Blonde Venus Reviews

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    Alec B Super Reviewer
    Feb 15, 2021

    Iconic musical numbers aside this is a lesser Dietrich/Sternberg collaboration. Censorship of the time appears to have muddled the screenplay's themes.

    Iconic musical numbers aside this is a lesser Dietrich/Sternberg collaboration. Censorship of the time appears to have muddled the screenplay's themes.

  • Feb 12, 2021

    It's all rather trashy, with Dietrich's Helen riding a see-saw of being rich and being poor and being rich and being poor, all the while looking great, carrying on torrid affairs, and detaching from everything but her boy. Only Dietrich could manage to make such a willfully self-destructive character as sympathetic a figure as she is. Although in many ways she's arrived at this point through her own series of bad choices, by the time her husband demands their son back, it's he who strikes the viewer as the problem. This in itself is a pretty remarkable feat for both the filmmaker and particularly the actress. All the while, von Sternberg continues to craft a bigger and more expansive sensory world for her to have her way with. And, though some of the sharp edges of their past films have been filed down this time, Dietrich does indeed have her way with it.

    It's all rather trashy, with Dietrich's Helen riding a see-saw of being rich and being poor and being rich and being poor, all the while looking great, carrying on torrid affairs, and detaching from everything but her boy. Only Dietrich could manage to make such a willfully self-destructive character as sympathetic a figure as she is. Although in many ways she's arrived at this point through her own series of bad choices, by the time her husband demands their son back, it's he who strikes the viewer as the problem. This in itself is a pretty remarkable feat for both the filmmaker and particularly the actress. All the while, von Sternberg continues to craft a bigger and more expansive sensory world for her to have her way with. And, though some of the sharp edges of their past films have been filed down this time, Dietrich does indeed have her way with it.

  • Jan 27, 2021

    There's some entertaining song numbers around a tired melodrama. Josef von Sternberg's melodrama Blonde Venus (1932) has some entertainment value in Marlene Dietrich's playful songs in several languages. Her English love song, dreamy German lullaby, and flirty French song are the highlights of Blonde Venus alongside Travis Banton's glorious dresses and suits for Dietrich. Her voice is pretty with a fun flair due to her thick German accent. Blonde Venus is an alright film brought down by dour male leads, casual sexism, and outright racism that marr a nice movie. Sternberg's direction is intriguing as he uses his standard moody lighting with illuminated faces. His stalwart dedication to making Blonde Venus look cool and feel atmospheric is quite nice to see. I wish he didn't use chorus girls in blackface for the gorilla song number or have such casual sexism that uses Marlene Dietrich as a plaything for men. Josef von Sternberg directed better pictures with Dishonored and Shanghai Express for sure. Blonde Venus is at least better than Morocco. Jules Furthman's writing is intriguing as he attempts to empathize with a mother forced back into a performing lifestyle surrounded by toxic men who only want to sleep with her. Her husband cannot provide for her, so he scorns her, her millionaire adultery fling is jealous of her husband and child as he tries to buy her, her managers only want to capitalize off her sex appeal, so these sexist men are all the villains truly. Josef von Sternberg's editing has creative visual cuts with a dazzling effectiveness. I think he could have cut quicker during some of the more dreary melodramatic sequences to ensure Blonde Venus' 93 minutes didn't drag so much. Bert Glennon's wide shots are great for the song sequences, while the ethereal close-up shots of Marlene Dietrich's face are heavenly shot. The music is pleasant, but could have been more dramatic or romantic to help the overall feel of the movie. Marlene Dietrich's dramatic lead actress role is excellent with a sincerely empathetic performance as Helen Faraday or Helen Jones: The Blonde Venus. She's very sweet as a caring mother, devoted wife, reluctant mistress, and tear-jerking vagabond of sorts. Dietrich's glances backwards, waves of her hand, and striking voice work well to keep you spellbound by her acting. She's the main appeal of Blonde Venus. You only sympathize with her. A young Cary Grant is great as a sleazy millionaire buying his way into women's lives. I hated Herbert Marshall's goofy George Sanders like voice. The men are all gross and sexist with little to sympathize with at all here. In all, Blonde Venus works as a quirky cabaret feature with some interesting melodrama. However it only functions as a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich to chew up the scenery in lavish style as only she could.

