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"Blonde Venus"

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Character's Name: Nick Townsend
Release Date:  September 16, 1932
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount Publix
Running Time: 92 minutes

Cast: Marlene Dietrich (Helen Faraday), Herbert Marshall (Edward Faraday), Cary Grant (Nick Townsend), Dickie Moore (Johnny Faraday), Francis Ssayles (Charlie Blaine), Robert Emmett O'Connor (Dan O'Conner), Gene Morgan (Ben Smith), Rita La Roy (Taxi Belle Hooper), Evelyn Preer (Iola) Mildred Washington (Colored Girl), Gertrude Short (Receptionist), Harold Berquist (Big Fellow), Dewey Robinson (Greek Proprietor), Davison Clark (Judge Night Court), Brady Kline (New Orleans Officer), Clifford Dempsey (Judge Night Club), Davison Clark (Bartender), Bessie Lyle (Grace)

- by ZoŽ Shaw

Helen has no money, but a sick husband, Edward. She needs money to pay for his treatment, and has sex with Nick Townsend in order to get it. When Edward finds out where the money has come from, he gets mad. She then turns to full on prostitution, but eventually manages to stop. She meets Nick again, who reunites her with her husband and son.

- by Laila Valente
First things first: this movie belongs to Marlene Dietrich and to her Amphitryon Josef Von Sternberg. Cary Grant is like a knick-knack, good to look at but quite useless. He walks through the movie beautifully dressed and photographed, but he delivers his lines without any passion or belief. He spreads his charm with that nonchalance that will be his future and unforgettable footprint. The story is well known: the girl, Helen, beautiful and honest; the husband, Ned, devoted and trusting; and the rogue-with-a-heart, Nick, rich and handsome. Helen loves Ned, but Ned is very sick and to pay for a very expensive cure in Germany, she decides to accept a job as a dancer in a night-club. Here, she meets Nick, who falls for her. With Nick's money, Ned can go to Europe. Helen leaves the night-club to live with Nick and her child. Ned returns home early while Helen is spending a last holiday with Nick. To punish his wife, Ned forbids to Helen to visit her child. She runs away, to Europe....where she meets Nick. They come back. After visiting Ned and forcing him to let Helen see the child, Nick leaves the house and the family is happily reunited.

The director didn't like CG (he didn't like Gary Cooper in "Morocco," either) and did everything to show that feeling (speaking in German and parting CG's hair left to right just before shooting a scene). CG, probably, didn't like Von Sternberg but he wasn't famous enough to protest. This movie has, all in all, a value: it shows that CG deserved more than what he was getting. (Don't worry, "She Done Him Wrong" is just around the corner!)

(Amphitryon - Greek mythology; king of Thebes and husband of Alcmene. Allusion to Von Sternberg being Deitrich's lover.)

VARIETY Film Review - September 27, 1932
- by "????"
- submitted by Barry Martin
A disappointer.  Dietrich and a corking box office title will carry 'The Blonde Venus,' but it''ll require plenty of bally.  It's a picture that lends itself easily to selling but it won't help the German star in the final analysis.  Not that she doesn't acquit herself to a degree far in excess of the inept story accorded her, but it's not going to help her by any manner of means.  No getting away from the Shakespearean nifty that a star is only as good as her story.

Much of the blame is to be laid at Von Sternberg's doorstep.  In a desire to glamorously build up Dietrich he sloughed almost every other element that goes to round out a box office production.  He devoted two reels for a celluloid transition to indicate her flight from her husband and all the drab details that went with it, as she scrammed from Baltimore to Washington to Nashville to Chattanooga to Savannah to New Orleans, etc., etc.  The police reports of her hunt sounded like a railroad time-table.

Then in a meteoric rise, with no details whatsoever, she's suddenly again the queen of the nite clubs, this time in Paris, where Cary Grant (who had formerly maintained her) once again meets up with her.  In this and previous nite club scenes, Miss Dietrich sings two numbers in that deep, throaty manner of hers, one chorus being in French.  Tunes have a chance to click popularly, which may react in the film's favor.

Herbert Marshall on his screen debut under Par auspices is sadly miscast as the radium-poisoned husband who needs funds so badly for a European cure that his devoted wife takes resource to financial succor from such remote a source as the influential politician (Grant).   Marshall's precise Oxford diction certainly didn't jibe with the ambitious American whose research into chemical formula spells his physical undoing by radium poisoning.  

The 93 minutes, despite their episodic and ofttimes ragged sequences, were much too much considering the triteness of the basic story, a theme of mother love of the German-American cafe songstress whose child (well played by Dickie Moore, in perhaps the only convincing casting) is the sympathetic basis of it all.  Otherwise there's little sympathy for any of the characters; neither the hapless husband, the faithless wife nor the other man.

