Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


BLONDE VENUS (1932). Director: Joseph von Sternberg.

While on a camping trip in Germany Ned Faraday (Herbert Marshall) comes across Helen (Marlene Dietrich) swimming with other pretty chorus girls and it's love at first sight. In one of the swiftest transitions I've ever seen in any movie, practically the next second  the two are married, living in the U.S., and have a cute little boy named Johnny (Dickie Moore). [I mean there isn't even a two-second shot of their wedding let alone any scenes of courtship.] It develops early on that Ned has a serious illness and needs a lot of money to travel to get treatment, so Helen goes back to work [billed as the "Blonde Venus" in a campy "African" night club number in which she first appears in a gorilla suit] and gets the money from playboy Nick Townsend (Cary Grant). What follows is a series of misunderstandings and recriminations, with Helen on the run with Johnny and Ned in pursuit and so on. This is neither one of Dietrich's best performances nor one of her better movies, and Grant, Marshall and even little Dickie Moore come off better than Dietrich. Blonde Venus is the kind of dopey movie in which even while on the run and hungry for food Dietrich can somehow manage to afford a maid [the always-wonderful Hattie McDaniel]! The "Hot Voodoo" number, while utterly impossible to take seriously, is a hoot, and Dietrich's flat singing as delightfully awful as ever. Sidney Toler plays a police detective hunting Helen, and Sterling Holloway has a small role as a friend of Ned's in the early scenes in Germany.

Verdict: At least Dietrich looks beautiful no matter what her tribulations. **.

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