    There's some entertaining song numbers around a tired melodrama. Josef von Sternberg's melodrama Blonde Venus (1932) has some entertainment value in Marlene Dietrich's playful songs in several languages. Her English love song, dreamy German lullaby, and flirty French song are the highlights of Blonde Venus alongside Travis Banton's glorious dresses and suits for Dietrich. Her voice is pretty with a fun flair due to her thick German accent. Blonde Venus is an alright film brought down by dour male leads, casual sexism, and outright racism that marr a nice movie. Sternberg's direction is intriguing as he uses his standard moody lighting with illuminated faces. His stalwart dedication to making Blonde Venus look cool and feel atmospheric is quite nice to see. I wish he didn't use chorus girls in blackface for the gorilla song number or have such casual sexism that uses Marlene Dietrich as a plaything for men. Josef von Sternberg directed better pictures with Dishonored and Shanghai Express for sure. Blonde Venus is at least better than Morocco. Jules Furthman's writing is intriguing as he attempts to empathize with a mother forced back into a performing lifestyle surrounded by toxic men who only want to sleep with her. Her husband cannot provide for her, so he scorns her, her millionaire adultery fling is jealous of her husband and child as he tries to buy her, her managers only want to capitalize off her sex appeal, so these sexist men are all the villains truly. Josef von Sternberg's editing has creative visual cuts with a dazzling effectiveness. I think he could have cut quicker during some of the more dreary melodramatic sequences to ensure Blonde Venus' 93 minutes didn't drag so much. Bert Glennon's wide shots are great for the song sequences, while the ethereal close-up shots of Marlene Dietrich's face are heavenly shot. The music is pleasant, but could have been more dramatic or romantic to help the overall feel of the movie. Marlene Dietrich's dramatic lead actress role is excellent with a sincerely empathetic performance as Helen Faraday or Helen Jones: The Blonde Venus. She's very sweet as a caring mother, devoted wife, reluctant mistress, and tear-jerking vagabond of sorts. Dietrich's glances backwards, waves of her hand, and striking voice work well to keep you spellbound by her acting. She's the main appeal of Blonde Venus. You only sympathize with her. A young Cary Grant is great as a sleazy millionaire buying his way into women's lives. I hated Herbert Marshall's goofy George Sanders like voice. The men are all gross and sexist with little to sympathize with at all here. In all, Blonde Venus works as a quirky cabaret feature with some interesting melodrama. However it only functions as a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich to chew up the scenery in lavish style as only she could.

  • Dec 15, 2020

    A couple of excellent Marlene Dietrich music numbers enliven this racy soap opera fairy tale.

    A couple of excellent Marlene Dietrich music numbers enliven this racy soap opera fairy tale.

  • Jun 08, 2020

    Dietrich is good in this dull predictable film. Grant is good too but Marshall frowns through the entire movie.

    Dietrich is good in this dull predictable film. Grant is good too but Marshall frowns through the entire movie.

  • Antonius B Super Reviewer
    Oct 18, 2018

    Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Herbert Marshall, and director Josef von Sternberg ... it's really quite a heavyweight group contributing to 'Blonde Venus'. The film opens with Dietrich meeting Marshall after he happens upon her skinny dipping in a pond in Germany, and the next thing you know, they're married with a young son (Dickie Moore) and living in America. The trouble is, Marshall needs medical treatment that can only be obtained in Germany, and when she takes a job in a nightclub to help raise some money, she catches the eye of a rich playboy (Cary Grant). The two have an affair, and when Marshall discovers it upon returning and threatens getting custody of their son, Dietrich flees with the boy. There are several wonderful moments, and despite the flaws in the film, they carried the day for me. You have, of course, von Sternberg's tight shots on his actors, and the effects with shadows he employs, and with these stars, you get that larger than life feeling. I loved Dietrich's conflicted conversations with Grant about still loving her husband, and her remorse and honesty with him when he returns, ending with the line "I'm here, if you'll have me," which she delivers so perfectly, with such power in her simplicity. She also has a wonderfully understated scene at the train station when she must give up the boy, a heartbreaking and emotional moment which is amplified by her stillness. Of course he's right to consider divorcing her, but we see the double standard in play - she's a loving mother, a dutiful wife, works to provide income, but it seems it's more unforgiveable for her to have committed adultery than it would be for a man, and to use her sexuality to help get by. Men are like wolves who circle - the owner of a diner who leers while saying "You going to wash my dishes?" with a lascivious hint, and the policeman following her who she feels she must seduce ("What are you doing down here, big boy?"). It's great to see Cary Grant at 28 in his first year of filmmaking, and he plays the bad guy well. Herbert Marshall has some nice moments too, including the confrontation with Grant towards the end in which he says "I can throw money around the same as you can" with power in that fine, polished accent of his. Lastly, it was nice seeing Hattie McDaniel in a few scenes. The biggest problem with the film is the musical number 'Hot Voodoo', which opens with white women in blackface dancing out with a gorilla. The racism it represents is indefensible, and my heart sank when I saw it. Dietrich of course emerges from the gorilla suit and sings lines that titillate ("Hot voodoo, burn my clothes, I want to start dancing, just wearing a smile") as well as make us cringe ("That African tempo has made me a slave"). Any other criticism of the film pales in comparison to that, but I thought the middle of it lost momentum as well, and the ending was a little syrupy. I may be rounding up a bit here, and I'd only recommend it with reservations, but all in all I enjoyed it.

    Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Herbert Marshall, and director Josef von Sternberg ... it's really quite a heavyweight group contributing to 'Blonde Venus'. The film opens with Dietrich meeting Marshall after he happens upon her skinny dipping in a pond in Germany, and the next thing you know, they're married with a young son (Dickie Moore) and living in America. The trouble is, Marshall needs medical treatment that can only be obtained in Germany, and when she takes a job in a nightclub to help raise some money, she catches the eye of a rich playboy (Cary Grant). The two have an affair, and when Marshall discovers it upon returning and threatens getting custody of their son, Dietrich flees with the boy. There are several wonderful moments, and despite the flaws in the film, they carried the day for me. You have, of course, von Sternberg's tight shots on his actors, and the effects with shadows he employs, and with these stars, you get that larger than life feeling. I loved Dietrich's conflicted conversations with Grant about still loving her husband, and her remorse and honesty with him when he returns, ending with the line "I'm here, if you'll have me," which she delivers so perfectly, with such power in her simplicity. She also has a wonderfully understated scene at the train station when she must give up the boy, a heartbreaking and emotional moment which is amplified by her stillness. Of course he's right to consider divorcing her, but we see the double standard in play - she's a loving mother, a dutiful wife, works to provide income, but it seems it's more unforgiveable for her to have committed adultery than it would be for a man, and to use her sexuality to help get by. Men are like wolves who circle - the owner of a diner who leers while saying "You going to wash my dishes?" with a lascivious hint, and the policeman following her who she feels she must seduce ("What are you doing down here, big boy?"). It's great to see Cary Grant at 28 in his first year of filmmaking, and he plays the bad guy well. Herbert Marshall has some nice moments too, including the confrontation with Grant towards the end in which he says "I can throw money around the same as you can" with power in that fine, polished accent of his. Lastly, it was nice seeing Hattie McDaniel in a few scenes. The biggest problem with the film is the musical number 'Hot Voodoo', which opens with white women in blackface dancing out with a gorilla. The racism it represents is indefensible, and my heart sank when I saw it. Dietrich of course emerges from the gorilla suit and sings lines that titillate ("Hot voodoo, burn my clothes, I want to start dancing, just wearing a smile") as well as make us cringe ("That African tempo has made me a slave"). Any other criticism of the film pales in comparison to that, but I thought the middle of it lost momentum as well, and the ending was a little syrupy. I may be rounding up a bit here, and I'd only recommend it with reservations, but all in all I enjoyed it.

  • Feb 17, 2018

    I find this film interesting particularly for its sexual politics, which are surely at the core of it. Neither of the male leads is given enough airtime for it to really play as a romantic drama and it's also hard to pigeon-hole it in the "sacrificial mother" slot when you've got stuff like "Hot Voodoo" and Dietrich prancing in top hat and tails and caressing a showgirl. I take the main message of the film to be that you can't put Dietrich in a box, even though men keep trying to do so (she's renamed not just by her husband but by her agent and then again by her promoter). With the exception of Grant the male characters are all extremely unsympathetic - when Dietrich's on the run with her child she may have the law and conventional morality against her, but not the audience.

