THE BLUE ANGEL or DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE BLUE ANGEL/DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PROFESSOR UNRAT’ BY HEINRICH MANN (BROTHER OF THOMAS MANN).

DIRECTED BY JOSEF VON STERNBERG. PRODUCTION COMPANY: UFA.

STARRING MARLENE DIETRICH, EMIL JANNINGS, KURT GERRON, ROSA VALETTI, HANS ALBERS AND REINHOLD BERNT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s something eerily magical about this classic Weimar Germany film, even today, nearly a full ninety years after it was made by Josef Von Sternberg, who returned from America to Germany especially to direct it.

After seeing Marlene Dietrich perform in the Berliner Theater in Georg Kaiser’s cabaret ZWEI KRAWATTEN (TWO NECKTIES), Von Sternberg knew that he had found his leading lady.

Though still recognisable, she hadn’t yet grown into her famous face, if you get me, the same way you can look at a young Brigitte Bardot in MANINA or a young Joan Crawford in GRAND HOTEL and think, is that really them, they look so different when they’re young…? 

Although Von Sternberg would modestly shrug off suggestions that he ‘discovered’ Dietrich, I think it really must be said that he did. She went on to have a long and varied career after THE BLUE ANGEL, which led to a contract with Paramount Studios, served as a more than efficient springboard or launching-pad to international stardom.

Josef Von Sternberg, a dark-haired, rather sad-faced man who looked small next to some of his taller contemporaries, made a few minor changes to the story on which the film was based, PROFESSOR UNRAT (PROFESSOR GARBAGE) by Heinrich Mann, but the basic plot remains the same.

A college professor who teaches English Literature, among other things I’m sure, to the boys and young men who attend the Gymnasium, a German word for college or place of learning, meets and falls head-over-heels with a beautiful cabaret singer in a nightclub. This reckless act of impulsivity leads directly to his downfall only a short few years later.

Professor Immanuel Rath makes his way to the nightclub, THE BLUE ANGEL, after a spate of saucy-postcard-hoarding by his students. He sees Lola Lola for the first time as a scantily-dressed image on a kinky postcard (these passed for porn back then…!) and is straightaway taken and intrigued by her. How much more taken will he be, then, with the flesh-and-blood, three-dimensional Lola Lola when he encounters her for real…?

He goes to the nightclub ostensibly to complain about its performers corrupting his young pupils. All thoughts of his moral responsibilities vanish from his mind when he meets the enchanting Lola Lola backstage in her dressing-room.

To the unmarried Professor in his forties, whom we can imagine as having led a very sheltered, bookish life up to now, Lola Lola is sexiness- and sex- incarnate. The magnificent Dietrich is very young here, but she has already learned how to use her eyes and lips to devastating effect. The poor Professor doesn’t stand a chance against such an onslaught of raw sexuality. He’s smitten from the off.

Of course, Marlene Dietrich was always about the legs. The legs, the legs, the legs. This film could also have been called ‘FRILLY KNICKERS AND STOCKING-TOPS’ because that’s what she’s dressed in for most of the movie. She elevates the taking off and putting on of stockings into an art form as she teases and tantalises Rath with a private little striptease in her cramped backstage dressing-room.

She (or maybe I should say they, both Dietrich AND Lola Lola) holds the- mostly male- audiences to the cabaret spellbound as she belts out songs like ‘FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN’ and ‘YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE, YOU’RE THE SALT IN MY STEW.’ They are utterly in thrall to her sexuality and mystique, as is Rath.

When Rath proposes to Lola Lola, I’m always gobsmacked that she says yes. Rath is a portly, not very attractive school-teacher who’s probably not rolling in money. He’s a figure of fun to his students. They don’t respect him. They have nothing but contempt for him.

What on earth does Lola Lola see in him? A kind of father figure, someone who represents security and stability to her, maybe? Or maybe she just says ‘yes’ in the spirit of yeah sure baby, why not, I don’t care either way, it’s all bullshit anyway and, who knows, it might be a blast to try it for a bit…?

Either way, they get hitched, much to Rath’s delight and, four short years later, we come full circle right back to Rath’s origins and it’s not a pretty picture. The marriage has destroyed him, although I can’t give you the details.

His self-respect is non-existent, he’s a figure of fun for all now and not just for his pupils, and his reputation, such as it ever was, is in shreds. Was it worth it, Rath, Von Sternberg seems to be asking his male protagonist, was she worth it…? Would he do it again?

The dark, cramped, narrow little slanted streets surrounding the Blue Angel nightclub look like they’ve come straight out of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI or any other masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema. There’s a fabulous town clock in the film that’s worth looking out for too, the creation of set designer Otto Hunte, and a sad and rather chillingly portentous scene involving a late parrot.

Who is Lola Lola? We know nothing of her background or origins. Is she hard and cold because she’s had to be or because she enjoys it? Is she immoral? Is she promiscuous? Does she have a heart at all?