Von Sternberg has again gone in bullishly for the lap-dissolve stuff, playing scene upon scene, and with needless detail.  There's beaucoup footage wasted on showing choo-chooing railroad trains, outgoing steamers, incoming steamers (twice there are shots of the New York skyline from the harbor, an extraneous detain in both instances), and with it all a needless application to detail which so obviously handicaps the rest of it, one wonders at the wherefore and why fore of it all.  This is the film over which B.P. Schulberg and Von Sternberg had a row during production.  The celluloid product lends substance to Schulberg's cause for complaint. 

'Venus' is said to have undergone considerable take and retake, with the final prints airmailed from the Coast for the Par opening after having been previously scheduled and postponed.  As completed it can stand plenty of chopping to speed up a sluggish procedure.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - September 26, 1932
- by Mordaunt Hall
- submitted by Barry Martin
Marlene Dietrich's latest film, "Blonde Venus," over which B. P. Shulberg, until recently head of Paramount's Hollywood studio, and Josef von Sternberg, the director, clashed last Spring, is a muddled, unimaginative and generally hapless piece of work, relieved somewhat by the talent and charm of the German actress and Herbert Marshall's valiant work in a thankless role.

It wanders from Germany to many places in America, over to France and then back to New York, but nary a whit of drama is there in it. There is good photography, and for those who are partial to scenes in a theatre, there are some over which Mr. von Sternberg has taken no little care. But the pain of it is the dismal and suspenseless tale of a woman who sinks to selling her favors and finally ends by returning to her husband.

There is scarcely any sympathy evoked for the characters, except for the little boy. Most of the scenes are unedifying, without possessing any strength or a common sense idea of psychology. It is regrettable that Miss Dietrich, Mr. Marshall and others should have been called upon to appear in such a vehicle.

When there is any attempt at levity it is silly, and one lengthy episode might better have been left to the imagination, for it never for a moment is anything but dreary and dull. Miss Dietrich appears as Helen, a stage performer in Berlin, who becomes the wife of Ned Faraday, an American student in Germany. Several years afterward Ned decides that he has radium poisoning, and just when he has given up hop of having more than eight months to live he learns of a European specialist who will probably be able to cure him. The treatment, it is set forth, will cost $1,500.

Helen, appreciating that her husband has not even enough money to go abroad, succeeds in finding employment on the stage in New York and she also meets Nick Townsend, a wealthy young man, who gives her a check for $300, which she turns over to Ned, telling him that it is an advance on her salary.

Ned leaves his wife and child and goes to Europe and during his long absence, Townsend and Helen enjoy a friendship that is scarcely platonic.

When Ned returns unexpectedly and hears of his wife's faithlessness, he insists that she turn their youngster over to him. Helen flees with her little boy, dodging the police in several cities, until even she finally realizes that she is selfish in keeping the child, so she permits him to go to his father, who returns to Helen the $1,500 she had given to him for his medical treatment. After that it looks as though Helen had sought a watery grave, but, very abruptly, she is next heard from as a stellar performer in a Paris theatre.

She returns to New York with Townsend, whom she meets in Paris, and later there is once again that tried and trusted idea of the mother going to see her child and finally being welcomed back by her husband, probably much to the disappointment of Townsend.

There are good portraits of Miss Dietrich, who sings two or three songs. Mr. Marshall does as well as his lines and the situations permit. Cary Grant is worthy of a much better role than that of Townsend, and little Dickie Moore gives a suggestion of brightness to the unhealthy scenes in which he is sometimes beheld.

Rubinoff conducts the Paramount orchestra, and on the stage is Boris Petroff's production, "Looking Backward," with Ray Bolger, John and Edna Torrence and the Hall Johnson Choir.   

- by Kathy Fox
BLONDE VENUS is Cary Grant's fifth film and the first film he made that was a Gary Cooper reject.  It was while making this film that Cary's appearance was altered when Director von Sternberg changed the part in his hair from the left side to the right, where it remained for his lifetime. Grant plays Nick Townsend a wealthy playboy and politician.  He and Helen Faraday (Dietrich) meet at a nightclub, but Helen is already married with a child and has a sick husband, Ned Faraday, played by Herbert Marshall.  Helen has gone back to work in order to raise money to send her husband to Europe for a cure for radium poisoning.  Nick has fallen hard for Helen and gives her the money in advance to send her husband away.  While her husband is gone Helen spends all her time with Nick and her son.  However, several months later Ned is cured and comes back to find his wife and child.  Panicked, Helen takes the boy and runs away, but is finally caught by her husband's detectives and is forced to give her child up, which she does unwillingly.  Helen goes back to singing and ends up in Paris where she and Nick are reunited.  They sail back to America and Nick suggests that she see her son one last time, but soon realizes that if he allows this he will lose Helen, which he does in the end.  We get a glimpse in this film of things to come for Mr. Grant, who appears truly stunning on the screen in his tuxedo and top hat.

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