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Marlene Dietrich Retrospective Screening at the Metrograph in NYC

Marlene Dietrich in “Shanghai Express”: mptvimages.com/IMDb

If you’re a fan of actress, camp icon, and anti-fascist Marlene Dietrich or want to learn more about her, you’re in luck. The Metrograph theater in New York City is hosting “Marlene,” a retrospective featuring 19 of Dietrich’s films. The festivities kicked off May 23 and will continue until July 8.

Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich was born in Berlin in 1901. Dietrich began her career as a vaudeville performer in Weimar Germany. She moved to Hollywood and eventually became a revered film actress, “bisexual sex symbol, willful camp icon, [and] paragon of feminine glamour” — “comfortable in top hat and tails, ballgown, or gorilla suit.” But the actress did not forget about what was happening back home in Germany; Dietrich became involved in the fight against fascism during WWII. She “used her likeness to fundraise for Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany and performed on Uso tours, earning her the Metal of Freedom and Légion d’honneur by the French government,” the press release details. Dietrich died in 1992 at the age of 90.

The “Marlene” retrospective will feature Dietrich’s seven films with director Josef von Sternberg: “The Blue Angel,” “Morocco,” “Blonde Venus,” “Dishonored,” “Shanghai Express,” “The Devil Is A Woman,” and “The Scarlet Empress.” The actress’ collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock (“Stage Fright”), Orson Welles (“Touch of Evil”), and Billy Wilder (“A Foreign Affair”) are among the other films screening at the Metrograph. A documentary about Dietrich, Maximilian Schell’s “Marlene,” will also screen. All of the films, besides “Marlene,” will be shown in 35mm.

Head over to The Metrograph’s site for showtimes and more information. The featured films and their synopses are below, courtesy of the Metrograph.

Angel

1937 / 91min / 35mm

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Melvyn Douglas

While English statesman Herbert Marshall worries over international affairs, his glamorous wife (Dietrich) concerns herself with, well, international affairs, beginning a tryst with a dashing stranger (Melvyn Douglas) who she only allows to know her as “Angel.” Dietrich’s last film on her Paramount contract is a spry, surprising love triangle, one of the least-known of Lubitsch’s essential works from his Midas touch period.

Blonde Venus

1932 / 93min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant

A.k.a “The One with the Gorilla Suit,” which Dietrich dons to perform her big number “Hot Voodoo.” It’s all for a good cause: she’s an ex-nightclub chanteuse who’s gone back to work to pay for husband Herbert Marshall’s radium poisoning treatments, though she later allows herself to become the plaything of Cary Grant’s dashing young millionaire, earning only contempt for her sacrifice.

Der Blaue Engel

1930 / 106min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti

Mild-mannered, uptight schoolteacher Emil Jannings lives a faultlessly law-abiding, by-the-book existence, but it’s all over when he gets a glimpse of Dietrich’s nightclub chanteuse Lola-Lola, and is immediately ready to ruin himself for her amusement. The first collaboration between Dietrich and von Sternberg made her an international star, and linked her forever to her seductive, world-weary delivery of the song “Falling in Love Again.” We’re showing the German-language version, preceded by a four-minute-long Dietrich screen test.

Desire

1936 / 95min / 35mm

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley

Dietrich and Gary Cooper reunite in this delightful urbane comedy by Borzage, a master of romantic delirium, here working somewhat after the style of producer Ernst Lubitsch. La Dietrich’s stylish jewel thief stashes a clutch of pearls in the pocket of an upstanding American businessman, and while trying to get back the goods she can’t help but notice the big lug isn’t half bad-looking. An excuse to recall the following lines from the 1936 Times review: “Lubitsch, the Gay Emancipator, has freed Dietrich from von Sternberg’s artistic bondage.” Those were the days.

Destry Rides Again

1939 / 94min / 35mm

Director: George Marshall

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Mischa Auer, Charles Winninger

Jimmy Stewart, still in his rangy, impossibly-good-looking phase, is a marshal who sets out to clean up the wide-open town of Bottleneck without firing a shot in this charming Western musical comedy. The local roughnecks present him one kind of challenge; Dietrich’s saloon singer Frenchy, belting out her rowdy standard “The Boys in the Back Room,” quite another.

The Devil Is A Woman

1935 / 80min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Edward Everett Horton

Dietrich and von Sternberg’s final collaboration, and an apotheosis of sorts. In Spain in the early years of the 20th century, Lionel Atwill’s loyal suitor Pasqualito and the revolutionary Cesar Romero are teased into a frenzy by legendary coquette Concha (Guess who?). The coolly scrolling camera and baroque compositions are courtesy of an uncredited Lucien Ballard and Von Sternberg himself, doing double duty as cinematographer.

