THE BLUE ANGEL (1930) B/W 106m dir: Josef von Sternberg
Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans Albers, Karl Huszar-Puffy
This first film collaboration between director von Sternberg and Dietrich, which is the only one of their seven films together made in Germany, is considered the first true classic of the "talkies." The film simply reeks with an atmosphere of decay and sexuality. Jannings plays the professor who tries to stop his students from visiting nightclub singer Dietrich and ends up succumbing to her plump charms. The professor is a repressed little prig whose first sexual encounter results in his total destruction. A riveting performance by Dietrich, which made her a European star and prompted her invitation to Hollywood.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films : "Erich Pommer, the producer, asked Sternberg to come to Berlin to direct a story that was felt to be particularly suited to UFA's great star, Emil Jannings: the downfall of an honorable middle-aged man. Sternberg had to find a Lola and finally chose the then obscure Marlene Dietrich, who had appeared in four or five small parts in films in 1927-29. With a feather boa, top hat, and black stockings over beautiful naked legs, she was a sensual and fascinating character who was more the star of the film than Jannings or Hans Albers. Her sexy voice, her song 'Falling in Love Again,' and her appealing freshness made Marlene Dietrich into a new kind of vamp, one which she embodied for thirty years. 'It was Sternberg,' she has said, 'who discovered me; until then I was nothing. He believed in me, made me work, gave me all his knowledge, his experience, his energy, and this created my success.' Jannings, as usual, is superb in his portrayal of an honorable man. Blue Angel owes much to the cameramen and designers, who created an impressively German atmosphere and a sense of cabaret life. Its designs are derived from Kammerspeil , a style that had already influenced Sternberg. The film has little dialogue and the excellent songs integrate well with the action."