Does she take pleasure in Rath’s downfall or, as is probably more likely, does she simply regard him as being big enough and old enough to look after himself? She’s his wife, after all, not his mother or his nursemaid, and he’s a grown man.

I don’t think she’s particularly malicious, although she’s certainly mischievous. I think she just doesn’t care, but not because she’s uncaring or heartless. She has enough to be doing looking out for herself. Whatever her motivations anyway, in Lola Lola we’ve been given a timeless creation of sheer sexiness and sensuality whose appeal doesn’t dim with the years.

Marlene Dietrich was a truly beautiful woman and an acting legend on two of the finest legs to ever grace a stage. In THE BLUE ANGEL, Josef Von Sternberg has bottled this legend and encapsulated it for us for all time. Kudos to you, Joe dear. Kudos to you.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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JANE EYRE. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jane eyre- weddingJANE EYRE. (1943) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT STEVENSON. STARRING JOAN FONTAINE, ORSON WELLES, AGNES MOOREHEAD, MARGARET O’BRIEN, HILLARY BROOKE, HENRY DANIELL AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR AS HELEN. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It’s so funny that this film should have been on the good old BBC2 today, because just this very week I’d been telling people that I wanted to properly read and, in some cases, re-read a selection of the classics.

Books like JANE EYRE and Charlotte’s sister Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, not to mention Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ works in their entirety. That’s some tall order, innit, but watching this fabulous screen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s deliciously Gothic novel has only whetted my appetite and now I’m raring to go. Let’s see how far I get, shall we…?

Joan Fontaine, whose sister Olivia De Havilland is miraculously still alive aged over one-hundred, is sublime as the poverty-stricken governess Jane Eyre. This and REBECCA and SUSPICION are my favourite films of Joan Fontaine’s. She has the face and voice of an angel and was absolutely the perfect choice for Jane in this movie.

Actually, there are a lot of similarities between her roles in JANE EYRE and REBECCA. In REBECCA (1941), she plays the un-named female companion who is obliged to trail behind the obnoxious Mrs. Van Hopper in Monte Carlo because she’s utterly impoverished since the death of her father and, frankly, urgently needs the pay-check.

Here she comes to the attention of the rich and embittered Maxim De Winter, who marries her after a whirlwind courtship and whisks her off to his fantastic Gothic family home of Manderley in Cornwall, England. Nice work if you can get it, eh? From poorly-paid and looked-down-upon ‘friend of the bosom’ to mistress of Manderley in one easy step…

The little paid companion couldn’t be happier, of course, but it seems that there is some mystery surrounding the first Mrs. De Winter, the deceased and titular Rebecca and, whatever it is, it’s making Maxim desperately unhappy. Worse, it’s stopping the newly-married couple from enjoying themselves, their new-found love and their marriage…

In JANE EYRE, Joan Fontaine plays a dirt-poor little English governess who is employed to take care of a little French girl called Adele, in the country household of the rich and mysterious Mr. Edward Rochester.

This is only, however, after she’s endured ten hard cold years at the brutal Lowood Institution For Girls and nearly a decade more as the un-wanted orphaned niece of her hard cold Aunt Reed and her fat bully of a son, Jane’s Cousin John.

As this is England in the first trimester, as it were, of the nineteenth century, you can imagine how rough it was for anyone but the rich and privileged. An impoverished female would have been at the very bottom of the totem-pole, so to speak.

Jane probably falls head-over-heels in love with the dashing Mr. Rochester the instant she meets him by accident on the moors at night. How romantic is that, eh? The moors at night? Beats locking eyes over an over-priced bag of chips and a battered sausage in Dublin’s Temple Bar on a crowded Saturday night, does that…!

Mr. Rochester, the Heathcliff of this book/film, is superbly played by that lion of a man, Orson Welles. He cuts a magnificent figure in his knee-boots and riding breeches, with the confidence and arrogance that comes with a lifetime of privilege and giving the orders.

He’s as taken with the stubborn, virtuous Jane as she undoubtedly is with him, but he toys with her and makes her think he’s going to marry the proud and haughty aristocratic Blanche Ingram before eventually crushing Jane to his manly bosom and declaring his undying love for her. Handsome and overpoweringly charismatic he might be, but he’s still a total prick when it comes to how to treat women…!

Jane and Edward’s tragic story plays out against the fabulous, awe-inspiring backdrop of the oh-so-Gothic Thornfield Hall, with its forbidden tower that houses a strange occupant whom Jane hears laughing maniacally in the night but never sees. An occupant that may have tried to kill Mr. Rochester by burning him to death in his bed, who must be watched night and day by a dour and forbidding-looking woman called Grace Poole…

No fewer than three actors appear here who have also popped up in the Basil Rathbone- Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES movies (1939-1945). Henry Daniell is wonderful as the mean old Mr. Brocklehurst who runs the charitable institution of Lowood. He once played Moriarty to Basil Rathbone’s world-famous detective, even bearding him rather cheekily in his own den at 221B Baker Street.

