The first major sound film produced in Germany was The Blue Angel. Searching for an actor who would exude the raw sexuality of a vamp, director Von Sternberg discovered Dietrich playing a bit part in a Berlin theatre. He co-starred her with the immensely popular German actor Emil Jannings, in a film that has retained its hold on the public imagination for more than 80 years.
The Blue Angel is an unsparing account of a straight-laced, bourgeois schoolteacher, Professor Rath, and his obsession with Lola Lola, a cabaret dancer. One of the earliest ‘talkies’, this technically dazzling film traces an ‘upright’ man’s folly as it exploits the radiant sensuality of Dietrich. As the political situation in Germany worsened with the rise of Nazism, along with many German intellectuals and artists, Dietrich and Sternberg fled to America. The Blue Angel was banned in Nazi Germany in 1933 but Hitler viewed it often in his private cinema. Although never appearing fully naked, Lola’s libidinousness was a revelation to 1930s moviegoers, challenging the limits of on-screen sexuality and placing Dietrich at the forefront of principal female actors.
German with English subtitles
Directed by Josef Von Strenberg, Germany 1930. Runtime 108 mins. Rated PG
- Auditorium, lower ground level