The Blue



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Movie Classic (1930).  Cast | Making | Marlene Dietrich | Josef Von Sternberg | The Blue Angel Video On Demand: Rent or Buy / Books / Dvds | Search Site

"The Blue Angel's value today is that of a precious museum piece and that alone."
- Paul Page


germany, 1930

running time: 108 mins

black and white

directed by:

Josef Von Sternberg

written by:

Robert Liebmann, Josef Von Sternberg

based on the novel:

Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann


Gunther Rittau, Hans Schneeberger

music by:

Max Steiner

edited by:

Sam Winston

Emil Jannings (Prof.Immanuel Rath)
Marlene Dietrich (Lola Lola)
Kurt Gerron (Kiepert)
Rosa Valetti (Guste Kiepert)
Hans Albers (Mazeppa)

blue angel

Marlene Dietrich

The Blue Angel Promotional Poster


der blaue engel

An actress's trademark, the figure of a glittering vamp, and a vehicle to fame for an inspired director: these are the important threads that run together in The Blue Angel, a gritty 1920's tale in Josef von Sternberg's film adaption of Heinrich Mann's novel Professor Unrat.

Sternberg's The Blue Angel, which catapulted Marlene Dietrich to fame is one of those classics whose legends are more powerful than the film itself. Today with a distance of ninety years, we can separate the old fashioned elements from those that stand out as artistically timeless. At the time of its publication, Heinrich Mann's malicious tale of a provincial teacher full of Wilhelmian hypocrisy and ruined by his obsession for a nightclub singer, must have struck its readers - weaned as they were on Freud and his psychoanalysis - like a grotesque figure in a panoptican. Although more recent, Emil Janning's performance as Professor Rath seems outdated; as he savors each and every expression and coquettishly poses as a tragic figure, Janning seems caught in the emotive pathos that characterized the silent movies. By contrast, Marlene Dietrich, with her lascivious casualness, is like a breath of fresh air.

the blue angel
the blue angel

When Professor Rath, nicknamed Unrath (the irony of which, however, is lost in translation - Rat meaning advice and Unrat meaning garbage), catches the students in the demimonde establishment, the Blue Angel, gawking at the legs of an immortal artiste named Lola and listening to her cheeky songs, he preaches unctuously of a life of virtue. He wants to cure his unruly charges of their 'sinful behaviour' but ends up falling under Lola's spell himself as he listens to her song They call me wicked Lola. Soon he is completely infatuated and becomes her lover and pathetic cuckold. He ends up travelling with the troupe as a clown - pitifully devoted to Lola while she openly flirts with Mazeepa (Hans Albers).

the blue angel
the blue angel

Sternberg's style is firmly based in the chiarascuro of German expressionalism and full of teary eyed sentimentalism, such as the professor's spiritual death in an empty classroom to the sound of a Glockenspiel playing the tune Ub Immer Treu und Redlichkeit (Always Practice Honesty and Loyalty). The story is a tragedy of social descent and self destruction. The film's rituals and world famous poses, including the musical trademarks by Friedrich Hollaender, have long since been separated from their context; they are ornaments in the history of film - the beginning of the Marlene myth, perpetuated and celebrated by Dietrich herself until her death in 1992.

The film may disappoint younger audiences, interested neither in its history nor in its reflection of the era, folks who have taken cheap flights to Germany in an effort to learn more about the history and era will enjoy it though. Today, it comes to life only as a precious museum piece.

marlene dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Some years later in what is now the classic Dietrich pose



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the blue angel

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