"Almost Angels" began as a story written by R.A. Stemmle. That became a Screenplay by Vernon Harris. Steve Previn then directed it into its final 93 minutes of entertainment. I first saw it at the Varsity Theater in Canyon, Texas. Working for the local radio station, I asked the theater manager if I could bring down the station's Ampex reel-to-reel and tape the soundtrack. (No one even thought of having video at home in those days!) So I plugged into the projection room amp and preserved the audio of this special entertainment treat. It was later dubbed to cassette and listened to again and again for many years. Don't even think about asking me to sell my original VHS copy (shown at left)! --- Gene Bitner, Amarillo, Texas
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Dear Webmaster, Having been born with polio in 1955, a week before my third birthday, my older four siblings and I were placed in an Indiana State children's home/institution - then the oldest and largest in the world. Every Easter morning, the choir from our private on-campus K-12 school would perform a Sunrise Service, clad in fine robes with candles adorning the facility's chapel. These were the only light, as darkness yet reigned outside. In time, I auditioned for - and was selected to participate in - these same choirs, having started in the third grade through my sixth grade year. I loved to sing, and people told me then I should have been a Vienna Choirboy, whatever that was.
Every week in that facility, we were treated to a full-length motion picture, also viewed in the chapel which doubled as an auditorium. On the stage, a full-size cinema screen was rolled down from the lighting, so for the next hour or so, we were transported from our daily lives in the children's home to wherever the celluloid reels would cart us.
In 1962, we were introduced to ALMOST ANGELS, which officially introduced me to the Vienna Choirboys. It was one of the first times I ever saw a children's choir outside our own. Immediately during the film, my interests increased at an extraordinary rate. From that day on until my own voice 'broke' a la Peter's in the film, my heart's ambition was to be another Tony Fiala. It is amazing what one film could do to impress the mind of a then-eight-year-old child that would remain with me even to this day.
As an adult, I searched practically every Disney store I could find in my travels to procure a VHS copy of ALMOST ANGELS, as DVDs were not yet produced. And then, the Christmas of 2006, which happened to be the last Christmas I would ever spend with my beloved wife, as she passed away the following March, there, in my stocking was the VHS, complete in its oversized protective casing. With immense love and joy, my wife (in pace requiescat) restored to me my yearning to be a member of the prestigious Vienna Choirboys. She knew of my passion as a child in that children's home, for it was there I met her during the start of my eighth grade year. We looked at each other that first day of Band class and knew we were soulmates. My loving wife always knew what I wanted in my heart and went out of her way time and time again to provide it for me. To this day, my VHS copy of ALMOST ANGELS remains in its case; I have never watched it, although I did come close a few times by removing the protective cellophane cover. For some reason, I always felt if I were to watch that particular copy, it would take away from my childhood passion, and it would lessen the value of the love my late wife had for me by finding this particular copy. I will never watch this VHS, but I have viewed the film on YouTube and fell in love with it, with my childhood dreams, and with my beloved wife all over again.
For those of you who have viewed this film, do not allow a single viewing to satiate you, for if you watch it but once, you never really watched it at all. You will have missed so much in a single viewing. There is so much beauty, love, friendship, and life in this wonderful film. Sit down with your children, your grandchildren. Teach to them the wonders music of such quality can bestow upon them, and watch their faces. Encourage them to sing, for there is a Tony Fiala in every one of us. Tony was right: "For you, a letter, and for thee, a package from across the sea!" Sing in God's Choirs now, Tony, for He welcomes every voice to His Throne. You are no longer merely ALMOST an ANGEL; you are with my wife, who truly IS an angel. - Jack D Reynolds - Anderson, Indiana
I just wanted to say I absolutely LOVED Almost Angels. After "coming out" on a forum about how I loved this movie, someone offered to send me a DVD copied from his VHS. Finally now the movie is on DVD, but it's too much money for me. But nevermind that, at least I saw the movie and it was WONDERFUL.
