‘To Catch a Thief’ (1955) with Cary Grant was Academy Award winner Grace Kelly’s last film with director Alfred Hitchcock. 40 years ago, as Princess Grace of Monaco, she visited Vienna’s English Theatre for a reading of poems from ‘Evocations’ to raise money for her children’s charity, the Princess Grace Foundation.
A new exhibition at the district museum looks at the history of theatre and cinema in the Josefstadt.
One of Vienna’s most splendid theatres was the Stadttheater on the corner of Laudongasse and Skodagasse, designed by the Jewish theatre architect Oskar Kaufmann in 1913-14. It was a popular operetta theatre and briefly flourished again after WWII, but eventually fell victim to the general demise of the theatre in 1960s Vienna and was torn down; from 1969, the plain new building erected in its place housed a public library; since 2004, it serves as the headquarters of the City of Vienna’s music schools.
Theater in der Josefstadt is not only one of Vienna’s leading theatres – at the ripe old age of 230 years, it is also the city’s oldest playhouse. In the late 1930s it went through one of its darkest times when many of its stars and crowd favourites – such as Max Reinhardt, Leon Askin or Peter Lorre – found themselves forced to emigrate in view of the increasingly hostile political climate.
Even Vienna’s cinematic history began at Theater in der Josefstadt: On 14 January 1847, Ludwig Döbler first presented ‘magical moving images’ here that were ‘brought to life without the action of mechanics, with merely the help of light.’
The last cinema in the Josefstadt was closed in 1990. The Vitascop was opened in 1908 and renamed Albertkino in 1927. In the early 1990s the building was refurbished by architect Boris Podrecca to house an Erste Bank branch. Elements of the former cinema were integrated into the new design.
The 8th district is also the home of Vienna’s English Theatre. Over the decades, this renowned institution has attracted a host of international stars, from Joan Fontaine or Anthony Quinn to Princess Grace of Monaco, Judy Dench or Benedict Cumberbatch.