Moving on to the next movie in the Dietrich and Von Sternberg set, we have the 1932 movie Blonde Venus, also starring Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant.
In this movie, Marlene Dietrich plays Helen Faraday. Her husband, chemist Edward Faraday (Herbert Marshall), contracts radium poisoning. He hears about an experimental cure in Europe , but they can’t afford it. To help pay for it, Helen goes back on the stage to make some extra money. There, she meets millionaire Nick Townsend (Cary Grant), who takes a liking to her, even after he finds out she has a husband and son. He helps pay for her husband to go to Europe and be cured (but she doesn’t tell her husband the exact source of the money). The experiment works well enough that he returns early, but he doesn’t find his wife or son at home. She tells him about her affair with Nick, and he decides to take their son away from her, believing her to be an unfit mother. She runs away with their son, managing to stay just ahead of the detectives following her, until she realizes this is no life for her son.
I will admit, this is the movie in the set that I was most looking forward to. As this is one of Cary Grant’s early appearances, I was curious to see what he is like. This is before he had his fully developed screen persona, so it is different to see him like this (and the fact that it is one of his early appearances would make it the only reason why Marlene’s character would choose her husband over Grant’s character, I would say). His character is gone for a good section of the movie, but I would say he is still a likeable guy (even if he is fooling around with a married woman).
The rest of the movie is fun. Marlene gets a few songs to sing, but the most memorable is the song “Hot Voodoo.” It finds her coming out in a gorilla costume with a lot of African “natives” behind her, and she gets out of the costume before putting on a blonde wig and singing the song. It’s not exactly politically correct, but it does seem to be impressive, just the same. The movie does seem to jump around sometimes (from what I have read, partly due to the interference from the censors, who really changed the story from what was originally planned). The opening scene is where the movie shows that it is a pre-Code, with a bunch of women swimming in the nude. The water seems to cover everything as far as I can tell, but this is fair warning for parents. Of course, I think it is fun seeing Sterling Holloway, the original voice of Winnie the Pooh making a cameo appearance here. This movie isn’t perfect, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anybody interested!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is one hour, thirty-four minutes in length.
My Rating: 9/10
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