Greetings from South Africa..
Oh, and I wish one day I can see Austria as it looks in the movie. So AWESOME! I only saw bits of Austria in 2010, for a brief travel through the country.
Of course, Tony is my favourite, HE is why children should be protected. You do not find children pure of heart like that everywhere. I work with children every day and I can tell you-- you get all sorts of children... Not all of them are as sweet as Vincent was. Take care and have a lovely day. - Morne van der Berg - Oudtshoorn, South Africa
For several years now a friend has told me about a Disney movie he remembers with the Vienna Boys Choir but could never recall any specifics. One week ago I purchased the dvd of "ALMOST ANGELS" and now know what he was talking about. My family watched a lot of Disney shows over the years but I can't say I remember seeing this till just last week. (And I was in my Catholic church choir for a time while in elementary school back in the 60's)
First let me say the film is wonderful. I have a large collection of childrens films and "ALMOST ANGELS" is a great addition to it. I enjoy the talents of young people; acting, singing, dancing, and am pleased the internet has allowed me to discover so many from other countries around the world. I completely agree with you that all types of "show business performing" are the only place a kid can be an adults equal or better.
I often wish I had the financial means to offer such opportunities. Instead I must be content with writing stories on my own that involve kids for my own enjoyment. Through the internet, two years ago, I found a British boys choir from South London called LIBERA. I was immediately hooked by what I heard and saw. In 2010 I even had the good fortune to see them in person in Atlanta Georgia USA, not far from where I live. That experience inspired a story which took me more than a year to write. Please keep in mind, during that time, I had no specific story or plot knowledge of "ALMOST ANGELS" other than it was about the Vienna Boys Choir. Imagine my surprise to see a plot element I used (one of the boys is unable to perform and is given a chance to conduct the choir instead) was already used in Disney's film. While my story is completely different than "ALMOST ANGELS" it still may seem to others to be copying when, in fact, it was an idea that grew out of the characters and story themselves. It was not originally intended by the author. I would appreciate your thoughts about it if and when you have time to take a look.
"LIBERA: a fictional story" is available as a free pdf download from this website I created to share it with LIBERA's many worldwide fans: www.4shirtproductions.com
There is no actual production company, just me, but the website must have a name and it is self explanatory. I hope you and "ALMOST ANGELS" many fans will enjoy it too. Please do not be afraid to comment - good or bad. I am not a professional writer and I know next to nothing about music and the lives of British children but believe I have done a good job.
Thank you for your time and your wonderful website, Edward Hafner - Lakemont, Georgia
I just wanted to let you know that I've been able to identify most of the tunes in the 'Strauss Opera' from Almost Angels. The opening chorus is 'Viennese Bonbons,' turning into the 'Morning Papers Waltz' at Ferdie's solo. The soldiers' entry is, of course, Radetzky March. Tony & Friedel's duet I haven't been able to identify. The next song is 'Stadt und Land' ('City and Country'). The next duet, again, I don't know. Next comes 'Tritsch Tratsch Polka' and finally a bit of 'Roses From the South.'
Also, I've attached a photo you might be interested in. It's a picture of the Vienna Boys Choir rehearsing in a studio with Deanna Durbin for the 1938 film Mad About Music.
I'm not sure if they were the actual choir who appeared in the film or not, but they recorded Gounod's Ave Maria with her.
If you'd like to give image credit for the photo, it was originally from this this Deanna Durbin fansite. Also, I don't know if you saw it, but according to the video description on YouTube the choir seen in the film were the St. Luke's Choristers from Long Beach, California, lip-syncing to the recording by Deanna and the Vienna Boys Choir. Interesting! Best wishes, Elisabeth F.- Troy, New York
I was born in November 1961 and loved this film over the years when it was on television over here in South Australia. I was a Catholic choirboy boy at our big church 'Saint Mark's Cathedral in Port Pirie' South Australia from 1968-1976 and my voice never broke it just changed slowly over one whole year and I almost 17 when I got my 'big' guy voice. I left the actual choir at age 15 with my voice intact and I was a treble soprano like most of The Vienna Boys Choir.
