27 August 2002 | Ron Oliver
The Lubitsch Touch Is Felt Again
The DESIRE for a fabulous string of pearls has unexpected results for the beautiful thief.
Bearing the unmistakable impress of its legendary producer, Ernst Lubitsch, here is a stylish concoction of witty dialogue & sophisticated romance sure to please the most discriminating palate. It is a shame that the film is so badly neglected, as it is a joy from start to finish. With impeccable production values, the film is also a study in handsome sets & costumes.
Gorgeous Marlene Dietrich ravishes the eye with her sheer physical presence, but her beauty should not detract from her acting ability, which is considerable. She presents us with a woman of mystery & slowly, deliberately, allows us to acquaint ourselves with her character. She imbues it all with a real sense of humor, which makes her first scenes, in which she pulls off a classic jewel robbery, all that more delightful.
Rawboned & enthusiastic, there is very little mystery swirling about Gary Cooper, playing an American auto engineer working in Paris. Embracing all life might bring him in his first trip to Spain, he is wide open and ready for passionate romance when Dietrich blows into his life. Their screen time together is charged with sensual electricity which no Production Code could disguise.
Deftly underplaying the menace of his role, John Halliday is dangerously suave as a thieving prince' who manages to keep one step ahead of the law. Ernest Cossart & Alan Mowbray are wonderful as Parisian gentlemen who fall victim to Dietrich's schemes (one has his pearls purloined, the other gets his dignity damaged).
Elderly English actress Zeffie Tilbury is given an unusually choice role, playing the matriarch of the gang of thieves. Arriving late in the proceedings, with only a few scenes she is able to make us wish we knew a lot more about her character.
In much smaller roles, William Frawley as Cooper's boss & Akim Tamiroff, as a Spanish police official blinded by Dietrich's beauty, do well with their few minutes on the screen.