The Golden Age of Hollywood

Falling in love again: 'The Blue Angel' (1931)

The Blue Angel (1930) is the simultaneously-made English version of the first German "talkie", Der blaue Engel. Josef von Sternberg directed Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich in this film which charts the downfall of a man from upstanding professor to cabaret clown. Professor Rath (Jannings) starts frequenting the notorious club The Blue Angel after hearing about it from his male students. Soon he is mesmerised by showgirl Lola Lola (Dietrich). After a short love affair he asks her to marry him to which she revealingly responds by laughing. Despite Lola Lola’s reaction, they do get married. Rath quits teaching and, after his savings run out, he becomes a clown at The Blue Angel. The once dignified intellectual is now a pathetic figure to be laughed at. Only that the movie’s audience is most likely to pity him. I know I did. I find Rath’s downfall heartbreaking. This is a tragic story about the risk of letting us be consumed by unhealthy relationships which may even lead us to forget who we are.

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Comment by Sue Lee on November 16, 2010 at 9:47pm
Also, the scene right at the end of the film where he puts his face down on his arm, in despair, in the classroom. The Europeans really knew and HOW how to capture emotion in the male of the species. They're just very grown up people, I guess.
Comment by MothGirl Wings on November 16, 2010 at 7:58pm
Jannings was indeed one of the greatest actors of all time! He's amazing in "The Last Laugh", and "Faust" both of which are must-sees, imho, and he was the first actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929 (the first year the Oscars were presented) for his role in "The Last Command" (1928), and also for his role in "The Way of All Flesh" (1927).

Comment by Juan Ramos on November 15, 2010 at 5:27am
Thank you for your comments guys. I'm glad you liked my post.
Comment by Sue Lee on November 15, 2010 at 3:07am
Emil Jannings - one of the most brilliant performances ever captured on film. The scene where the wind blows the pages on the calendar forward, signalling the passing of time is simply inspired! I loved this film, and its representation of decadent Berlin: it captured the zeitgeist really well. But Jannings was one of the greatest actors of all time IMHO.
Comment by MothGirl Wings on November 15, 2010 at 12:13am
I kind of like the German version of it better, just because I speak a tiny bit of it, and watching German films forces me to try to learn more, but yes, it's been too long since I've seen it too - it kind of surprises me that she does marry him, actually. I'm not sure why she does, since she obviously doesn't love him - it's certainly a film about unhealthy obsessive "love" and the pitfalls of it, and indeed yes, I did feel sorry for him - or maybe pity would be a better word?
Comment by Paco Malo on November 14, 2010 at 4:15pm
Excellent post. It reminds me that it's been far too long since I saw this film and let Lola Lola mesmerize me.

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