French film poster for contemporary "classics" series
|Directed by||Josef von Sternberg|
|Produced by||Josef von Sternberg|
|Written by||Jules Furthman
S. K. Lauren
|Music by||W. Franke Harling
Richard A. Whiting
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release dates||16 September 1932 (U.S.)|
|Running time||93 min|
Blonde Venus is a 1932 Pre-Code drama film starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant. The movie was produced and directed for Paramount Pictures by Josef von Sternberg with a screenplay by Jules Furthman and S. K. Lauren adapted from a story by Furthman and von Sternberg. The music score was by W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Paul Marquardt and Oscar Potoker, and the cinematography by Bert Glennon.
Dietrich performs three musical numbers in this film, including the now-obscure "You Little So-and-So" (music and lyrics by Sam Coslow and Leo Robin) and "I Couldn't Be Annoyed" (music and lyrics by Leo Robin and Richard A. Whiting). The highlight is perhaps "Hot Voodoo" (music by Ralph Rainger, lyrics by Sam Coslow), which is nearly 8 minutes long and mostly instrumental, featuring jazz trumpet and drums. Dietrich sings the lyrics toward the end of this sequence, which takes place in a nightclub.
This movie predates She Done Him Wrong by a year, although Mae West claimed to have discovered Cary Grant for that film, elaborating that up until then Grant had only made "some tests with starlets", an assertion rejected by some other actresses, including Sylvia Sidney.
The movie begins with 7 American students traveling in Germany. They stop at a pond and see 6 girls (who all work for a theater) bathing. The girls see the students and attempt to conceal themselves (as they were unclothed). One of the girls, Helen (Dietrich), asks them to go away, to which one of the guys, Ned (Marshall), respond by saying no.
The movie then shifts to years later, showing a mother bathing a boy, telling him to hurry since his Dad is coming home soon. We then see a man entering a doctor's office, offering to sell his body. This turns out to be Ned, who is an American chemist poisoned with Radium, expecting to die within the year. The doctor tells him that there is a famous German doctor who has had success treating radiation poison and recommends Ned to travel to Germany.
The mother and the boy turn out to be Ned's wife and son. Before bed time, the son, Johnny, asks his mother and Ned to tell him the "Germany story." The story is a combination of dialogue between the mother and Ned, beginning with Ned telling Johnny about his travel in Germany as a student and his encounter of "six beautiful princesses at a pond," one of whom told Ned that she will grant him a wish if he leaves. Ned wished to see her again, and that very night, Ned went to the local theater, spotting the "princess" on the stage. Johnny then asks his mother what the princess thought of Ned, to which she responds that she wanted to see him again. After the show, Ned asked "the princess" for a walk, and while under a tree, embraced her. The "princess" turns out to be Helen, whom Ned marries after his real-life encounter with her.
Johnny then falls asleep, and Ned and Helen discuss the possibility of having Ned travel to Germany for treatment. It is very evident that Ned loves Helen and wishes not to leave her, and at the same time, the entire treatment and travel are very expensive, to which the couple couldn't find ways to finance. Helen then thinks of the idea of "going on stage" again. Although Ned were absolutely against that idea, Helen went along anyway, hoping to find ways to help her husband.
Helen finds work at a night club and turns out to be a great singer, attracting great attention in her first performance (in which she is required to don an ape suit). Within the audience is Nick Townsend (Grant), a millionaire and an attractive young man. Nick is evidently interested in Helen, and after the show, went back stage to meet her, finding out about her family troubles and offering her $300 on the spot.
When Helen returns home, she lied to Ned about how she got the money, instead saying that the producer "paid her in advance." She then asks if Ned "loves her," to which Ned replies, "Do I love you? Oh you poor thing" then embraces her.
The next day, Johnny and Helen see Ned off to Germany at the docks. Nick picks up Helen, to her irritation. Nick then promises to give her all the money Ned needs for his treatment, thereby sparing her from working again. To escape her producer (who since Helen's initial success has been tracking her down for more performance), Helen begins to live with Nick, eventually developing feelings for him. She is unable to resist neither money nor beauty, and thus finally admits that she loves Nick, not Ned. Yet she tells Nick that she must go back to Ned, since he needs her more than Nick does.
Before Ned is to return, she goes on a two week trip with Nick, believing that it's their last moments together. Ned, however, returns two days early, finding his home empty and begins to chase down clues, ultimately finding out that his wife has been cheating on him with Nick.
