director Josef von Sternberg
My Marlene Dietrich/Josef von Sternberg double feature followed Morocco (1930) with 1932’s Blonde Venus. Since it was the other film on the disc.
Blonde Venus is another melodrama, waxing and waning throughout in qualities and oddities, but ultimately is lifted by Dietrich herself from something potentially middling to something quite touching.
In this one, she’s the German bride of a research scientist who contracts radiation poisoning and has to travel to Germany to get cured. The two of them have a small boy and live humbly in New York, so Dietrich gets a job as a cabaret singer to earn enough money for her husband’s cure. Only she takes up with Cary Grant, a rich bigwig. When her husband comes back, she and her son go on the lam around the country.
You can see, it’s a pretty convoluted melodrama.
It features a trio of songs by Dietrich, somewhat more seemingly outside of her range ideally, jazzy uptempo numbers with lots of American hep slang. And one of them is a pretty notorious “jungle-themed” tune, which she starts singing after taking off a gorilla suit.
Somehow the movie manages to transcend the corny and campy aspects and turns out to be really quite good.