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Josef von Sternberg
Edward Everett Horton
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An RAF squadron is brought down over occupied France. The flyers get to Paris in spite of the fact that the youngest, Baby, is injured. He must be hidden and his wounds cared for. The Gestapo has already issued orders for their arrest.
Domini, an heiress who has led a cloistered life, visits the North African desert for spiritual renewal. There she meets Boris, recently escaped from a Trappist monastery. Their friendship ripens into love, but he conceals his past from her. Then in a remote oasis, they meet a man who knows his secret. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If you did "The Garden of Allah" today, you'd have to play it for camp. As produced in 1936, it nearly is anyway.
Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, and Joseph Schildkraut star in this David O. Selznick Technicolor production. The story concerns a religious woman, Domini, who is in mourning for her father and visits the convent where she lived as a child. The Mother Superior encourages her to go out and live, as she was her father's caretaker and didn't get out into the world.
She meets Boris Androvsky, and he seems even more unfamiliar with the world than she. What she doesn't know is that he was a Trappist monk and has left the order. The two fall in love and marry. However, someone eventually recognizes him, and his secret is revealed.
I have to say, I feel sorry for any ex-Trappist monk running into gorgeous Marlene Dietrich, especially under a desert sky. The atmosphere of this film is very moody, the color beautiful, and the photography sensational. Filmed in California and Arizona, it looks for all the world like an exotic desert setting.
Even with all this, and a young, handsome Charles Boyer, the film comes off as melodramatic and slight. Partly I blame the overly-dramatic music, but let's face it, the script isn't very good.
Marlene Dietrich is very good and underplays her role; Boyer's role is really impossible. He's confused and miserable through most of it. He was an excellent actor and pulls it off, though. Rathbone doesn't have a big role, nor does Schildkraut, but they were two of the best character actors around.
"The Garden of Allah" is definitely worth seeing - it's wonderful to look at, and when you see the Cyndi Lauper video of "Time after Time," this is the film she was watching in the beginning of the song.
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