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Thursday, 14 September 2017

On Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich - David Hare ponders the greatest actor director relationship

Editor's Note: David Hare posted this note in response to Bruce Hodsdon's first post on  screen acting The Star Actor in Classical Hollywood and After (Part One)


Von Sternberg, Dietrich
Dietrich's engagement with Sternberg becomes so intertwined that by the last two films they made together, she gives the effortless impression (whether it's "actual" or not) of completely controlling the mise en scene herself, with things like minute eye movements, turns of the head or movements of one part of the body in counterpoint to the axis, and she often slightly anticipates the cameraman and/or the edit, pan and even the lighting cue. 


Dietrich as Helen Faraday
In the case of Blonde Venus (1932) her Helen Faraday character is orchestrated through the several classic soap opera "fallen woman' genre roles so typical of pre-code Hollywood to allow for her to assume and then discard several personae: The nymph, the housewife, Helen Faraday, the Blonde Venus, the fallen woman, the newly pansexual artist, Helen Jones in Paris wearing men's white tie and tails with a bevy of SM chorus girls in black lingerie for backup, and finally mother in the superbly dovetailed "happy ending" by scriptwriter Jules Furthmann which is presented to look like it's all been manipulated by Dickie Moore! 


...a bevy of SM chorus girls in black lingerie for backup...


...and finally mother











The whole film and indeed the six films are a single excercise not only in the relationship of the two and the nature of image, fetish and desire (which they are) but a statement of "what is cinema" in terms of the actor as a supreme auteur, not the least in creaing the "image" of "reality".



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