The Blue Angel


1h 40m 1930
The Blue Angel

Brief Synopsis

A stodgy professor falls from grace when he's seduced by a nightclub singer.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blue Angel
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
1930
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Paramount PicturesKino Video
Location
Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.20 : 1

Synopsis

Professor Rath is an upstanding citizen, but when he discovers that some of his students have been frequenting a nightclub, he goes there himself to see what attracts them. There he meets singer Lola Lola, who captivates him so much that he returns the next night. As he falls in love with her, her influence over him grows, and soon he will do anything she asks.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blue Angel
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
1930
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Paramount PicturesKino Video
Location
Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.20 : 1

Articles

The Blue Angel


Immanuel Rath is a stuffy, disciplinarian professor who is shocked to discover his students passing around a postcard of Lola-Lola, a singer at The Blue Angel cabaret. Hoping to catch his students there, Professor Rath visits the nightclub and witnesses Lola-Lola's performance. Entranced by her dissolute charms, he gets drunk on champagne and spends the night with her. The ensuing scandal causes him to lose control of his students and he is terminated from his position. Returning to Lola, he agrees to marry her and joins the troupe. His humiliation at having to play a clown onstage is compounded by Lola's attraction to the strongman Mazeppa. To make matters worse, the troupe returns to the professor's hometown, forcing him to acknowledge how far he has fallen.

Blue Angel director Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969) was born under the name of Jonas Sternberg to an impoverished Orthodox Jewish family in Vienna. When his father moved to the United States for several years, the rest of the family later joined him for three years before returning to Vienna. Sternberg moved permanently to the U.S. when he was fourteen, acquired a spotty education (much of it self-taught) and worked at various odd jobs before getting his start in the film industry. By the time of The Blue Angel (1930), he had established himself as one of Paramount's most talented, if not always bankable, directors with films such as the popular gangster movie Underworld (1927), The Docks of New York (1928) and The Last Command (1928). The latter earned Emil Jannings an Academy Award for Best Actor. Erich Pommer of UFA then invited Sternberg to Berlin to make a sound film about Rasputin. "This failed to interest me," Sternberg wrote in his memoirs, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, "as I had no intention of treading on anyone's historical toes, nor did I wish to film a story which permitted no speculation about its outcome." Instead, he proposed an adaptation of the book Professor Unrath by Heinrich Mann. The original 1905 novel was a trenchant critique of German middle-class hypocrisy; in the process of adapting the film for the screen, the entire second half of the book (in which Professer Rath takes his revenge on society) was jettisoned and a new tragic ending was created.

Although Emil Jannings was nominally the lead, Sternberg's real interests lay in the role of the callous seductress Lola-Lola. Sternberg wrote, "Without the electricity of a new and exciting female, the film would have been no more than an essay reflecting on the stupidity of a school tyrant." Various candidates for the role included Heinrich Mann's friend Trude Hesterberg, Brigitte Helm, singer Lucie Mannheim, and Kathe Haack. The latter was already signed up for the role when Sternberg met Marlene Dietrich through Karl Vollmoeller; out of this began one of the most remarkable - and emotionally complex - collaborations between actress and director in the annals of Hollywood.

Because of Dietrich's limited vocal range, composer Friedrich Hollander wrote songs specifically to accommodate her voice; Dietrich's unique, much-parodied performance style became the basis of a second career as a concert singer, which lasted long after she retired from the screen. Hollander's songs, especially "Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fuss Auf Liebe Eingestellt" ("Falling in Love Again"), became standards in their own right. Inspired partly by the erotic drawings of Belgian artist Felicien Rops, Sternberg decked out his heroine in silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a top hat. The combination of actress, costume, music and Sternberg's legendary lighting skills created an icon which resonates even today. Jannings, who still imagined himself star of the film, became jealous of the intimate relationship between Sternberg and Dietrich and the cinematic attention lavished upon her, throwing tantrums on the set and at one point threatening to strangle the leading lady. Although Jannings continued to act in films through the Nazi era (which brought him shame after World War II), The Blue Angel marks his last great moment as an actor; surely his jealousy arose in part because he knew he was being eclipsed.

