1930 was an incredibly important year in Marlene Dietrich’s career. Not only did it see two immortal collaborations with director Josef von Sternberg, but also saw her immigration to the United States and her transition from German film to American film, with which she would make her greatest mark. The two collaborations with von Sternberg produced some of her most memorable scenes, and the uniqueness of her persona in both films secured her in the public eye.
Their first film together was Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), which gave Dietrich the number that would become the most iconic song of her entire career.
Dietrich singing the song again in 1963.
Two versions of The Blue Angel were filmed simultaneously, one in English and one in German, and it is the English language version that is best known, due to the famous English lyrics of “Falling in Love Again.” Ironically, it is also the English language version that was considered lost, until it surfaced in a German film archive and had its U.S. premiere at the German film festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. I had the great honor of attending.
Here is a version of the song in German:
Dietrich was on a ship bound for the United States on the evening of the opening of The Blue Angel, and upon the success of the film, von Sternberg advised her to stay in Hollywood. She signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to further her career, and as von Sternberg was already established there, he went on to direct her in 6 American films between 1930 and 1935, the first of which was Morocco.
The production code was not yet born, and thus von Sternberg had much more leeway and freedom to make Morocco everything he wanted to be–and that included a number that touched upon Dietrich’s success with the cabaret feel of The Blue Angel. But this time with a twist:
Dietrich was bisexual, and though her private life remained strictly guarded, she was never ashamed to let her sexuality be known through film. In fact, it was Dietrich’s idea to add the scene we see at 2:16 to the script, saving it from being cut by the censors by cleverly throwing the flower she takes from the woman to Gary Cooper, thus making the scene confusing and disjointed if the kissing scene were removed.
The uniqueness of Marlene Dietrich was evident from the beginning, and as we can see, she always pushed the envelope. She continued to do so for her entire career, both on and offscreen.
Stay tuned for more Marlene, all this month, as we pay tribute to her as Star of the Month!