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

The Blue Angel (1930)

"The Blue Angel" (1930) featured image

The Blue Angel (1930). 99 minutes. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Emil Jannings (as Professor Immanuel Rath), Marlene Dietrich (as Lola Lola), Kurt Gerron (as Kiepert, the magician), Hans Albers (as Mazeppa, the strongman), and Reinhold Bernt (as the clown).  Songs by Friedrich Holländer and Robert Liebmann.

Roger Ebert concludes his review of The Blue Angel by placing its characters in historical context: “You can glimpse the sadomasochism of the Nazi pose in the strange relationship of Professor Rath and Lola Lola.”  Although there are no explicit allusions to Hitler’s political movement in the 1930 film, Ebert’s suggestion that a creepy Nazi power dynamic is evident in the Jannings-Dietrich portrayal is provocative and probably accurate.  The Blue Angel was originally released in the years just before Germany’s official transformation into a Nazi state, and it surely picks up on those larger cultural currents.  But the film is also a weird sort of backstage musical that leaves a bad taste … Read the rest