On March 31, 1930, the night of the film's triumphant premiere in Berlin, Sternberg and Dietrich sailed to New York together to pursue a career in Hollywood. Sternberg's wife, Riza Royce von Sternberg, who had sensed his growing affections for his star, had returned to America earlier. She met Sternberg and Dietrich at the dock with her lawyer, serving Dietrich with papers for a lawsuit alleging libel and "alienation of affection." A few months later Sternberg and his wife divorced.

One of the first sound films of UFA (Universum Film Aktien Gesellschaft, or Universe Film Company Limited), The Blue Angel was also one of its last great productions. Established partly with state money in 1917, UFA rapidly became one of the leading studios in the world with films such as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919); Ernst Lubitsch's Madame Dubarry (1919); F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924); and the profligate, visionary Metropolis (1927), which nearly bankrupted the studio and resulted in the right-wing financier Alfred Hugenberg gaining a controlling share. Many of UFA's greatest talents - among them Fritz Lang, Murnau, Lubitsch, the cinematographer Karl Freund - eventually left for Hollywood. After World War II, the defunct UFA's massive soundstages at Neubabelsberg wound up on East German territory; they were used to establish DEFA, the East German studio.

The Blue Angel was shot simultaneously in German and English language versions, making it necessary for the actors to read their lines in two different languages. During the early sound era such practices were not uncommon, since existing sound technology made dubbing difficult and studios wanted to create films that could sell to an international market. Another notable example is Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), for which an altogether different cast and director was used to film the Spanish-language version, shot at night on the same sets as the better-known English-language version. The English-language version of The Blue Angel is still exhibited occasionally, though for obvious reasons the German-language version is generally preferred.

Over the years The Blue Angel has been shown in various public-domain prints, many of which have been cut. The version shown on TCM this month is the full-length German-language version, distributed by Kino International and licensed from the Murnau Foundation in Germany. A new print was struck from the best surviving materials and a new translation of the dialogue was commissioned. During the film's recent theatrical re-release the results were described by Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice as "the best print anyone has seen in 70 years."

Producer: Erich Pommer
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Screenplay: Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoeller and Robert Liebmann; based on the novel Professor Unrath by Heinrich Mann
Cinematographer: Gunther Rittau and Hans Schneeberger
Editor: Sam Winston
Music: Friedrich Hollander; lyrics by Robert Liebmann
Set Design: Otto Hunte, Emil Hasler
Principal Cast: Emil Jannings (Immanuel Rath), Marlene Dietrich (Lola Frolich), Rosa Valetti (Guste), Hans Albers (Mazeppa), Kurt Gerron (Kiepert), Karl Huszar-Puffy (Proprietor), Reinhold Bernt (Clown), Roland Varno (Lohmann).
BW-107m.
In German with English subtitles