Helen comes back from her trip with Nick and bids him farewell (Nick decides to travel to Europe to "forget about Helen"). She returns home, shockingly discovers that Ned is already there. Ned confronts her with her infidelity and asks her to bring him Johnny, since Johnny is "all I've got." She agrees but instead grabs Johnny and escapes, living on the run and trying to avoid Ned, who reports their escape to the police, who have since been tracking her.
Eventually, Helen realizes that life on the run is not right for Johnny and agrees to give him to Ned. Ned asks her to never see him or Johnny again.
After a dramatic breakdown after her separation with Johnny, Helen begins to officially sing in cabarets, making a successful career that eventually brought her to Paris. In a fateful performance, she runs into Nick, who continues to profess his feelings for Helen. Nick knows that Helen loves Johnny and wishes to see him again. He offers to take her back to the U.S., and the two return engaged.
Helen comes home and sees her son, Johnny, who is still unaware of his mother's infidelity and her engagement to Nick. Johnny asks his mother to tell him the "Germany story" again, since Ned had refused to tell it because he "has forgotten it." Johnny then proceeds to tell the story himself, asking his parents to verify. He begins by asking Ned if he was in Germany as a student and if he saw a pond with "6 beautiful princesses," to which Ned responds, "I was sentimental and foolish back then." But through this forced dialogue with Johnny telling the story, Ned and Helen begin to realize what their separation means for Johnny, who still lives in his own world in which his parents are together.
Helen then sings to Johnny the song that she sang before he sleeps every night (the lyric of this song is a poem by Heinrich Heine). During the song, both Helen and Ned realizes that this home is where they both belong, and the movie ends with their embrace.
- Marlene Dietrich as Helen Faraday/Helen Jones
- Herbert Marshall as Edward 'Ned' Faraday
- Cary Grant as Nick Townsend
- Dickie Moore as Johnny Faraday
- Gene Morgan as Ben Smith
- Rita La Roy as Taxi Belle Hooper
- Robert Emmett O'Connor as Dan O'Connor
- Sidney Toler as Detective Wilson
- Morgan Wallace as Dr Pierce
- Clarence Muse as Charlie, the Bartender (unconfirmed)
- Andrea Palma (Dietrich stunt double, uncredited)
- Eric Alden as Guard (uncredited)
- Harold Berquist as Big Fellow (uncredited)
- Al Bridge as Bouncer (uncredited)
- Glen Cavender as Ship's Officer (uncredited)
- Emile Chautard as Chautard, French Nightclub Manager (uncredited)
- Davison Clark as Bartender Bringing Two Beers (uncredited)
- Marcelle Corday as Helen's Maid in France (uncredited)
- Cecil Cunningham as Norfolk Woman Manager (uncredited)
- Clifford Dempsey as Judge in Paris Nightclub Talking to Nick (uncredited)
- Bess Flowers as Minor Role (uncredited)
- Mary Gordon as Landlady (uncredited)
- Robert Graves as La Farge (uncredited)
- Sterling Holloway as Joe, Hiker (uncredited)
- Elsa Janssen as Gossip (uncredited)
- James Kilgannon as Janitor (uncredited)
- Brady Kline as New Orleans Policeman (uncredited)
- Bessie Lyle as Grace (uncredited)
- Hattie McDaniel as Cora, Helen's Maid in New Orleans (uncredited)
- Charles Morton as Bob (uncredited)
- Dennis O'Keefe as Minor Role (uncredited)
- Evelyn Preer as Viola (uncredited)
- Dewey Robinson as Greek Restaurant Owner (uncredited)
- Francis Sayles as Charlie Blaine (uncredited)
- Ferdinand Schumann-Heink as Henry (uncredited)
- Gertrude Short as Receptionist (uncredited)
- Pat Somerset as Companion (uncredited)
- Larry Steers as Hotel Manager in Baltimore (uncredited)
- Kent Taylor as Minor Role (uncredited)
- Jerry Tucker as Otto (uncredited)
- Mildred Washington as Viola, the Maid (uncredited)
- Lloyd Whitlock as Baltimore Manager (uncredited)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Blonde Venus.|
- Blonde Venus at the Internet Movie Database
- Blonde Venus at allmovie
- Reprints of historic reviews, photo gallery at CaryGrant.net