Germany 1924. Middle aged Dr. Immanuel Rath is a literature professor at a boys college. Most of his students don't much like him, often calling him "unrath" - German for garbage. Dr. Rath learns that many of his boys often frequent a cabaret called Der blaue Engel - the Blue Angel - which he believes is corrupting their impressionable young minds. He heads to the Blue Angel himself to catch the boys in the act and shame them into not going again. Over several visits, Rath is able to catch the boys, but in the process he also understands what attracts the boys, namely the headlining performer Lola Lola. Rath falls under Lola's spell, he who falls in love with her - and she seemingly with him - so much so that he wants to marry her and give up his teaching career to be with her on her travels from cabaret to cabaret. Their relationship ends up not being what either envisioned, the question being how they will both deal with their disintegrating relationship and the reasons behind that ...Written by
Marlene Dietrich had a somewhat restricted vocal range, which forced composer Friedrich Hollaender to tailor the music specifically to accommodate Dietrich's voice. Dietrich's unique singing talent, however, led to a lengthy second career as a concert singer after her film career waned. See more »
When the professor returns to his class and the boys burst out in uproar, the drawing on the blackboard shows three lines with Lola's name. The director, drawn by the noise, enters the class and now there are only two lines. After the class is dismissed, the third line has returned. See more »
Simultaneously shot in two versions (English and German) with the same cast; the German (with English subtitles) version is more popular because of the heavy German accents of the cast in the English language version. English lyrics for the songs were written by Sam Lerner. See more »
I think this is more a commentary on the human condition than it is a movie review. von Sternberg presents Professor Rath as pompous, rather inflexible and naive, and then reduces him gradually to a pitiful, self-debasing wretch - much like Tyrone Power's character in "Nightmare Alley". Rath, appears to me, not so much the victim as a drunken jaywalker who wanders out into traffic and is totally shocked when he is hit by a truck. Emil Jannings, without doubt, delivers everything that von Sternberg could have asked for.
I have never been a big Marlene Dietrich fan, but I have to admit that, in this early effort, her utter sexuality and the casual way she dispenses it is hypnotic. Her character is also complex. Between her first encounter with Rath and those final scenes, her attitude toward him changes from amusement and ridicule to concern, pity, and even affection. His return to his home town and his descent into total degradation is painful to watch, yet she chooses this opportunity to humiliate him even further by offering herself to Mazeppa while he watches. I'm baffled.
The corruption and hopelessness of the German cafe circuit is a perfect backdrop for this study of the human condition. When one reaches their absolute nadir - like Rath - there are few choices left. Suicide, violent hostility, or if you are lucky - the determination and will to climb out of the cesspool. Rath was a day late and a reichsmark short. I would like to think that if he had more time he would have made it.
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