Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1941. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Norman Krasna. Cinematography by Rudolph Mate. Produced by Rene Clair, Joe Pasternak. Music by Frank Skinner. Production Design by Jack Otterson. Costume Design by Rene Hubert. Film Editing by Frank Gross. Academy Awards 1941.
Fishermen casting their nets in the Mississippi River find a fancy wedding dress in their haul and are reminded of a century-old story that connects the dress to a legend about a notorious woman. They flash back to the mid-nineteenth century, when an adventurous beauty (Marlene Dietrich) showed up in Sin City looking to capture the heart of a wealthy banker (Roland Young) whose money could take away all her problems. Unfortunately, a handsome ship captain (Bruce Cabot) comes along who knows about Dietrich’s past romantic conquests in Europe and plans to be her latest and last. Dietrich seduces one while dallying with the other one, getting herself into enough trouble to eventually need to pretend to be her own cousin and keep up the charade to avoid foiling her own plans. The double role allows for the great icon to poke fun at her image, which she does willingly, but one can tell that the actress is herself so very unimpressed with the childish plot that she’s hardly more invested than to make sure she looks perfect in every shot (which she does). Lit as beautifully as a store-room mannequin, Dietrich’s presence here lacks the mystery that her usual co-conspirator Josef von Sternberg brought out of her, and French emigre Rene Clair is as bored at the helm by the script as his star is.