Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection [2 Discs] [DVD]

Up until 2006, it seemed like Universal was ignoring its 1930s library (apart from the horror movies), and especially the pre-1948 Paramount Pictures titles that it owns. That all changed with Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection and similar two-platter/four-sided collections devoted to Mae West and Carole Lombard. This volume is the jewel of the bunch, featuring three titles directed by Josef von Sternberg -- Morocco, Blonde Venus, and The Devil Is a Woman -- that would have been worthwhile by themselves at this price level. The fact that they're paired up with René Clair's delightful The Flame of New Orleans is an added layer of icing on the cake, and one can forgive the presence of the one weak link in the combo, the rather silly 1947-vintage romantic thriller Golden Earrings, directed by Mitchell Leisen. The transfers are as good as anything ever seen on home video in any format on these movies, with images on the von Sternberg works that look like silver sprayed on black, and the sound has also been worked on so that it's sharp and clear, and presented at a decent volume as well. The chaptering for all five movies is generous and there are trailers included as a bonus on those for which they're available.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Trailers

Synopsis

Blonde Venus
Marlene Dietrich stars as Helen Faraday, a German cabaret singer in the States whose husband, Ned, falls ill and his only hope is to receive expensive medical treatment at a clinic in Europe. Struggling to afford his care and to support their son Johnny, she works at a nightclub and succumbs to the advances of wealthy playboy Nick, whose gifts assist in her husband's recovery. Soon Ned recovers and returns, but when he discovers that Helen has been unfaithful, he divorces her, threatening to take their son. After running with little Johnny, she ends up a prostitute in New Orleans, where she is found by the detective hired by Ned. The boy is taken from her and Helen flees to Paris where she becomes a cabaret sensation. Upon witnessing a performance, Nick begins seeing her again and when the show moves to NYC, he secures a meeting between her and her ex -- who is finally made aware of the motivation behind her affair years before. This is the feature containing the well-known scenes where Dietrich performs stage numbers in an ape-suit and a white tuxedo (complete with top hat). ~ Kristie Hassen, Rovi

Golden Earrings
Based on a novel by Yolanda Foldes, this confusing romantic adventure concerns a love affair and international espionage. Told in flashback, British officer Ralph Denistoun (Ray Milland) recounts the story to American journalist Quentin Reynolds. Before WWII, British Intelligence officers Ralph and Richard (Bruce Lester) were held captive by Nazis who wanted to know about Prof. Otto Krosigk's (Reinhold Schunzel) secret formula. Ralph and Richard escape, deciding to look for Krosigk separately with the plan to meet up again in Stuttgart. Then Ralph meets gypsy woman Lydia (Marlene Dietrich) in the forest. She disguises him, gives him golden earrings to wear, and leads him through the forest. Ralph eventually fights the gypsy leader Zoltan (Murvyn Vye) and wins his respect. He joins the band of gypsies and heads to Stuttgart where he meets Richard and reads the horrible fate in his palm. He then meets Krosigk, who gives him the secret formula. He is then able to escape, but promises to return for Lydia. The story ends with Lydia and Ralph meeting again in the forest after the war is over. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

Morocco
Like so many campaigners before him, Gary Cooper joins the Foreign Legion to "forget." At a smoky cabaret in Morocco, Cooper meets café entertainer Marlene Dietrich (making her American film debut). A woman with a very checkered past, Dietrich toys with the callow Cooper, but eventually falls hopelessly in love with him, even to the extent of throwing over wealthy Adolphe Menjou. The now-famous final image of Morocco finds la Dietrich, decked out in her cabaret finery and wearing high heels, heading after Cooper's regiment across the desert with the rest of the "camp followers." There is considerably more to the story than that, but these bare-bones details should be enough to entice anyone familiar with the exotic eroticism of the Josef von Sternberg/Marlene Dietrich vehicles. Should you need more enticement, let us inform you that Morocco is the film in which Marlene Dietrich, dressed in a man's tuxedo for her nightclub act, kisses a female patron squarely on the lips. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Devil Is a Woman
Director Josef Von Sternberg and his greatest discovery, Marlene Dietrich, worked together for the last time on this historical melodrama, which was a notorious and controversial box-office flop in its day. Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero), a young military officer, meets a mysterious and alluring woman named Concha Perez (Dietrich) and soon falls under her seductive spell. Antonio excitedly confesses his love for Concha to his friend Don Pasqual (Lionel Atwill), an older and higher-ranking officer. Pasqual is horrified when he learns of Antonio's infatuation; years ago, he met Concha, and it was the start of a long and disastrous relationship in which the cold-hearted woman would repeatedly lure him into her romantic web, drain him of his wealth, and then leave him for wealthier prospects elsewhere. While he has learned the hard way, Pasqual has never been able to cure himself of his addiction to Concha's charms, and when he encounters Concha with Antonio at a boisterous street festival, Pasqual is overcome with jealousy and challenges Antonio to a duel for Concha's affections. Shortly after The Devil Is a Woman's unsuccessful initial release, the United States State Department and the Spanish government both tendered objections to Paramount Pictures about what they felt were insulting depictions of the Spanish people and their leadership. Paramount pulled the film from circulation, and it was thought to be lost for some time until Dietrich provided a print from her personal collection for a Sternberg retrospective in 1959; the movie has since been released on home video. John Dos Passos co-authored the screenplay, based on a novel by Pierre Louys which Luis Bunuel later adapted as That Obscure Object of Desire. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The Flame of New Orleans
Acclaimed French filmmaker Rene Clair made his American debut with this period comedy/drama. Claire Ledeux (Marlene Dietrich) leaves her native France and arrives in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1841, with one goal in mind: marrying a wealthy man. Posing as a pillar of society and a woman of means, Claire sets her sights on Charles Giraud (Roland Young), who is good looking and rich, but she soon discovers that ship captain Robert Latour (Bruce Cabot) is also vying for her hand. However, when Zoltov (Mischa Auer), who knew Claire from the old country, starts dropping heavy hints about her scandalous reputation in Europe, Claire tries to convince everyone that he's really talking about her cousin, even going so far as to disguise herself as the phantom cousin to add weight to her ruse. Three Stooges fans should keep an eye peeled for a brief appearance by Shemp Howard, who plays a waiter; Andy Devine, Franklin Pangborn, and Clarence Muse also appear in the supporting cast. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Marlene Dietrich
    Marlene Dietrich - Helen Faraday
  • Herbert Marshall
    Herbert Marshall - Ned Faraday
  • Cary Grant
    Cary Grant - Nick Townsend
  • Dickie Moore
    Dickie Moore - Johnny Faraday
  • Image coming soon
    Francis Sayles - Charlie Blaine
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