Whether or not you believe it is the greatest year of all for the Hollywood studio system, the wonder of 1939 is the sheer depth of its bench. On a ten-movie best-picture ballot, the Oscars found no room to nominate such worthy contenders from that year as Raoul Walsh’s live-wire gangster memorial The Roaring Twenties; George Cukor’s all-star The Women; or Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings described even at the time as “magnificently directed” by the hard-to-please Graham Greene. And on a list of 1939’s top-grossing films, you have to go down, way down, all the way to number nineteen by some tallies, to get to Universal Pictures and its biggest smash of the year, Destry Rides Again as with many form 1939 this movie is among many other classics such as gone with the wind and wizard of oz. I am reviewing Destry Rides Again on what would have been her birthday today as i feel i amy also present a small tribute to her along with a second review of another classic gem she stared in for her birthday today on what would’ve been her 120th birthday i felt this movie would be a good movie to highlight her greatly as a performer. As i will also review some other films she starred in for her 120th birthday.
Destry Rides Again: Riding High review
The tropes of the Western are so engrained and parodied, that it’s a delight to see a 1930s Western using them so self-consciously to explore both their serious and comic potential. The film that inspired Blazing Saddles begins as outrageous parody, with the hyper-violent town of Bottleneck pictured as having punch-ups and gunfights in the street, and horses riding in and out of the Last Chance Saloon. But this near-cartoonish introduction gives way to a film that surprisingly takes its stakes seriously, even as it plays with the genre/ Bottleneck is a deeply corrupt town. Saloon owner Kent (Brian Donlevy) runs any number of rackets, protected by the Mayor (Samuel S. Hinds) and supported by bar singer Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich). When Kent’s goons murder the old sheriff, town drunk Wash (Charles Winninger) is given the badge in the saloon which functions as the town’s public forum and hall – to the uproarious cheers of the locals, who see Wash as an easy sap to continue conducting their business under. However, Wash’s surprising respect for the badge – he immediately vows to sober up, and does so leads to a different outcome. Wash summons Tom Destry Jr (James Stewart), son of a famous lawkeeper, to town, and is immediately disappointed. Destry is a quietly spoken, drawling man who doesn’t even carry a gun, and is first seen helping a lady, Janice (Irene Hervey), out of a coach with her parasol and canary. Destry doesn’t believe in guns, and instead uses his wits to uphold the law. But that law, when it upholds cheats and scoundrels such as Kent, is there to be defended as well, and one of the film’s shocks is when Destry supports Kent in his claim to a ranch that he tricked a poor rancher into signing over to him in the eyes of the law, the claim is good.
Destry Rides Again is touted as a comedy, and it does have plenty of that, but it’s also a unique Western for its time because it couches manliness in the form of Stewart’s down-home charm. The film begins by showing us a rough saloon town. Gun shots, drunks, and angry men ring through the streets of Bottleneck. We enter the saloon, where everyone is happily singing “Little Joe the Wrangler” (which also makes an appearance in the first section of the Coen Brother’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs). In this saloon we meet Frenchy, Marlene Dietrich’s character, who has accepted her seedy character as the one that will help her survive.
Even Destry’s oddball feminist touches, such as the climax in which sisterhood saves the town from a possible bloodbath, would have echoes in later films such as William A. Wellman’s Westward the Women (1951). And heaven knows Destry’s most famous scene, that all-out catfight between Merkel and Dietrich, has been imitated time and again, from the MGM musical The Harvey Girls (1946) to 1971’s Les pétroleuses, where Claudia Cardinale dukes it out with Brigitte Bardot—who is playing the daughter of a (male) outlaw named, what else, Frenchie. James Stewart plays Destry to perfection. I would say everyone in its cast is simply wonderful in their roles in this charming movie.
I adore this movie’s charm and atmosphere. It takes the time to flesh out everybody in this town while having a sense of humor about everything. From the odd yet quirky Boris Callahan (Mischa Auer) to the heart-broken and homeless Claggett family, there is no shortage of colorful characters here. Yet even this is great slapstick comedy and wordplay that still finds time to have impactful and deep dramatic moments and scenes as this movie is simply a classic that you should watch again and again as simply few movies match this level of charm that you can watch again and again
Happy 120th birthday to Marlene Dietrich.
Glamour. Defined in the dictionary as: an air of compelling charm, romance, and excitement, especially when delusively alluring. For me, and I am assuming for many of you, glamor is what initially attracted me to the world of classic film. I would say my love of flim began as child as i was always attacted to movie magic as i find no art-from as magical as a movie to take you away to a new world. From Technicolor film stock to gauze-covered lenses, movies from yesteryear rejected the aesthetics of reality in favor of a more stylized world where anything was possible and everything was glamorous. And no star represented this world of glamour and illusion more than birthday girl, Marlene Dietrich as few actress are simply this lovely or enchanting to watch upon the screen as some 120 years later we still adore this wonderful screen legend. In 1930’s as she was procalimed the most Glamourus woman of all time by many as few women could be like her upon the screen as she was able break all the rules due to her Glamour. So to to reflect upon 120 years of this wonderful legend upon the screen.
