Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1932. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Jules Furthman, S.K. Lauren. Cinematography by Bert Glennon. Produced by Josef von Sternberg. Music by W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Paul Marquardt, Oscar Potoker. Production Design by Wiard Ihnen. Costume Design by Travis Banton. Film Editing by Josef von Sternberg.
Marlene Dietrich conceived the original story for this film, which was purchased from her by Universal Studios solely on the grounds that she relinquish credit (which she did). She plays a happily married woman whose husband one day reveals to her that he is dying of a horrible disease and must travel to Europe for a very expensive surgery.
To raise money for the trip and operation she goes back to her old life in the theatre, one she had given up for her husband, and ends up becoming the kept woman of a rich playboy (Cary Grant). When her husband finds out about this (after he is cured), he sends her packing, and against his wishes she takes her young son with her as well.
Dietrich fans will love the musical numbers (the part where she enters a scene dressed as a gorilla is a real pip, to which Uma Thurman later paid tribute in Batman and Robin), but as much as the story tries to be involving it’s never more than annoying fluff.
Still, it looks great and Dietrich performs with as much cheekbone glamour as is possible.
The Criterion Collection: #934