- by ZoŽ
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.)
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
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
- 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
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.
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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