A review of the classic 1930 film “The Blue Angel”

This was the film that acted as a bridge from the silent to the sound era for the career of noted Austrian-American director Josef von Sternberg and propelled to stardom its female lead, the then little-known Marlene Dietrich. It was produced simultaneously in German and English language versions and I saw it in German as part of a Weimar Cinema retrospective. 

The titular ‘Blue Angel’ is not a person but a place – a club in smalltown Germany. The star of the club’s show is the sultry Lola Frohlich (Dietrich) who bewitches the middle-aged and pauchy local teacher Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings). The film is best-known for the use of the song “Falling In Love Again” which Lola sings twice: first in a playful and flirtatious rendition and at the end in a colder, more remorseful manner.

This is a sombre work that reminded me of the Italian opera “Pagliacci”. The impact of the film is strengthened by the real-life parallels: director von Sternberg and star Dietrich had a romantic involement at the time and the rise of Lola and the fall of Professor Rath were echoed by the ascent of Dietrich and the decline of Jannings in career terms.


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