Country orphan Lily goes to Berlin to stay with her tippling aunt, and soon meets Richard, handsome sculptor across the street. Persuaded half-reluctantly to pose for Richard, her physical ... See full summary »
Country orphan Lily goes to Berlin to stay with her tippling aunt, and soon meets Richard, handsome sculptor across the street. Persuaded half-reluctantly to pose for Richard, her physical charms (shown as fully as 1933 mores permitted) soon melt away his 'strictly business' attitude, and they become lovers. But Richard, wanting his freedom, connives at her marriage to his wealthy client Baron von Merzbach... whose household includes a jealous former mistress and a susceptible farm manager. Has Richard still a role to play in her life? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This picture was a big reversal for Marlene Dietrich. Besides her first picture without Von Sternberg as director, it is the first one in which she goes from ingenue to demi-monde, instead of starting out as one. Here she is cast as a country girl who comes to the big city and befriends a sculptor of nudes (Aherne). She becomes his model, until he kisses her. Then the scales fall from their eyes and she becomes his lover. It is an extremely effective scene.
Matters evolve (or devolve) as a Prussian Colonel (Lionel Atwill) also takes an interest in his model. Atwill, who normally plays diabolical and unsavory types, has one of his best roles as a lecherous soldier and plays it to the hilt. It is a riveting portrayal and commands your attention whenever he is on screen. Alison Skipworth, one of Hollywood's best character actresses, plays her dipso aunt in what is her best role since "Outward Bound".
The storyline is not the thing here but it is fascinating to watch a master like Mamoulian at work and to watch Dietrich play against type, as well as watching the aforementioned Atwill in a performance that is sublime. Those are the surprises, not the plot - it's been done many times before and since.
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