by James Steffen
The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel

Immanuel Rath is a stuffy, disciplinarian professor who is shocked to discover his students passing around a postcard of Lola-Lola, a singer at The Blue Angel cabaret. Hoping to catch his students there, Professor Rath visits the nightclub and witnesses Lola-Lola's performance. Entranced by her dissolute charms, he gets drunk on champagne and spends the night with her. The ensuing scandal causes him to lose control of his students and he is terminated from his position. Returning to Lola, he agrees to marry her and joins the troupe. His humiliation at having to play a clown onstage is compounded by Lola's attraction to the strongman Mazeppa. To make matters worse, the troupe returns to the professor's hometown, forcing him to acknowledge how far he has fallen. Blue Angel director Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969) was born under the name of Jonas Sternberg to an impoverished Orthodox Jewish family in Vienna. When his father moved to the United States for several years, the rest of the family later joined him for three years before returning to Vienna. Sternberg moved permanently to the U.S. when he was fourteen, acquired a spotty education (much of it self-taught) and worked at various odd jobs before getting his start in the film industry. By the time of The Blue Angel (1930), he had established himself as one of Paramount's most talented, if not always bankable, directors with films such as the popular gangster movie Underworld (1927), The Docks of New York (1928) and The Last Command (1928). The latter earned Emil Jannings an Academy Award for Best Actor. Erich Pommer of UFA then invited Sternberg to Berlin to make a sound film about Rasputin. "This failed to interest me," Sternberg wrote in his memoirs, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, "as I had no intention of treading on anyone's historical toes, nor did I wish to film a story which permitted no speculation about its outcome." Instead, he proposed an adaptation of the book Professor Unrath by Heinrich Mann. The original 1905 novel was a trenchant critique of German middle-class hypocrisy; in the process of adapting the film for the screen, the entire second half of the book (in which Professer Rath takes his revenge on society) was jettisoned and a new tragic ending was created. Although Emil Jannings was nominally the lead, Sternberg's real interests lay in the role of the callous seductress Lola-Lola. Sternberg wrote, "Without the electricity of a new and exciting female, the film would have been no more than an essay reflecting on the stupidity of a school tyrant." Various candidates for the role included Heinrich Mann's friend Trude Hesterberg, Brigitte Helm, singer Lucie Mannheim, and Kathe Haack. The latter was already signed up for the role when Sternberg met Marlene Dietrich through Karl Vollmoeller; out of this began one of the most remarkable - and emotionally complex - collaborations between actress and director in the annals of Hollywood. Because of Dietrich's limited vocal range, composer Friedrich Hollander wrote songs specifically to accommodate her voice; Dietrich's unique, much-parodied performance style became the basis of a second career as a concert singer, which lasted long after she retired from the screen. Hollander's songs, especially "Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fuss Auf Liebe Eingestellt" ("Falling in Love Again"), became standards in their own right. Inspired partly by the erotic drawings of Belgian artist Felicien Rops, Sternberg decked out his heroine in silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a top hat. The combination of actress, costume, music and Sternberg's legendary lighting skills created an icon which resonates even today. Jannings, who still imagined himself star of the film, became jealous of the intimate relationship between Sternberg and Dietrich and the cinematic attention lavished upon her, throwing tantrums on the set and at one point threatening to strangle the leading lady. Although Jannings continued to act in films through the Nazi era (which brought him shame after World War II), The Blue Angel marks his last great moment as an actor; surely his jealousy arose in part because he knew he was being eclipsed. On March 31, 1930, the night of the film's triumphant premiere in Berlin, Sternberg and Dietrich sailed to New York together to pursue a career in Hollywood. Sternberg's wife, Riza Royce von Sternberg, who had sensed his growing affections for his star, had returned to America earlier. She met Sternberg and Dietrich at the dock with her lawyer, serving Dietrich with papers for a lawsuit alleging libel and "alienation of affection." A few months later Sternberg and his wife divorced. One of the first sound films of UFA (Universum Film Aktien Gesellschaft, or Universe Film Company Limited), The Blue Angel was also one of its last great productions. Established partly with state money in 1917, UFA rapidly became one of the leading studios in the world with films such as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919); Ernst Lubitsch's Madame Dubarry (1919); F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924); and the profligate, visionary Metropolis (1927), which nearly bankrupted the studio and resulted in the right-wing financier Alfred Hugenberg gaining a controlling share. Many of UFA's greatest talents - among them Fritz Lang, Murnau, Lubitsch, the cinematographer Karl Freund - eventually left for Hollywood. After World War II, the defunct UFA's massive soundstages at Neubabelsberg wound up on East German territory; they were used to establish DEFA, the East German studio. The Blue Angel was shot simultaneously in German and English language versions, making it necessary for the actors to read their lines in two different languages. During the early sound era such practices were not uncommon, since existing sound technology made dubbing difficult and studios wanted to create films that could sell to an international market. Another notable example is Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), for which an altogether different cast and director was used to film the Spanish-language version, shot at night on the same sets as the better-known English-language version. The English-language version of The Blue Angel is still exhibited occasionally, though for obvious reasons the German-language version is generally preferred. Over the years The Blue Angel has been shown in various public-domain prints, many of which have been cut. The version shown on TCM this month is the full-length German-language version, distributed by Kino International and licensed from the Murnau Foundation in Germany. A new print was struck from the best surviving materials and a new translation of the dialogue was commissioned. During the film's recent theatrical re-release the results were described by Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice as "the best print anyone has seen in 70 years." Producer: Erich Pommer Director: Josef von Sternberg Screenplay: Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoeller and Robert Liebmann; based on the novel Professor Unrath by Heinrich Mann Cinematographer: Gunther Rittau and Hans Schneeberger Editor: Sam Winston Music: Friedrich Hollander; lyrics by Robert Liebmann Set Design: Otto Hunte, Emil Hasler Principal Cast: Emil Jannings (Immanuel Rath), Marlene Dietrich (Lola Frolich), Rosa Valetti (Guste), Hans Albers (Mazeppa), Kurt Gerron (Kiepert), Karl Huszar-Puffy (Proprietor), Reinhold Bernt (Clown), Roland Varno (Lohmann). BW-107m. In German with English subtitles by James Steffen

