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Film / Almost Angels

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Almost Angels (released in the UK as Born to Sing and in Austria and Germany as Ein Gruss aus Wien) is a 1962 Disney film about a group of boys in the Vienna Boys' Choir. The main character is Tony Fiala, a working class boy whose father sees no future for him in music. Nevertheless, with the support of his mother, he successfully auditions and becomes a member of the choir. While in the choir Tony faces both academic challenges and the jealousy of one of the older boys, Peter, whose deepening voice is signalling the imminent end of his own choirboy career.

While the lead characters were played by professional actors, many of the supporting child actors were actual members of the Vienna Boys Choir. The filming took place in the Augarten Palais, the surroundings of Vienna and some other places of the beautiful Austrian landscape. Not related to the Paul Hogan film Almost an Angel.

Almost Angels provides examples of:

  • Boarding School: The school for the Vienna Boys Choir is an Austrian example.
  • The Bully: Peter is a relatively mild bully toward Tony, until he has a Heel–Face Turn
  • Cherubic Choir: The Vienna Boys Choir
  • Childish Pillow Fight: The boys get involved in a pillow fight after hours, during a time when they are supposed to sleep. The choir director hears them, but waits outside the door for a few minutes before knocking on it, at which point all the boys scramble back into their beds before they go to sleep. The implication is that the director is tolerant of a certain degree of childish mischief, and was willing to let them have a bit of fun before getting them to stop so that they could get enough sleep. The pillow fight also fits in with one of the themes of the movie, which is that the choirboy may sing like angels but they still act much like ordinary children.
  • Child Prodigy: Arguably, all the choirboys have to be musical prodigies (not necessarily geniuses in other ways), though Peter is considered to have a particularly high level of talent even for a world class choir, and shows strong potential as a composer and director.
  • Classical Music: The repertoire in the movie is mostly a mix of Classical Music and Austrian folk.
  • Class Trip: Vienna Boys Choir class trips are in fact concert tours around the world. The ability to travel is one of the prime motivators for Tony the join the choir, and is one of the things Peter fears he will miss out on when he has to leave the choir.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Peter, the end of his choirboy career is marked by his voice breaking.
  • A Degree in Useless: Tony's dad fears that musical education will do nothing for Tony and even interfere with more serious topics, like mathematics.
  • Drama Club: In a variant on the theme, all choristers are required to take part in musical theatric productions.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Not everyone, just Tony and Schubert.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Tony's father assumes that Tony will grow up to drive trains, just like him.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Peter resents the fact that Tony still has a high treble voice and is getting the lead parts that Peter used to play.
  • Growing Up Sucks: A very mild example. Voice change means choir boys are out of the choir and can't go on tours with the choir.
  • One-Gender School: All boys school
  • Spear Counterpart Sailor Fuku: The choir uniform is a sailor suit, though using trousers instead of skirts.
    • This is because at one time the school was an adjunct institution to the Imperial Naval Academy.
  • Show Within a Show and School Play: The movie features several musical performances, but the one that fits this best is the operetta "Tales From Old Vienna."
  • The Show Must Go On
    • During a charity performance for children at a hospital where Tony has a lead part, Peter locks him in a room in order to force him to mis his cue. Tony climbs out onto the window ledge and comes and comes in to the room where the choir is performing through the window.
    • When Peter's voice finally gives out before just before playing a major role in a play, the other boys try to cover for him by having him lip sync the role.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: The boys of the choir perform both male and female parts in an operetta.