Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Blue Angel (Josef Von Sternberg) ***1/2

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans Albers

Background: Josef Von Sternberg and Emil Jannings previously collaborated on 1928's The Last Command. Prior to this, Marlene Dietrich had acted in a few German silent films, but was mostly known for her stage performances.

Story: Professor Rath (Jannings) disapproves of his students visiting a local cabaret to see Lola Lola's (Dietrich) act. He takes a visit to the cabaret in an attempt to catch them there, but finds himself drawn to Lola.

Thoughts: Emil Jannings scores again with another compelling performance in a von Sternberg film. He does a terrific job with the sad portrait of a noble professor whose desire causes his downfall. This was the movie that made Marlene Dietrich a star. Her performance here isn't as accomplished or provocative as in her Hollywood follow up Morocco, but she still has a wonderful screen presence and it's easy to see why this man falls for her. Von Sternberg is a great storyteller and he moves swiftly through the plot here, nicely building up to the dramatic moment when Professor Rath must perform in his old hometown. The ending is perhaps a bit overly melodramatic, but it is suitably set up by the rest of the movie. This film was made in both English and German language versions, but I recommend watching the German version with subtitles as the case is more comfortable with the dialogue.

Postscript: This role won Dietrich a contract with Paramount and she worked with Von Sternberg later that year in Morocco, cementing her as a Hollywood star.

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