Blonde Venus (1932)

Blonde Venus (1932)

Blonde Venus (1932). 93 minutes. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich (as Helen Faraday), Herbert Marshall (as Ned Faraday), Cary Grant (as Nick Townsend), Dickie Moore (as Johnny Faraday), Gene Morgan (as Ben Smith), Rita La Roy (as Taxi Belle Hooper), Robert Emmett O’Connor (as Dan O’Connor), Sidney Toler (as Detective Wilson), and Hattie McDaniel (as Cora).

Blonde Venus is a pre-Code musical drama about a woman who starts out as a kind of fairy-tale nymph, becomes a wife and devoted mother, embarks on a career as a glamorous cabaret starlet, and ends up as a vagrant on the run from the law on the American highway. The film is a hodgepodge that mixes elements of devoted mother love with glitzy nightclub routines, a road story, and a sleazy tale of financial gain. But it primarily focuses on its protagonist Helen’s search for love and acceptance as an intense dreamer and escapist, both on- and offstage—especially offstage, for … Read the rest

Saratoga (1937)

"Saratoga" (1937) featured image

Saratoga (1937).  92 minutes.  Directed by Jack Conway.  Starring Jean Harlow (as Carol Clayton), Clark Gable (as Duke Bradley), Walter Pidgeon (as Hartley Madison), Lionel Barrymore (as Grandpa Clayton), Una Merkel (as Fritzi), Frank Morgan (as Jesse Kiffmeyer), and Hattie McDaniel (as Rosetta).

Saratoga is Jean Harlow’s final film.  She collapsed on the set on May 20, 1937 with 90% of shooting completed, and after a drawn-out series of medical consultations was eventually diagnosed with kidney failure.  Her illness was likely brought on by a childhood bout of scarlet fever and was complicated by her reaction to oral surgery and a recent sun poisoning incident.  Unfortunately, even if Harlow’s kidney failure had been diagnosed immediately, her chances of survival were very low: modern dialysis treatment was not a possibility at the time.  Harlow slipped into a coma on June 6 and died the following day.

The movie itself is a fairly pedestrian yarn about horses—lots of horses. Carol Clayton (Jean … Read the rest