    I find this film interesting particularly for its sexual politics, which are surely at the core of it. Neither of the male leads is given enough airtime for it to really play as a romantic drama and it's also hard to pigeon-hole it in the "sacrificial mother" slot when you've got stuff like "Hot Voodoo" and Dietrich prancing in top hat and tails and caressing a showgirl. I take the main message of the film to be that you can't put Dietrich in a box, even though men keep trying to do so (she's renamed not just by her husband but by her agent and then again by her promoter). With the exception of Grant the male characters are all extremely unsympathetic - when Dietrich's on the run with her child she may have the law and conventional morality against her, but not the audience.

  • May 04, 2017

    Blonde Venus has too many musical numbers plus the editing is all over the place, but the film is very sensual owing to such a terrific cinematography and its two charming leads. But it is one of Joseph von Sternberg's best films because it isn't just style over substance as it also features a strong script, very good character development, great performances from Herbert Marshall and Marlene Dietrich in two of their best roles and such an indescribably beautiful, perfect conclusion.

    Blonde Venus has too many musical numbers plus the editing is all over the place, but the film is very sensual owing to such a terrific cinematography and its two charming leads. But it is one of Joseph von Sternberg's best films because it isn't just style over substance as it also features a strong script, very good character development, great performances from Herbert Marshall and Marlene Dietrich in two of their best roles and such an indescribably beautiful, perfect conclusion.

  • Mar 29, 2016

    Marlene Dietrich is bad again, as she often was for Josef von Sternberg. This time, however, we see that she starts out good -- in a pre-code skinny-dipping scene where she meets future husband Herbert Marshall. When Marshall grows ill with radiation poisoning (he is a chemist), she goes back to the stage from whence she came to raise money for his treatment in Europe. But instead the money comes from millionaire Cary Grant who "occupies" her when Marshall is overseas. And helps to take care of her son, Jonny, too. Because yes, not only is Dietrich bad, but she is a bad mother, dragging Jonny all over the USA after Marshall returns early and finds her with Grant (who quickly departs for Europe). With the police after her, and presumed prostitution the only way to raise any cash during the Depression, Dietrich is soon at the end of the road. And then she is the jaded emotionless Dietrich dressed in white tails and top hat back in Paris crooning as we knew she would. Until the ending which rings false (yes, Marshall takes her back). Sternberg keeps things moving at a good clip but can't help a bit of a jarring clash between the scenes with young Dickie Moore and the decadence and degradation found elsewhere (including the notorious "Hot Voodoo" number).

    Marlene Dietrich is bad again, as she often was for Josef von Sternberg. This time, however, we see that she starts out good -- in a pre-code skinny-dipping scene where she meets future husband Herbert Marshall. When Marshall grows ill with radiation poisoning (he is a chemist), she goes back to the stage from whence she came to raise money for his treatment in Europe. But instead the money comes from millionaire Cary Grant who "occupies" her when Marshall is overseas. And helps to take care of her son, Jonny, too. Because yes, not only is Dietrich bad, but she is a bad mother, dragging Jonny all over the USA after Marshall returns early and finds her with Grant (who quickly departs for Europe). With the police after her, and presumed prostitution the only way to raise any cash during the Depression, Dietrich is soon at the end of the road. And then she is the jaded emotionless Dietrich dressed in white tails and top hat back in Paris crooning as we knew she would. Until the ending which rings false (yes, Marshall takes her back). Sternberg keeps things moving at a good clip but can't help a bit of a jarring clash between the scenes with young Dickie Moore and the decadence and degradation found elsewhere (including the notorious "Hot Voodoo" number).

  • Feb 25, 2016

    It's mesmerizing to watch von Sternberg and Dietrich at work in this melodrama, and fun to watch both her and Cary Grant in early roles before they became household names and cinematic legends. One can't help but sense the parallel between this story (Helen giving up her family to be a star) and her real life, as von Sternberg told her to give up her family and life in Germany as he would take her to America and make her a star.

    It's mesmerizing to watch von Sternberg and Dietrich at work in this melodrama, and fun to watch both her and Cary Grant in early roles before they became household names and cinematic legends. One can't help but sense the parallel between this story (Helen giving up her family to be a star) and her real life, as von Sternberg told her to give up her family and life in Germany as he would take her to America and make her a star.