This was in THE WOMAN IN GREEN, an utterly ‘mesmerising’ watch, heh-heh-heh. In the same film Hillary Brooke (Blanche Ingram) tried to hypnotise the great detective, with limited results, it must be said.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, Aubrey Mather, in JANE EYRE a genial house-guest of Mr. Rochester’s and an uncle to Blanche Ingram, plays Alastair. He’s the only Good Comrade not trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the law (represented ably here by Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard) by illegally profiting from the mysterious ‘deaths’ of his friends.

I feel all romantic and dreamy after watching this. Reality, sadly, is much less Gothically romantic, so I’m off now to see about the dinner and get some clothes sorted out for the week to come. Yes, yes, I know, boring…! Enjoy the film if you watch it. As an escape from the daily grind, you honestly couldn’t do better.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

jane eyre- wedding

 

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLES R. JACKSON. STARRING RAY MILLAND, JANE WYMAN, PHILIP TERRY, HOWARD DA SILVA, DORIS DOWLING, MARY YOUNG AND FRANK FAYLEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

That a film of this calibre was made as early in cinematic history as 1945 is a fact that constantly staggers me. This is a powerhouse of a screenplay, but don’t just take my word for it. Ask the Academy, the Academy that bestowed upon it the Award for Best Screenplay in the year of its release.

The writing translates itself easily into a fantastically tight film about the grim subject of alcoholism that I’ve watched several times now without once getting bored. Let’s take a look at the film and see if I can’t infect you guys with a little of the enthusiasm I feel for it myself. Don’t worry, it’s a nice infection, not the kind that leaves you with rheumy eyes and a shiny red hooter to rival Rudolph’s…!

Ray Milland, an actor who’s also co-starred with the divine Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER and the screen adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s THE PREMATURE BURIAL, is utterly superb as the alcoholic would-be writer, Don Birnam.

I say ‘would-be writer’ instead of actual ‘writer’ because he hasn’t written a word since University, when his Hemingway-esque short stories were the pride of the college rag.

Now, some twenty-odd years later, he’s a full-blown alkie, unemployed (and unemployable?), living on his brother Wick’s charity and wallowing in self-pity, self-loathing and self-disgust every day until the pubs open. Then you’ve lost him. Till he’s chucked out at closing-time, that is…

Even his barman and confidante Nat, of Nat’s Bar, knows that Don Birnam’s an alkie. Nat’s not without human feelings, though, and he can’t help his revulsion when Don bails out of a cleansing weekend away in the country with his brother Wick on account of the booze. As in, Don is hoping to get in some serious boozing while the cat’s away.

Desperate for a drink, Don’ll do anything to get one. He’ll beg, borrow, steal, wheedle and cajole until he’s got one. But you can’t stop at just one, of course. Or ‘natch,’ as Gloria would say. You’ve got to have another one, and another one, and so on until you eventually wake up on your own couch without any memory of how you got there. Given all the things that could have happened to Don, he’s lucky it was only the couch…!

Don isn’t so lucky the time over this particular ‘lost weekend’ that he wakes up in the alkie ward of a hospital. You’ll be back, matey, the rather smug orderly tells him. It’s got you in its grip and it won’t quit. I’m paraphrasing here but you get the gist.

Don breaks out of this terrible place, convinced he’ll never get the DTs as the orderly Bim has foretold for him. Another guy in the drunk-tank of the hospital had those. Surely nothing like that can ever happen to him, he’s not a lowlife scumbag loser like those lads at the hospital. But the dreaded DTs follow Don home. After meeting them in person, Don begins to feel like there’s only one way out for a washed-up failure like him…

A word about the ladies in the film. Helen St. James, Don’s girlfriend, is passionately played by Jane Wyman, who later went on to portray the fearsome, ball-breaking business tycoon Angela Channing in glamorous television soap opera FALCON CREST.

Helen adores Don, despite his affliction or maybe even because of it. Maybe she’s the kind of dame who finds herself a mess of a guy and tries fervently to fix him. She devotes herself to Don, probably to the detriment of her own work at TIME magazine. She worries about him incessantly and vows to stay with him regardless of his alcoholism, but she’s deluded. Don is the only one who can fix Don, but Don isn’t ready to man up yet and just quit.

What Don does to Gloria, the feisty but lonely prostitute who frequents and meets clients at Nat’s Bar, Don’s favourite spot, is not nice. Even Nat thinks it’s despicable for Don to make the needy girl think he’s going to take her out on a date when all he’ll ever want from her is a few bucks to buy his next fix of booze. Taking Gloria for a fool is not Don Birnam’s finest hour.