Dishonored

1931 / 91min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Victor McLaglen

Dietrich plays X-27, a Mata Hari-esque spy for the Austrian Secret Service tasked with using a bevy of costume changes (Russian peasant, feathered helmet, leather jumpsuit) to gather information on the Russians during World War I. Outrageous plotting, high chiaroscuro style, and the star’s earthy sensuality mark this unforgettable pre-code treasure, beloved by Godard and Fassbinder both. Says Victor McLaglen: “the more you cheat and the more you lie, the more exciting you become.”

A Foreign Affair

1948 / 116min / 35mm

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jean Arthur, John Lund, Millard Mitchell

Against the backdrop of a ruined postwar Berlin, another conflict is just heating up, as Dietrich’s cabaret singer with rumored Nazi ties vies with Jean Arthur’s Iowa congresswoman-on-a-fact-finding-mission for the affection of American officer John Lund. Wilder’s penultimate collaboration with co-writer Charles Brackett is a black comic delight full of crackling, piquant dialogue, and Dietrich’s knowing slow-burn has never been better.

Judgment At Nuremberg

1961 / 186min / 35mm

Director: Stanley Kramer

Cast: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner

Dietrich’s last truly substantial screen appearance came as part of the ensemble for Kramer’s courtroom drama, playing the widow of a German general executed by the Allies who’s befriended by investigating judge Spencer Tracy in this fictionalized retelling of the events of a 1947 military tribunal addressing war crimes by civilians under the Third Reich. Rounding out the all-star cast are Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Maximilian Schell, who would win the Academy Award for Best Actor, and later directed a portrait of Dietrich.

The Lady Is Willing

1942 / 92min / 35mm

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Fred MacMurray, Aline MacMahon, Stanley Ridges

Leisen, considered a comic talent on-par with Lubitsch during the screwball era, lends characteristic sparkle to this mid-career attempt at reconfiguring Dietrich’s very 1930s star persona to fit the needs of the 1940s women’s picture; here she plays a glamor-gal diva whose life changes when she discovers a baby on Eighth Avenue and decides to adopt, passing through melodramatic coincidences and a vale of tears before falling into the arms of Fred MacMurray.

Lola

1981 / 113min / 35mm

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuchs

Dietrich had for all purposes retired from the screen by the time that Fassbinder began his frontal assault on West German popular culture, but her image and her unlikely combination of cool irony and torrid emotion left a profound mark on his films. Lola, the candy-colored, late-1950s-set capstone of his “Brd Trilogy” in particular draws heavily from The Blue Angel, with bordello singer Barbara Sukowa torn between Mario Adorf’s sugar daddy and Armin Mueller-Stahl’s incoming building commissioner in boomtown Coburg.

Marlene

1984 / 94min / Digital

Director: Maximilian Schell

More than twenty years after Schell had co-starred with Dietrich in Judgment at Nuremberg, during which period she’d retired to a life of very private seclusion, he tried to get her to participate in a documentary about her life. She finally gave in — sort of. Dietrich offered only her memories and her famous voice, refusing to appear on camera, but necessity became a boon to the resulting film, a sort of guided tour of Dietrich’s life and work, which simultaneously reveals much and deepens her mystery.

Morocco

1930 / 92min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou

After The Blue Angel, shot in Germany, was a hit, von Sternberg was given full run of the Paramount backlot, where he would conjure up all manner of exotic destinations out of thin air. First stop: North Africa, where French legionnaire Gary Cooper competes with sugar daddy Adolphe Menjou for the favors of Dietrich’s cabaret star Amy Jolly, who in one scene famously rocks a men’s tailcoat and plants a smooch on a female fan.

Rancho Notorious

1952 / 89min / 35mm

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer, William Frawley

Teutons Lang and Dietrich team up in a Technicolor wild west of deliberate, garish artifice in this singularly claustrophobic oater, in which a revenge-mad Burt Kennedy goes looking for his fiancée’s killers at a hideaway inn run by Dietrich, and discovers dangerous, unbidden desires instead. As the chant of the film’s recurring, persecutorial Brechtian ballad goes: “Hate, murder, and revenge.”

The Scarlet Empress

1934 / 104min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser

Have ever a screen persona and a historical personage found such a hand-in-glove-fit as did Dietrich and Empress Catherine the Great of Russia? While the Motion Picture Production Code was preparing to chasten American movies, Dietrich and von Sternberg got together to throw one last lavish S & M orgy, a flamboyant film of 18th century palace intrigues and ludicrously lapidary décor.

