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Dishonored During World War I, a lady spy... MORE > $18.95 Regularly $19.98 Buy Now


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teaser Dishonored (1931)

The rivalry between Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich dates back to Dietrich's entry into Hollywood. Even before Dietrich's biggest German-language film, The Blue Angel(1930), had been released in the United States, Paramount Studios had started a campaign promoting their new star and her first American film, Morocco (1930), co-starring the up-and-coming Gary Cooper.

As Paramount's answer to MGM's biggest star, Dietrich ironically had played an unbilled role in one of Garbo's first big hits, G.W. Pabst's The Joyless Street (1925). In that film, Garbo stars as a young girl pushed into prostitution. In Dishonored (1931), her second American film, Dietrich plays a prostitute who is recruited to spy for her country under the code name "X-27."

Her character and story is reminiscent of Mata Hari, which was no coincidence. When word came that Garbo was playing the famous female spy in an upcoming film (Mata Hari, 1932), Dishonored was quickly moved into production and was released nearly two years before Garbo's portrayal of the seductive spy. Initially, Gary Cooper was to re-team with Dietrich, but the role eventually went to Victor McLaglen.

Cooper turned down the part not because of any friction with his co-star, with whom he was having an affair, but because of his unwillingness to work again with director Josef von Sternberg. Now working on his third film with his muse, von Sternberg wished to expand the gallery of Dietrich characters. In Dishonored, Dietrich takes on a variety of disguises - at one point, shedding makeup and the usual glamorous wardrobe to don a peasant girl outfit.

Dishonored, however, is a very stylish entry in the Dietrich-von Sternberg canon. Notable among a veritable parade of outfits is her black leather outfit, foreshadowing Diana Riggs' catsuit in the TV series The Avengers (1966-69). And no film heroine died with more panache than Dietrich. Upon facing a firing squad, X-27 applies lipstick and dons her streetwalking clothing so that she may "die in the uniform in which (she) had served" her countrymen. Dietrich's portrayal of X-27 was lauded as intelligent and captivating by critics. A fascinating portrayal of sex and death, Dishonored is an underrated and interesting chapter in the Dietrich-von Sternberg legacy.

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Screenplay: Josef von Sternberg, Daniel Nathan Rubin
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Art Direction: Hans Dreier
Costume Design: Travis Banton
Cast: Marlene Dietrich (Marie Kolverer/X-27), Victor McLaglen (Colonel Kranau), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Austrian Secret Service Chief), Warner Oland (Colonel von Hindau), Lew Cody (Colonel Kovrin), Barry Norton (Young Lieutenant).

by Genevieve McGillicuddy

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