The first memory of seeing Almost Angels was in 1968 when I was 7 and I drove my grandmother nuts by keeping on asking her could I join the actual Vienna Boys Choir but she said I would have to learn to sing and speak in German FIRSTLY but told me only Austrian boys could join the famous choir.. Well it turns out that I had a Austrian friend who was a year younger than me and he and we used to play together and listen to the beautiful music of the choir on vinyl recordings. I did wear a white sailorsuit when aged 8 and wore the blue one made by Dieter's mummy as she was a first class dressmaker and a great baker too it seems as I was always over her house on most Saturdays to have an apple or apricot Danish. I was nicknamed 'DANE' by Dieter's Gran as I was really Patrick Durward but I unofficially became 'Dane Durwardtze and I knew a lot of Latin hymns.
I was more like Hennie Scott with my round face 'grey-blue eyes' dimples and short brown hair and I was easily talked in to stuff but I still like this film but can not get hold of a DVD here in Australia which is so annoying. I still like the 'Postman's Song and all the other songs and yes I've seen the real Choir in the flesh twice. Oh yes I was an Austrian boy in Children of the World Day in 1971 and I wore a funky pair of black lederhosen and TYROLEON hat.
I wish they would make a newer film but 45 years later with Peter as the head of the grand palace of music as well as a famous conductor and Tony the choirmaster. This time add the modern choirboys to the film and have it as a three parter or six part mini series. And release an album of songs from both movies and the new movie with a two hour movie of the history of this choir. I would appear in film as a father of one of the new comers and a boy who looked like me could play my son as then I sort of would achieve my boyhood dream of being in this famous choir. - Patrick J. Durward, Adelaide, South Australia
I first saw the film, ALMOST ANGELS, when I was a very small boy being raised in the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home. Every weekend, they would show us children movies in our chapel on the drop-down theater screen. One such film was ALMOST ANGELS. I immediately fell in love with it and yearned to be a Vienna Choir Boy. I had often been told I had the voice, but due to my situation, this dream was stillborn.
Today, I am 51. Throughout my years since I first saw this film, I tried to find it, either in VHS or DVD format. I knew it was out there, but when I searched markets such as Ebay or Amazon, people wanted more money thank I could afford. When I went to Disney specialty stores, I persistently requested they try to locate the film for me. All of them, including the one in downtown Chicago a year ago, informed me the film was not available on VHS or DVD, that Disney had no intentions of releasing it. I found this most disappointing. Then, last year, for Christmas, my loving, lovely wife, who was also in the audience during my childhood viewing, knew how much I wanted the movie and found it over the Internet for me. When I opened my present, I burst into tears because she, too, knew how much being a Vienna Choir Boy meant to me then, and how my dreams were shattered. Today, each time I view it, I cry again because I absolutely love the movie. Even though I never had a valid chance at becoming what I knew I could be, I relive this dream with this movie.
I would like to think someday Disney might opt to release it on DVD with extras, etc. And who knows? Maybe some day, someone may remake it. I wonder if the script and/or score are available for schools to produce as their annual play or something of the sort? Anyway, thank you for your wonderful site. I shall visit it often. In Pace Requiescat, Tony! - Jack D Reynolds - Anderson, Indiana
Hi - I first saw the film 'BORN TO SING' when I was about 10 or 11. Then quite a few years later I saw it (by fortunate accident) when it was called 'ALMOST ANGELS'. It impressed me loads, in fact even today I list it as my number 1 film. I was shocked to hear of Vincent's death almost 10 years ago....he was only 1 year older the me. I can still see him as a young boy. Although the music was great, in fact it introduced me to Strauss and classical music, it was more the relationship the boys developed over the film. I bought the video on ebay last year....quite cheap, and would love to get it on DVD (Com'on Walt) because I fear my tape may snap at any moment.
