The Blue Angel
- 1h 47min
During the 1950s in a small German town, high school Professor Immanuel Rath falls in-love with a young cabaret entertainer, with dramatic consequences.During the 1950s in a small German town, high school Professor Immanuel Rath falls in-love with a young cabaret entertainer, with dramatic consequences.During the 1950s in a small German town, high school Professor Immanuel Rath falls in-love with a young cabaret entertainer, with dramatic consequences.
Coming almost 30 years after the film that had turned Marlene Dietrich into an international sensation, the color remake updates the setting to a more contemporary one but then follows its prototype in a disheartening scene-by-scene fashion for most of its running time! The pointlessness of the venture is doubly exposed by the fact that director Josef von Sternberg had already filmed the movie in English at the same time that he made the superior German one (which had also been the nation's first Talkie).
Although May Britt and Curd Jurgens are decent enough as the central couple, they are no match for Dietrich and Emil Jannings in the original and, indeed, I kept wondering how much better the film would have played had it been shot a decade later with Max Von Sydow and iconic chanteuse Nico (of "The Velvet Underground & Nico" fame) in the lead! Jurgens was an international star who had been brought to Hollywood two years previously for Nicholas Ray's BITTER VICTORY and remained in demand for the rest of his life (he died of a heart-attack in 1982). Britt (who is still alive today and turns 78 today!) had started out in Italy – her most notable film there being Raffaello Matarazzo's THE SHIP OF CONDEMNED WOMEN (1954) – but she subsequently came to Hollywood and appeared in the likes of WAR AND PEACE (1956) and THE YOUNG LIONS (1958; also for Fox and Dmytryk) before landing the role of Lola-Lola; afterwards, she made little of consequence – except for her penultimate film, HAUNTS (1977) – and is now chiefly remembered for the stir her 1960 marriage to Sammy Davis Jr. had created in those less tolerant times. Frankly, Jurgens' students are a rather uninteresting lot here, and it is left for character actors like Theodor Bikel (as Lola-Lola's employer) and John Banner (as Jurgens' empathizing principal) to come off best among the supporting cast members.
Although the director had this to say on the movie in his autobiography, "It was a film none of us had to be ashamed of, but the rule still holds – never remake a classic, even a minor one", the truth is that his handling (exacerbated by the strict adherence to the original and the addition of a couple of musical numbers) is mostly an indifferent one. Screenwriter Nigel Balchin – who would soon be penning the underrated and ambiguous semi-Western THE SINGER NOT THE SONG (1961) – takes care to portray Jurgens' sterile, ordered life (by repeatedly showing him strategically meeting his Headmaster on their way to school) before his unheralded meeting with Lola-Lola but then proceeds to alter the main characters in such a way that we are led to a lame upbeat ending far removed from the powerfully poignant one depicted by Jannings and Sternberg in 1930. In fact, here Britt pities Jurgens' final degradation (parading as a clown in front of his townspeople) and purposefully kisses her young former flame in front of him – an act which precipitates his quitting the sleazy milieu and march onward, accompanied by Jurgen's ex-boss, towards the prospect of regaining his old position as schoolteacher! Ultimately, it is in Leon Shamroy's garish cinematography (with blue understandably dominating the color scheme) that the film's major asset is to be found but whether that relative advantage over the Sternberg version is enough to compensate for its many shortcomings is another matter entirely!
- Mar 22, 2011