The Blue Angel on Blu-ray


Cinema stylist Josef von Sternberg made his reputation in the late 1920s, perfecting a dense, highly sensual visual style in pictures like Underworld and The Docks of New York. Jamming the B&W frame with clutter, smoke and atmospheric lighting, Sternberg conjured up dream visions of shady nightspots and dockside beer halls. As he was associated from the beginning with European 'art' filmmaking, it was no surprise that when the German star Emil Jannings relocated to Hollywood Sternberg would be chose to direct. With the coming of sound the actor went back home, but by then Sternberg's work was so well known that he accepted an invitation from Ufa's Erich Pommer, to again direct Jannings in Berlin. The movie that resulted, The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) brought together one of the most dynamic artistic pairings of the 1930s, Josef von Sternberg and Berlin actress Marlene Dietrich. Together they would redefine exotic Hollywood glamour for the next six years. Ms. Dietrich had already appeared in several light comedies, but Brigitte Helm and Louise Brooks were consistently winning the best film roles in Weimar Germany. Under von Sternberg's direction, the saucy Dietrich would reshape herself as a refined sex symbol, taking over the top glamour roost from Hollywood's queen of European sophistication, Greta Garbo.

The Blue Angel was filmed in two language versions. For many years the only copies of the German Der blaue Engel were incomplete and of poor quality. Kino Classics' new restored Blu-ray release includes both the original, and the English-language version distributed in America by Paramount.

Heinrich Mann's original novel Professor Unrat is a caustic character study; the 1930 film softens it into the tragedy of Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings), a pompous schoolteacher brought low by passion. Rath's rowdy students consider him an old fool. Rath catches his boys with racy photos of the sexy attraction Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) and goes to see her for himself at The Blue Angel, a dockside music hall run by the shrewd showman Kiepert (Kurt Gerron). Rath is fascinated by Lola Lola and falls deeply in love with her. The showgirl toys with him but is also touched by his innocence. The scandal brings his career as a teacher to an abrupt end. Lola Lola accepts Rath's proposal of marriage but does not take him seriously. Now a part of Kiepert's road company, the professor slips into a fog of contradictory emotions. He must sell her racy photos to earn his keep; Kleipert finds humiliating ways to work him into the act. Lola Lola begins to tire of her husband just as the company returns to The Blue Angel, where Kiepert promotes Rath as the town's own native son. Kiepert costumes Rath as a clown to play the idiot-patsy in a comedy routine. By this time Lola Lola has taken the handsome new strongman Mazeppa (Hans Albers) as her lover. Rath only realizes this in the middle of his pathetic performance.

The Blue Angel is a powerful star vehicle for Emil Jannings, although it essentially replays the storyline from F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh: a man falls from a position of authority and loses his self-respect. In this case the situation is more complicated, as Professor Rath is actually a ludicrous failure as an educator. He becomes sympathetic only when charmed by the Dulcinea-like siren of the beer halls. Rath's fall into shame and degradation is foreshadowed by the appearance of a clown that he keeps bumping into backstage. The professor will soon sink lower than the clown, having raw eggs broken over his head as a catatonic stooge in Kiepert's cruel comedy act. In this way the clown functions as does the Geek that haunts Tyrone Power in the frightening noir Nightmare Alley.

