Sissi: The Princess of Europe
Event Date: 24th Jan 2018 | 12:30
Romy Schneider and Sissi: The Princess of Europe
5.29, Virginia Woolf Building, 22 Kingsway, London
King’s German Studies Research Seminar
Marion Hallet, King’s College London
‘Romy Schneider and Sissi: the Princess star of Europe’
My presentation examines the star image of Austrian-born actress Romy Schneider in the first years of her career. Schneider was a major film star in continental Europe from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s and presents an image deeply rooted in the popularity of her role as Empress Elisabeth of Austria in the Sissi series of films directed by Ernst Marischka (Sissi, 1955; Sissi: die junge Kaiserin, 1956; and Sissi: Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin, 1957). I will discuss the reasons Schneider’s image, built from Sissi as a wholesome, hopeful and virginal princess, achieved such spectacular success and impact in post-war Europe’s popular culture. I will briefly evoke the foundation of that image in films prior to Sissi, in particular Mädchenjahre einer Königin (Ernst Marischka, 1954), as we can trace in their narratives the origins of two key aspects of the construction of femininity in Schneider’s persona: the relationship to a domineering mother figure (often played by Schneider’s own mother, Magda), and the portrayal of a young and romantic queen. I will then consider how the Sissi trilogy lastingly fixed Schneider’s image, turning the starlet into a trans-European star. I will argue that the popularity of Schneider’s pristine persona complexly articulates Germanic conceptions of feminine identity and on-screen fairy tale and coming-of-age narratives that echoed the young star’s own coming-of-age off-camera. Throughout my presentation, and in order to illustrate my argument, I will consider another transition charted in the Sissi films: the one Schneider made iconographically, by means of costumes, from Bavarian princess to Habsburg Empress.