Shanghai Express

1932 / 82min / 35mm

Director: Josef Von Sternberg

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily,” proclaims Marlene Dietrich with the disdain of an empress, though in fact she’s a high-class courtesan, re-encountering former lover Clive Brook on an express train rolling through civil war-wracked China. The fourth of Dietrich and von Sternberg’s collaborations is a riot of delirious chinoiserie artifice and sculpted shadowplay — Dietrich’s co-star Anna May Wong was never again shot so caressingly.

The Song Of Songs

1933 / 90min / 35mm

Director: Rouben Mamoulian

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, Lionel Atwill

So often the instrument of corruption, Mamoulian’s film allows Dietrich to be the corrupted one, playing a country girl, Lily, who comes to big-city Berlin and quickly becomes the model and muse of sculptor Brian Aherne. Lionel Atwill’s preening decadent Baron von Merzbach admires Lily’s nude form in marble, and decides to bring the original home with him, where she slips into the role of the cynical sophisticate, though her heart remains with the artist.

Stage Fright

1950 / 110min / 35mm

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman, Michael Wilding, Richard Todd, Alastair Sim

Hitchcock’s last film in his native England until 1972’s Frenzy is an audaciously-structured thriller, making use of an extended flashback and a whiplash narrative about-face. Acting student Jane Wyman tries to save beau Robert Todd from taking the fall for a murder committed by stage star Dietrich, who shows her hypnotic charm in a show-stopper performance of “I’m the Laziest Gal in Town.”

Touch Of Evil

1958 / 95min / 35mm

Director: Orson Welles

Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles

It’s not the size of the part, but what you do with it. Playing a brothel keeper in a seedy border town in Welles’s magnificently baroque late noir, Dietrich only has a clutch of lines, but they’re the ones you remember, whether her famous requiem for crooked cop Hank Quinlan, or her reading of his “fortune”: “Your future’s all used up.” Bold and self-evidently brilliant, you could use Touch of Evil to explain the concept of great cinema to a visiting Martian.

Marlene Dietrich Retrospective Screening at the Metrograph in NYC was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

Daily | Goings On | Fassbinder, Hu, Ospina

  • Keyframe
The Metrograph is screening all ten of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's favorite films: Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar, Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, Vasily Shukshin's The Red Snowball Tree, Josef von Sternberg's Dishonored, Max Ophuls's Lola Montes, Michael Curtiz's Flamingo Road, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, Raoul Walsh's The Naked and the Dead and Luchino Visconti's The Damned. Also in New York: King Hu’s A Touch of Zen and work by Luis Ospina. Screening tonight in Chicago: Nathan Silver's Riot, Mike Ott's Lancaster, CA and William Greaves's In the Company of Men. And we have a few more goings on. » - David Hudson
See full article at Keyframe »

Metrograph, New York City’s Newest Indie Theater, Unveils Impressive First Slate of Programming

Each weekend we highlight the best repertory programming that New York City has to offer, and it’s about to get even better. Opening on February 19th at 7 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side is Metrograph, the city’s newest indie movie theater. Sporting two screens, they’ve announced their first slate, which includes retrospectives for Fassbinder, Wiseman, Eustache, and more, special programs such as an ode to the moviegoing experience, and new independent features that we’ve admired on the festival circuit (including Afternoon, Office 3D, and Measure of a Man).

Artistic and Programming Director Jacob Perlin says in a press release, “Jean Eustache in a Rocky t-shirt. This is the image we had in mind while making this first calendar. Great cinema is there, wherever you can find it. The dismissed film now recognized as a classic, the forgotten box-office hit newly resurrected, the high and the low,
See full article at The Film Stage »

Radiant at Bam: "The Films of Dietrich and von Sternberg"

Radiant at Bam:
In Marlene Dietrich's ABC, the actress's marvelous book of bon mots and observations for any and every occasion, under the heading "Josef von Sternberg" you'll find just one simple line: "The man I wanted to please most." Among women who think for themselves, or even just claim to, the idea of wanting to please a man is highly unfashionable. But what if Dietrich hadn't? There would be no Amy Jolly in a white tuxedo, wooing French foreign legionnaire Gary Cooper with a posy in Morocco; no Shanghai Lily in Shanghai Express, counting — or losing count of — the number of men who helped her earn that nickname; no Agent X-27 in Dishonored, ever so glamorously clutching her black Persian cat as she readies herself for the journey to...
See full article at Village Voice »

The Forgotten: Witness

  • MUBI
The Goose Woman (1925), directed by Clarence Brown, just screened at the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, accompanied by one of the finest and most remarkable live scores it's ever been my privilege to experience. Jane Gardner's soundtrack, incorporating piano, violin and drums, but also baby cries and a musical saw, was so good I wondered if it might be causing me to overrate the movie, in essence a moderately soapy melodrama, but the fact that no less a figure than Kevin Brownlow, who rediscovered and restored the lost film and supplied the print for the screening, considers it one of his very favorites, reassures me that I haven't taken leave of my critical faculties in a musical rapture.

