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Marlene Dietrich DVD collection

Marlene Dietrich DVD collection:

Blonde Venus
Desire
Devil Is A Woman
Dishonoured
Flame Of New Orleans
Follow The Boys
A Foreign Affair
Golden Earrings
Morocco
Pittsburgh
Seven Sinners
Song Of Songs

 
 
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Desire
cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, Zeffie Tilbury, and William Frawley

director: Frank Borzage

89 minutes (U) 1936
Universal Pictures DVD Region 2 retail


RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
This is an engaging piece of fluff, with some comic and surprisingly risqu� moments coupled with sterling performances from the two main stars. The type of movie you'd catch on a wet Saturday afternoon and leave the cinema (or the sofa) smiling, only to instantly forget what you've been watching.

Gary Cooper is Tom Bradley, a rather naïve Detroit automobile engineer working in Paris, who unexpectedly gets two weeks vacation before he has to head back to the United States. Marlene Dietrich is Madeleine de Beaupre, a beautiful and mysterious woman, who - in her opening scenes - coolly pulls off an audacious robbery, using her charms to obtain a two-million-dollar-plus pearl necklace. As both of them drive from France to Spain, they keep bumping into each other until circumstances arise that Madeleine has to hide the necklace in Bradley's jacket pocket, and then spends the rest of the movie trying to get it back without his knowledge.

Cooper plays the innocent American abroad rather too much at times, and the fact that he's been working in Paris is at odds with his fish-out-of-water character. This is a comedy however, and in some ways his playing of the role is pitch-perfect, if a trifle annoying. Dietrich also plays her role well - a strong and determined woman in the first half of the film - and when the camera is focussed on her face it's very hard to turn away.

Once in Spain, Dietrich meets up with her accomplice, Carlos Margoli (John Halliday), and together they arrange for Cooper to join them in a remote chateau whilst they scheme to retrieve the necklace he still doesn't know he possesses.

If, up until then, the movie works because of the light banter between the two main stars, and the comic medium allows us to forgive some peculiar plot discrepancies, then unfortunately this is undone when Dietrich falls in love with Cooper. Her yearning for an ordinary life is totally and suddenly at odds with the character previously presented. The implausible romance and shift in plot is amply illustrated by Cooper's own musings on her hot-and-cold approach to him: "Turn on the moon, turn off the moon." So much so that towards the end, when Halliday urges Dietrich to accompany him to Madrid to sell the necklace, she intimates that it was her first heist, which she did because Halliday pulled her out of the gutter. Again, this doesn't sit with the character we knew in the first half of the film.

But this isn't meant to be a serious psychological production, and there are several laugh-out-loud moments coupled with some intrigue and tension in a way that only a movie of this era could accomplish without being kitsch or too knowing. Cooper's reference to spanking being totally sublime! The supporting players are also enjoyable. Halliday resembles David Niven in his detachment and manners, and Zeffie Tilbury as 'Aunt Olga' (another member of the gang) brings a Margaret Rutherford type charm to her role.

If you can ignore some of the vagaries of the plot and have no great expectations then this movie is as good as any to pass the time. Turn on the moon. Enjoy the movie. Turn off the moon.
NEXT

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