“I see you as an artist, Lily — you must believe it!”
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.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Brian Aherne Films
- Character Arc
- Lionel Atwill Films
- Love Triangle
- Marlene Dietrich Films
- Play Adaptation
- Rouben Mamoulian Films
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
- A refreshing pre-Code sensibility
- Fine direction (by Mamoulian) and art direction (by Hans Dreir)
- Victor Milner’s stark cinematography
No, though it’s worth at least a one-time look.