The plot derives from a true-life murder case, still unsolved, but such open-ended stories have never been Hollywood's bag so this Universal production wraps things up neatly by the end. Part
See full article at MUBI »

Daily Briefing. Hong Sang-soo, Claude Lanzmann, Josef von Sternberg, Pierre Étaix…

  • MUBI
In the new March 2012 issue of the Brooklyn Rail, Colin Beckett previews a "five-film retrospective sampler" of work by Hong Sang-soo running at the Museum of the Moving Image from March 17 through 23: "Wherever his characters go, be it Paris or a Korean resort town, they do the same things: arrange themselves in complicated love triangles, treat others poorly, drink too much, then treat each other even worse. His deliberately artificial camera movements — long pans back and forth, and half-motivated zooms, mostly — treat real space the way a camera usually approaches a photograph or a painting: flattening it, drawing horizontal and diagonal lines to map its elements. He is concerned with atmosphere in the literal sense: the particular qualities of light and air in the types of spaces to which he obsessively returns: beaches, restaurants, apartments."

Hong's Tale of Cinema (2005) is not one of the five (which, by the way,
See full article at MUBI »

Marlene Dietrich on TCM: Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil Is A Woman

Marlene Dietrich is Turner Classic Movies last "Summer Under the Stars" star of 2011. Today, TCM is showing 12 Marlene Dietrich movies, in addition to J. David Riva's 2001 documentary Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song. Riva, I should add, is the son of Maria Riva and Dietrich's grandson. [Marlene Dietrich Movie Schedule.] Unfortunately, TCM isn't presenting any Marlene Dietrich movie premieres today. In other words, no Dietrich opposite David Bowie in Just a Gigolo, or Dietrich next to Jean Gabin in Martin Roumagnac / The Room Upstairs, or any of Dietrich's little-known German-made silents, e.g., Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame / I Kiss Your Hand, Madame; Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen / The Ship of Lost Men; and Gefahren der Brautzeit / Dangers of the Engagement. None of the silents are exactly what I'd call good movies — nor is Just a Gigolo — but they all are worth a look if only because Dietrich is in them. Another option for
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

New York's "Essential Pre-Code" Series: Week 3

  • MUBI
Each year New York residents can look forward to two essential series programmed at the Film Forum, noirs and pre-Coders (that is, films made before the strict enforcing of the Motion Picture Production Code). These near-annual retrospective traditions are refreshed and re-varied and re-repeated for neophytes and cinephiles alike, giving all the chance to see and see again great film on film. Many titles in this year's Essential Pre-Codeseries, running an epic July 15 - August 11, are old favorites and some ache to be new discoveries; all in all there are far too many racy, slipshod, patter-filled celluloid splendors to be covered by one critic alone. Faced with such a bounty, I've enlisted the kind help of some friends and colleagues, asking them to sent in short pieces on their favorites in an incomplete but also in-progress survey and guide to one of the summer's most sought-after series. In this entry: what's playing Friday,
See full article at MUBI »

The Golden Age of American Talkies: 1931

The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch) City Lights (Charlie Chaplin) Tabu (F.W. Murnau & Robert Flaherty) Street Scene (King Vidor) Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg) The Champ (King Vidor) The Struggle (D.W. Griffith) The Criminal Code (Howard Hawks) Arrowsmith (John Ford) An American Tragedy (Josef von Sternberg) The Skin Game (Alfred Hitchcock) Private Lives (Sidney Franklin) Wicked (Allan Dwan) Bad Girl (Frank Borzage) Chances (Allan Dwan) The Miracle Woman (Frank Capra) Girls About Town (George Cukor) Frankenstein (James Whale) The Public Enemy (William Wellman) Seas Beneath (John Ford) The Yellow Ticket (Raoul Walsh) Tarnished Lady (George Cukor) The Guardsman (Sidney Franklin) Dirigible
See full article at Blogdanovich »

square shot

  • MUBI
Over the summer I made a little video essay inspired by Reverse Shot's Take Three issue, which focuses on the specific use of sound in a film. The video, square shot, is somewhat cryptic so I've included some text for a bit of context. Special thanks to Michael Koresky.

***

The sounds of the studio in 1931 are a real pleasure—what you are listening to is literally the sounds of an industrial-artistic complex figuring out how to make its product heard. Cavernous echoes, noises expanded into and being swallowed by massive soundstages—strange, eerie signs of early talkies.

Josef von Sternberg was one of the most inspired filmmakers to leap at the challenge and see the possibilities opened up by sound. An initial mention, or homage, must go first to his brilliant sound debut Thunderbolt (1929), a subject deserving its own poetics, but instead let's look at and listen to the final gunshots in 1931's Dishonored,
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