Audiences responded enthusiastically to Marlene Dietrich's plump, vulgar music hall performer Lola Lola, a gutter siren who interrupts her cheap songs to take swigs of beer. The girls sit in a row on stage during the performance, as if the show were serving double duty as a brothel lineup. Lola Lola parades in provocative, trashy outfits, such as a hoop skirt with the back missing to show off her underwear, or another skirt so sheer that her body within stands out in silhouette. There's no question that she's for sale. Like Don Quixote, only the foolish Professor Rath looks upon Lola Lola as a lady.

Most of Lola Lola's songs are obvious teases, such as the self-explanatory I Am the Naughty Lola. But her beautiful signature tune expresses her basic nature, "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt". In both English and German, the lyrics absolve Lola Lola of responsibility for being so lethally attractive: "Men flutter to me like moths around a flame, and if their wings burn I know I'm not to blame." The Blue Angel was considered progressive (or decadent) because it refuses to condemn its heroine as a femme fatale. It shares that quality with G.W. Pabst's luminous Pandora's Box, which also acquits an amoral siren as an innocent victim.

Josef von Sternberg's German picture is a riot of expressionist visuals and his stylish settings. Professor Rath's dusty and sterile classroom contrasts with the wild beer hall, where nautical bric-a-brac, stuffed seagulls and salacious posters of Lola Lola crowd the frame. German cameraman Günther Rittau makes use of extreme lighting for the scenes of Rath's final humiliation on stage. 1930 was the first year for full audio tracks in Germany, and The Blue Angel's dense layering of echo-y music and sound effects contrasts strongly with the precise selectivity of sounds heard in Fritz Lang's "M". The only audio choice that will jar modern audiences occurs when doors are opened and closed backstage. Loud music from the hall outside is unnaturally silenced when doors are shut. It now plays as unintentionally funny.

The film's mysterious appeal lies in the chemistry between the tawdry but gentle Lola Lola and Professor Rath, whose reactions rage from bellowing indignation to baby-like shyness. For Lola Lola sex is just a tool of the trade, and part of her feels flattered by the attention of this gentlemanly, foolish innocent. Yet it's a poisonous relationship, especially when Lola Lola purposely fools around with the handsome strongman in plain sight. How much will the Professor take before he lashes out in rage?

By the time The Blue Angel opened in Berlin Dietrich and Sternberg were already on their way to Hollywood. Under Sternberg's guidance Dietrich slimmed down and altered her look for her Hollywood debut with Gary Cooper. Morocco was actually released first, as Paramount's executives doubted that Lola Lola would appeal to American audiences. After half a dozen glamorous Dietrich star vehicles, Sternberg's ornate style went out of fashion. After he stopped turning out hits studio executives became impatient with his dictatorial attitude. But Marlene Dietrich would maintain careful control of her glamorous image, re-inventing herself as a comedy star and a cabaret singer. As a patriotic naturalized citizen she toured war fronts to entertain the troops. Although her film appearances thinned out in the 1950s, they included memorable performances for directors like Frank Borzage, Ernst Lubitsch, Mitchell Leisen, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles.

Dietrich also stayed in close contact with the composer Friedrich Hollaender, who continued to write special material for her as well as maintain a busy Hollywood career. The music in The Blue Angel is a marvelous evocation of the Weimar-era cabaret sound.

Kino Classics' Blu-ray of The Blue Angel is a two-disc set with excellent copies of both language versions. The German original is the same disc released a year ago by Kino, while the English variant is sourced from elements in almost as good condition. The soundtracks on both versions are very clear, and will help to erase the memories of the substandard film prints that once circulated.

The English-language version has many alternate dialogue scenes in English, but scenes with inessential dialogue are allowed to play out in the German language. Instead of duplicating the German cut, the English version uses alternate takes so as to retain a first-generation original negative. The audio work for both versions is of equal high quality. Even with the technological limitations of 1930, we hear Dietrich clearly when she mutters intimate endearments to her blushing new suitor.

Some interesting extras are included on the English language copy. A visual comparison shows that the two versions share little or no original footage in common. We see Dietrich's screen test, where she pretends to interrupt herself while singing (not very well) to a piano accompaniment. A later interview is far too brief, but we are given a couple of songs from later TV appearances. An image gallery and trailers are included as well.

