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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>
Dietrich outstanding in role of innocence betrayed
Mamoulian was able to work with three of the most glamorous and lovely actresses of the early 1930s - Garbo, Sten and Dietrich. Here he tells the tale of a peasant girl, Dietrich, who goes to live with her aunt upon the death of her father. Both a penniless sculptor and a lecherous baron have their eye on her. The sculptor (Aherne) romances her but bows out when it comes to marriage. The Baron (Atwill) is accepted on the rebound, but life is not tranquil at the chateau. Of course she manages to be compromised and is thrown out. A hardened woman of the world, she is finally tearfully reunited with the repentant sculptor.
The film is quite glossy and entertaining but all along it is Dietrich who carries it. She is radiantly innocent, childlike, modest and trusting in the beginning, emerging as cynical, hardened and bitter at the end. Anyone who believes Dietrich to be just a beautiful face and not an actress had best visit this film, the first she made without her director mentor, Von Sternberg.
Mamoulian here does not try to impose any clever editing or cinematography, but allows the simple story to unfold, concentrating on his actress and helping her to shine. Other than Dietrich, Atwill comes across best as a
believable, human and not altogether unlikeable character, obsessed with our heroine.
What is most amazing about the pre-Code film are the numerous nude sculptures, primarily of Dietrich, that abound - they are quite beautiful and the lovely cinematography lights them to great effect.
The only fly in the ointment is the wooden performance from Aherne - he would improve with age.
Quite worth seeing.
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