Song of Songs, The (1933)

“I see you as an artist, Lily — you must believe it!”

Song of Songs Poster

A naive orphan (Marlene Dietrich) living with her aunt (Alison Skipworth) is seduced by a handsome sculptor (Brian Aherne) whose patron — a calculating baron (Lionel Atwill) — becomes immediately smitten with Dietrich, and determined to make her his wife.


Marlene Dietrich’s first Hollywood film with a director other than Josef von Sternberg was this adaptation (directed by Rouben Mamoulian) of a 1908 novel by Hermann Sudermann, about a sheltered peasant girl betrayed by her lover. The storyline is fairly inconsequential, functioning primarily as a vehicle for Dietrich to demonstrate dramatic range by portraying her character’s growth from sweet naif to cynical trophy wife to world-weary chanteuse. In addition to Dietrich’s multi-layered performance, the film is also notable for its atmospheric cinematography and production values (see stills below), and for a refreshingly frank pre-Code sensibility — fully nude statues are paraded before the camera, only barely functioning as a stand-in for Dietrich herself. While this one isn’t must-see for all film fanatics, fans of Dietrich and/or pre-Code films will certainly want to check it out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marlene Dietrich as Lily
    Song of Songs Dietrich1
    Song of Songs Dietrich2
    Song of Songs Dietrich3
  • A refreshing pre-Code sensibility
    Song of Songs PreCode2
  • Fine direction (by Mamoulian) and art direction (by Hans Dreir)
    Song of Songs Direction
    Song of Songs Sets
  • Victor Milner’s stark cinematography
    Song of Songs Cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth at least a one-time look.


One Response to “Song of Songs, The (1933)”

  1. First viewing. Hardly anything remotely resembling a must.

    Directed, produced and photographed quite well. And a crashing, ridiculous bore.

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