Monday, November 21, 2011

Blonde Venus with Marlene Dietrich & Cary Grant - 1932

This has to be one of my favourite movies of all time, for many different reasons. First off, I ADORE Marlene Dietrich. She was beautiful, smart, controversial and an all-round entertainer. On top of that she was super talented, and starred in some pretty good movies. She was stylish and provocative at the same time, wearing men's suits and skimpy cabaret outfits in movies and in her performances... And on top of all of that she refused to play any part in the rising Nazi government in her birth country, left for the US (even after she was offered a substantial amount to stay in Germany), and became a staunch anti-Nazi, never afraid to raise her voice when needed.
But back to the movie. Marlene Dietrich plays Helen Faraday and it also stars Cary Grant (probably one of the first movies that he was actually a main character in if I am not mistaken), as the debonair Nick Townsend who tries to steal Helen away from her husband and son.
Helen Faraday plays a wife and mother in need of money who returns to the stage in the character of Blonde Venus. She falls in love with Nick Townsend but is constantly struggling with the love she still has for her husband and son and cannot choose between the two lifestyles. You know, one of those love triangles that have existed since the beginnings of time, therefore timeless and always end in heartbreak.
An added plus is that there are three numbers performed by Marlene as Blonde Venus in this movie, You Little So-And-So, I Couldn't Be Annoyed and Hot Voodoo. Did I already mention that I love Marlene Dietrich as a singer too?!
There are some gorgeous costumes in this movie, some of which I wish I could replicate and pull off myself, especially the one where she is wearing a plain, long black dress and a small black cap. Beautiful.

Lastly, Blonde Venus was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who made about 7 movies with Marlene as his leading lady. In my opinion they made for a great partnership: intrigue, style, great story lines and pretty amazing pictures. I love the shadows and the starkness of the lighting, especially in this one (it's also very apparent in Morocco). It's exactly this type of lighting that I try to recreate in photography, that stark, overexposed look of old 1920's and 1930's movies.

Anyway, this is my go-to movie when I am feeling a little down, a little plain and in need of a good old crying session. Nothing beats it.
Other Marlene/von Sternberg collaborations to see are: Blue Angel (with the performance of "Falling in Love Again"), Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress and The Devil is a Woman.

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