I looked at the film again yesterday....it's difficult to believe, when looking at Vincent...(he was only 11ish), that he died age 50....where did that time go? The Title 'BORN TO SING' comes from a line in the film where Tony's mother is talking to his father trying to convince him to let Tony go to the choir, after successful audition. The title 'ALMOST ANGELS' comes after the boys return after the postman opera in the hospital....after Tony's window entrance, Peter is 'interviewed' by the choir master...and the term was used there. I think possibly, one reason why the film isn't released on disc yet is royalties...to the V.B.C. And the other stars... - Bryan Denham, London, UK
I stumbled on your wonderful site by accident while looking up the Movie. Needless to say, I was delighted at the find.
I have always loved the movie, and have fond memories of seeing it in the theater when it was in release. At the time, I was a Big Brother with Catholic Big Brothers in Los Angeles, and I took my Little Brother to see it. As it happened, shortly thereafter, the Vienna Boys Choir made an appearance in Los Angeles, and I also took him to see that. We were delighted to find that we recognized a couple of boys from the movie who were actually in the choir at the performance we attended. It was a great experience, and one which still evokes memories for me. Your site brought it all back, and I thank you. - Walter Brents, Ontario, California
I'm just curious about exactly what time of year "Almost Angels" was filmed. There is mention that the boy originally chosen to play a major role refused the part because he wanted to be with his family during the summer. But could the filming actually have been done just during the summer? I'm a bit skeptical about that...it must have been longer, but then the Disney film crew would run the risk of disrupting the choir's rehearsal, performance, and touring schedules. Any info?
Also this past summer I was able to purchase via Internet a copy of Die Wiener Saengerknaben by Alexander Witeschnik. The 1968 book gives a brief history of the Vienna Boy's Choir and tells about the daily routines/tours of the group. Of the many photos there are some pix around "Almost Angels." Two are amusing in that the captions describe the then director Walter Tautschnig welcoming four new choir members; astute "Almost Angels" fans would immediately recognize those four "new kids" as the four lead kid actors from the movie! - Robert Moy, New York City, New York
P.S. I've been a fan of the Vienna Boys Choir since 1973, and was acquainted with a former member, the late Stephan Temmer, who was a Saengerknaben during the years just before World War 2.)
I was bored one evening, so I basically just started to search for all kinds of stuff online, then I stumbled across your website about one of my favourite movies. My mom used to rent it for us when we were younger. Last year for Christmas, my brother bought a VHS copy of it on Ebay....I was completely overjoyed!
I'm so glad there are other people that are fans of the movie as much as I am...A lot of people I work with never even heard of the movie before. I wish they would play it on "The Wonderful World of Disney" - Gayle-Marie Bender, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Rest in Peace, Tony!
Vincent Winter was born December 29, 1947. He died on November 2, 1998, near London, of a heart attack, at the age of 50.
At a much younger age, Vincent was the child actor who charmed audiences in the 1953 British film, "The Kidnappers". It was a story of two orphaned boys who were sent to live with their grandfather in Nova Scotia. Vincent received a special miniature Academy Award for his performance as the six-year-old in the film.
He also starred in the 1959 monster movie "Gorgo" and the 1963 fantasy "The Three Lives of Thomasina". ("Gorgo" was really a terrible movie, but not because of Vincent. By the time he did "Thomasina" his voice had changed.) His other film credits include "Greyfriars' Bobby", and "The Horse Without a Head".
Early in 1998 he was invited to Hollywood for a group photograph of former Oscar winners. In his adult life, Vincent worked behind the cameras, serving as a production assistant on Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" in 1971 and Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" in 1989.
I do hope that Vincent now knows how special his role as "Tony" became to so many of us. --- Gene Bitner
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