By Glenn Erickson

The Blue Angel on Blu-ray

Cinema stylist Josef von Sternberg made his reputation in the late 1920s, perfecting a dense, highly sensual visual style in pictures like Underworld and The Docks of New York. Jamming the B&W frame with clutter, smoke and atmospheric lighting, Sternberg conjured up dream visions of shady nightspots and dockside beer halls. As he was associated from the beginning with European 'art' filmmaking, it was no surprise that when the German star Emil Jannings relocated to Hollywood Sternberg would be chose to direct. With the coming of sound the actor went back home, but by then Sternberg's work was so well known that he accepted an invitation from Ufa's Erich Pommer, to again direct Jannings in Berlin. The movie that resulted, The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) brought together one of the most dynamic artistic pairings of the 1930s, Josef von Sternberg and Berlin actress Marlene Dietrich. Together they would redefine exotic Hollywood glamour for the next six years. Ms. Dietrich had already appeared in several light comedies, but Brigitte Helm and Louise Brooks were consistently winning the best film roles in Weimar Germany. Under von Sternberg's direction, the saucy Dietrich would reshape herself as a refined sex symbol, taking over the top glamour roost from Hollywood's queen of European sophistication, Greta Garbo. The Blue Angel was filmed in two language versions. For many years the only copies of the German Der blaue Engel were incomplete and of poor quality. Kino Classics' new restored Blu-ray release includes both the original, and the English-language version distributed in America by Paramount. Heinrich Mann's original novel Professor Unrat is a caustic character study; the 1930 film softens it into the tragedy of Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings), a pompous schoolteacher brought low by passion. Rath's rowdy students consider him an old fool. Rath catches his boys with racy photos of the sexy attraction Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) and goes to see her for himself at The Blue Angel, a dockside music hall run by the shrewd showman Kiepert (Kurt Gerron). Rath is fascinated by Lola Lola and falls deeply in love with her. The showgirl toys with him but is also touched by his innocence. The scandal brings his career as a teacher to an abrupt end. Lola Lola accepts Rath's proposal of marriage but does not take him seriously. Now a part of Kiepert's road company, the professor slips into a fog of contradictory emotions. He must sell her racy photos to earn his keep; Kleipert finds humiliating ways to work him into the act. Lola Lola begins to tire of her husband just as the company returns to The Blue Angel, where Kiepert promotes Rath as the town's own native son. Kiepert costumes Rath as a clown to play the idiot-patsy in a comedy routine. By this time Lola Lola has taken the handsome new strongman Mazeppa (Hans Albers) as her lover. Rath only realizes this in the middle of his pathetic performance. The Blue Angel is a powerful star vehicle for Emil Jannings, although it essentially replays the storyline from F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh: a man falls from a position of authority and loses his self-respect. In this case the situation is more complicated, as Professor Rath is actually a ludicrous failure as an educator. He becomes sympathetic only when charmed by the Dulcinea-like siren of the beer halls. Rath's fall into shame and degradation is foreshadowed by the appearance of a clown that he keeps bumping into backstage. The professor will soon sink lower than the clown, having raw eggs broken over his head as a catatonic stooge in Kiepert's cruel comedy act. In this way the clown functions as does the Geek that haunts Tyrone Power in the frightening noir Nightmare Alley. Audiences responded enthusiastically to Marlene Dietrich's plump, vulgar music hall performer Lola Lola, a gutter siren who interrupts her cheap songs to take swigs of beer. The girls sit in a row on stage during the performance, as if the show were serving double duty as a brothel lineup. Lola Lola parades in provocative, trashy outfits, such as a hoop skirt with the back missing to show off her underwear, or another skirt so sheer that her body within stands out in silhouette. There's no question that she's for sale. Like Don Quixote, only the foolish Professor Rath looks upon Lola Lola as a lady. Most of Lola Lola's songs are obvious teases, such as the self-explanatory I Am the Naughty Lola. But her beautiful signature tune expresses her basic nature, "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt". In both English and German, the lyrics absolve Lola Lola of responsibility for being so lethally attractive: "Men flutter to me like moths around a flame, and if their wings burn I know I'm not to blame." The Blue Angel was considered progressive (or decadent) because it refuses to condemn its heroine as a femme fatale. It shares that quality with G.W. Pabst's luminous Pandora's Box, which also acquits an amoral siren as an innocent victim. Josef von Sternberg's German picture is a riot of expressionist visuals and his stylish settings. Professor Rath's dusty and sterile classroom contrasts with the wild beer hall, where nautical bric-a-brac, stuffed seagulls and salacious posters of Lola Lola crowd the frame. German cameraman Günther Rittau makes use of extreme lighting for the scenes of Rath's final humiliation on stage. 