I sympathise with Don up to a point. Not the alcoholic bit, I hasten to add! But I was the bright shining star of the school and college magazines also, who then got all caught up in the business of ruining relationships and having kids and who subsequently never wrote another word for nearly twenty years. I allowed myself to be distracted by the nuts-and-bolts of life instead of just sitting down and damn well writing about it.

Every time I had a spare minute, which luckily wasn’t very often, I hated myself with a passion for not writing. Now I write every day, thank God. But this is why I totally feel Don’s pain. No-one self-loathes like a writer who’s not writing. Trust me, I know. Do make sure you watch this magnificent tour de force of a movie. Your life will be the richer for it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945

WHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white christmas movieWHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) A PARAMOUNT VISTAVISION MOVIE. MUSIC BY IRVING BERLIN. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL CURTIZ. STARRING BING CROSBY, DANNY KAYE, ROSEMARY CLOONEY, VERA-ELLEN, DEAN JAGGER AND MARY WICKES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I once passed up the chance to buy Picasso’s GUERNICA for a song. Luckily that song was WHITE CHRISTMAS and I made billions…!’

Mr. Burns from THE SIMPSONS.

If you don’t cry when Bing Crosby sings WHITE CHRISTMAS in this beloved holiday favourite, then you’re a cold unfeeling monster. Either that, or you’ve had your tear ducts surgically removed for some reason, if there ever is a valid reason to have that particular procedure done, haha.

WHITE CHRISTMAS was the biggest-selling film of 1954 by miles and miles and miles and it was the first film to ever be released in VistaVision, a special kind of widescreen format developed by Paramount. Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s beautiful song, WHITE CHRISTMAS, is still to this day the best-selling song of all time. Whaddya mean, what about AGADOO…? To hell with AGADOO…!

The plot is simple enough. It’s the songs that are magic. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two old army buddies who, after serving their time together in World War Two, become famous song-and-dance entertainers and big-shot producers.

When they hear that their old wartime General, a chap called Thomas F. Waverly, is having difficulties making his post-retirement career of hotel owner work out due to lack of holiday snow and guests, Bing as Captain Bob Wallace and Danny as Private Phil Davis come up with a cunning plan.

Aiming to both fill the hotel with guests and prove to the ageing General that he hasn’t been forgotten about by all the men who cheerfully served under him, they bring their own show to the old guy’s hotel for Christmas. A nationwide appeal on the Ed Harrison television show is all the free advertising they need.

Stunning blonde sisters Betty and Judy, aka the Haynes sisters, form a very important part of the lads’ show with their own song-and-dance act. The two sisters fall, wholly expectedly(!), in love with the lads and vice versa. You can see it coming a mile off, lol. There’d be something badly wrong if they didn’t fall for each other, like Irish Guards and teachers on a boozy night out in Copperface Jack’s. (Local joke, you guys won’t get it…!)

But the path of true love never does run smooth, and it certainly doesn’t in this case. Will Cupid’s arrow strike the right people at the right time and in the right places, or will the love affairs between the lads and the perky-bosomed, wasp-waisted ladettes go the same way as the General’s snow-free holiday lodge? You’ll have to watch the movie to find that out, folks…!

Magic moments, for me, are all musical ones. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen doing SISTERS with those fabulous blue dresses and huge fans. Bing and Danny doing a send-up of this exact song in their own personalised costumes.

Bing singing WHITE CHRISTMAS, and Rosemary Clooney crooning LOVE, YOU DIDN’T DO RIGHT BY ME in that dress! It’s a little black number, designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head, one of the earliest true fashionistas.

There’s a sassy little silver brooch or clip on the tushy that draws attention to Ms. Clooney’s fabulous hourglass figure, as if it needed it(!), and the sultry smokiness in her voice is sexier than anything Marilyn Monroe could have come up with. The whole number is sheer sizzling dynamite. Or, as Craig Revel-Horwood from STRICTLY COME DANCING would put it… ‘One word, darling. A-MAZ-ING…!’

Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen doing THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE DANCING is fantastic fun too. Vera-Ellen was a tremendously good dancer. Other memorable songs include COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS INSTEAD OF SHEEP, SNOW, GEE I WISH I WAS BACK IN THE ARMY and the rousing (WE’LL FOLLOW) THE OLD MAN (WHEREVER HE WANTS TO GO), a genuinely touching tribute to how much the army lads love their Old Man Waverly.

Of course, no-one ever spares a thought for the poor wives, children, parents, friends and other assorted relatives who are abandoned willy-nilly on Christmas Eve by the soldiers of the 151st Division, who are all hot-footing it to Vermont to help out their old gaffer on Bing Crosby’s say-so. To those sad, lonely people, I have only this to say. Suck it up, saddos! Do it for Bing and the Old Man…

white christmas moviewhite christmas movie

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor