A Lovely Couple

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A lovely couple of posts, that is, by me, at The Auteurs’ Notebook. First, an Image of the Day — light on verbiage, heavy on grim-visaged gruesomeness. Second, the latest edition of The Forgotten, in which I examine the myth-making of Marlene Dietrich, and attempt to burn a hole in her tapestry of lies using the cigarette-end of film criticism. Uno Henning and Fritz Kortner will be there — what’s keeping you?

As usual, leave your comments over at the Auteurs’, if possible.

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2 Responses to “A Lovely Couple”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    What an utterly magnificent movie this is! Incredibly, it was a box-office flop – so much so that Dietrich and Bernhardt (who remained friends throughout their Hollywood days) used to refer to it jokingly as DIE FRAU NACH DER MAN NICHT SEHNT (The Woman One Does NOT Desire!)

    This film wholly trashes the myth that Sternberg was Marlene’s creator or Svengali. While she looks plump and gauche throughout THE BLUE ANGEL, she is totally ravishing here. She looks easily as good as she does in her Hollywood films, and her acting is considerably better.

    So why did Marlene try to draw a veil over her German career? I’d say it was partly due to her problematic relationship with Germany and her own German identity. Her anti-Nazi stance and enthusiastic support for the Allied war effort made her widely unpopular in Germany for decades to come – so much so that Neo-Nazis even defaced her grave in Berlin.

    On a more mundane level, it suited her personal mythology to be a young actress who became a star overnight – rather than a seasoned pro who’d been slogging away for almost a decade.

    Remember that Marlene was pushing 30 when she went to Hollywood, and her age was definitely an issue for studio publicists. Her daughter Maria Riva has written of her humiliation at being placed in a school class with children three or four years younger than herself, purely because Marlene did not dare acknowledge her daughter’s age – or, by extension, her own.

    So this film remains excluded from the Marlene Myth – a pity, as it could so easily be one of its highlights!

  2. The fact that the Marlene of this film has much more in common with the Marlene of Morocco than that of The Blue Angel suggests that effort was actually made to dirty her up and emphasise her imperfections in TBA. Which would seem reasonable, given the character. Or partly reasonable, since she has to seduce a middle-class professor from his comfortable life: arguably she should be more glamorous. But the perversity of it all works.

    This means that Sternberg DID reinvent Marlene for that one film, whereas the styling of her in Hollywood is very much building on what had already been established in her German career.

    I agree that she was probably at pains not to seem like “a German film star” and age was certainly a factor too. And then there is the strange push-pull of the relationship with Sternberg, whom she liked to credit for everything, even though (or because) this displeased him. “She claims I taught her everything, but I did not teach her to talk about me,” he says in his book.

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