1930 was the first year for full audio tracks in Germany, and The Blue Angel's dense layering of echo-y music and sound effects contrasts strongly with the precise selectivity of sounds heard in Fritz Lang's "M". The only audio choice that will jar modern audiences occurs when doors are opened and closed backstage. Loud music from the hall outside is unnaturally silenced when doors are shut. It now plays as unintentionally funny. The film's mysterious appeal lies in the chemistry between the tawdry but gentle Lola Lola and Professor Rath, whose reactions rage from bellowing indignation to baby-like shyness. For Lola Lola sex is just a tool of the trade, and part of her feels flattered by the attention of this gentlemanly, foolish innocent. Yet it's a poisonous relationship, especially when Lola Lola purposely fools around with the handsome strongman in plain sight. How much will the Professor take before he lashes out in rage? By the time The Blue Angel opened in Berlin Dietrich and Sternberg were already on their way to Hollywood. Under Sternberg's guidance Dietrich slimmed down and altered her look for her Hollywood debut with Gary Cooper. Morocco was actually released first, as Paramount's executives doubted that Lola Lola would appeal to American audiences. After half a dozen glamorous Dietrich star vehicles, Sternberg's ornate style went out of fashion. After he stopped turning out hits studio executives became impatient with his dictatorial attitude. But Marlene Dietrich would maintain careful control of her glamorous image, re-inventing herself as a comedy star and a cabaret singer. As a patriotic naturalized citizen she toured war fronts to entertain the troops. Although her film appearances thinned out in the 1950s, they included memorable performances for directors like Frank Borzage, Ernst Lubitsch, Mitchell Leisen, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles. Dietrich also stayed in close contact with the composer Friedrich Hollaender, who continued to write special material for her as well as maintain a busy Hollywood career. The music in The Blue Angel is a marvelous evocation of the Weimar-era cabaret sound. Kino Classics' Blu-ray of The Blue Angel is a two-disc set with excellent copies of both language versions. The German original is the same disc released a year ago by Kino, while the English variant is sourced from elements in almost as good condition. The soundtracks on both versions are very clear, and will help to erase the memories of the substandard film prints that once circulated. The English-language version has many alternate dialogue scenes in English, but scenes with inessential dialogue are allowed to play out in the German language. Instead of duplicating the German cut, the English version uses alternate takes so as to retain a first-generation original negative. The audio work for both versions is of equal high quality. Even with the technological limitations of 1930, we hear Dietrich clearly when she mutters intimate endearments to her blushing new suitor. Some interesting extras are included on the English language copy. A visual comparison shows that the two versions share little or no original footage in common. We see Dietrich's screen test, where she pretends to interrupt herself while singing (not very well) to a piano accompaniment. A later interview is far too brief, but we are given a couple of songs from later TV appearances. An image gallery and trailers are included as well. By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Marlene Dietrich's screen test for this film survives. In it, she upbraids an unidentified piano player for his bad playing and sings two songs, the first of which is "You're the Cream In My Coffee."

This was Emil Jannings' final English-language film (it was released in both German and English versions - see Alternate Versions).

Marlene Dietrich (Lola Lola) was, contrary to common belief, not the "star" of the film. She was not even a known actress. She was one of several students at an acting academy who were auditioned by director 'Joesph von Sternberg' for the role. Each of the girls was told to bring with them "a naughty song" which they would perform. Dietrich was so nervous and so sure that she would not get the role that she showed up without a song.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video November 27, 2001

Released in United States Winter December 1930

Re-released in United States July 13, 2001

2001 re-release features a restored print and re-formatted subtitles.

Film was originally shot in both a German and an English language version.

Re-released in United States July 13, 2001 (Film Forum; New York City)

Released in United States on Video November 27, 2001

Released in United States Winter December 1930