28 November 1999 | rfkeser
Delicious satire of Sadie Thompson dramas
This rowdy South Seas romp is the high point of Marlene Dietrich's more user-friendly populist period: she plays "Bijou", a "singer" who gets deported from island after island because she innocently enflames both locals and sailors into brawling and destroying the nightclubs. Bijou values handsome guys, diamonds, and good friends, not to mention her wardrobe of feathers, flounces, silks, lace parasols, and even a sailor's uniform. As the object of Bijou's attention, John Wayne is at his freshest and most appealing, sheepishly bringing her armloads of orchids. The supporting cast is unusually deep: dense but loyal Broderick Crawford, sneaky Mischa Auer, menacing Oscar Homolka, perpetually befuddled Billy Gilbert, world-weary Albert Dekker, pretty Anna Lee. The lavish production includes sunny lighting and dynamic camera moves from Rudolph Mate. For once, director Tay Garnett gets it all right: the tropical atmosphere, the teasing romance, the broad comedy, the bittersweet edge [see Bijou's exchanges with the ship's doctor], plus four good musical numbers.