Shanghai Express review
A beautiful temptress re-kindles an old romance while trying to escape her past during a tension-packed train journey Starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland, and Eugene Pallette Based on the story by Harry Hervey. With a Screenplay by Jules Furthman that is directed by Josef von Sternberg that was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Marlene Dietrich is at her wicked best as Shanghai Lily, a courtesan whose reputation brings a hint of scandal to a three-day train ride through war-torn China. On board, she is surrounded by a motley crew of foreigners and lowlifes, including a fellow fallen woman (Anna May Wong), an old flame (Clive Brook), and a rebel leader wanted by the authorities (Warner Oland) as this movie showcases her at her best in her pre-code era. Marlene Dietrich is an amazing actress as this movie showcases her at her best as you see her skills as an actress on screen showcased as this movie also has some amazing looking cinematography that really can steal the show at times. Anna May Wong also can be very amazing in this wonderful movie. In addition to Marlene’s acting, Shanghai Express is the the greatest all of her movies to show off her extreme beauty. I don’t know exactly what it is that von Sternberg did to make her look so lovely in this film, but he solidified her place as one of the most captivatingly stunning women of the 1930’s.Shanghai Express is an emotional film that showcases Josef von Sternberg’s incredible directorial abilities. The film won an Academy Award for Lee Garmes for cinematography, although Marlene Dietrich often commented on von Sternberg’s involvement. Dietrich considered the beauty of the movie to have been due to von Sternberg and his artistic genius. Whoever was responsible certainly is entitled to an immense amount of praise for this wonderful gem of a movie.
THE SCARLET EMPRESS review
The Scarlet Empress is a grand Hollywood production, filled with romance, melodrama, and amazing studio work. The production design is amazing, cluttered in small details but all so beautiful. The costumes too are fantastic and varied. This is a film of big dresses and large, elaborate sets. Telling the story of the young life of Catherine the Great allows The Scarlet Empress to bask in a visual splendour of Russian style. Marlene Dietrich plays the lead character, initially as someone innocent, naïve, and joyful. Later on Catherine grows up to be ruthless and ambitious, and Dietrich gets to abandon her sweetness in the first half to become her usual confident, sultry self. Josef von Sternberg directs the film was a passion, embracing the excess allowed in a story of royalty. There are darker angles to The Scarlet Empress too, such as a montage of torture and war early on that probably wouldn’t have been allowed had the film been made a year later, when the Hays Code was more strictly enforced. There’s a theme of destiny in The Scarlet Empress, as Catherine is set on the path towards greatness. She does not see the peasants of her world, and lives a rather fairy tale life, which the film plays into with its visuals. Even soldiers are just playthings of the powerful here, rather than real people. The film has intertitles providing historical context and exposition, which gives the film a sense of significance even though the story does not adhere to fact at all. Instead we get a fun rendition of Russian history, with a great central performance and tonnes of visual flair that truly stand out among her flims as she truly is at her best performance as this movie is a showcase for her talent and the great skill of Josef von Sternberg as this movie is a treat to watch upon the screen.
The Devil is a Woman (1935) review
The Devil is a Woman is the last of the six Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich movies made at Paramount. It’s reasonable to refer to them as the von Sternberg-Dietrich movies. She was his collaborator, his muse and his lover. These movies would quite simply have been unthinkable without her and without her von Sternberg would certainly not have made them. It’s also of course, like the other five movies, an expression of von Sternberg’s particular aesthetic principles. He described the previous film, The Scarlet Empress, as “a relentless excursion into style” and that pretty accurately describes all the von Sternberg-Dietrich movies. While Dietrich was a fine actress she was not in these movies to act – she was there simply to be Marlene Dietrich, to be the centrepiece of a visual extragavanza. Fittingly, The Devil is a Woman is a film about sexual obsession, and the price of such obsession. The Devil is a Woman was based on the 1898 novel The Woman and the Puppet by Pierre Louÿs. Louÿs was a product of the fin de siècle Decadence and one of the great French writers of erotic literature. It’s certainly not difficult to see why von Sternberg would have been attracted to his work.Marlene Dietrich stars as a Marlene Dietrich type: a seductive woman who bleeds men dry for her own amusement while modeling outrageous outfits and enjoying the lawless free-for-all of Spanish Carnival. An older, disgraced military officer warns his young friend about the dangerous seductive powers of all women, then of Dietrich’s soul-draining (and money-draining) villainy in particular. It’s a cinematic trope that dates at least as far back as Theda Bara’s iconic role as The Vamp as this movie showcases her doing that kind of thing that many others did in that day. It may not be the best of their movies the duo did but it simply a fun movie that you will enjoy to watch her give out a marvelous performance upon the screen. It is simply a classic movie you will enjoy to watch often upon the screen.
I choose flims to highlight at her peak as she was simply at her peak with Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich movies as she starred in many wonderful roles after this peak that are simply classics such as touch of evil among others she starred upon screen. 120 years later we still adore her work as simply to honor her on her 120 birthday. So until next time i will leave you with more movie magic to touch upon in the future.