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Marlene Dietrich, Angel (1937)

“Angel” (1937) tells the story of the typical love triangle between a wife, her husband and her lover. Marlene Dietrich excels in this role, and Herbert Marshall is effective, too, as her husband, but Melvyn Douglas is simply unconvincing as the lover. I would have chosen Douglas as the husband, instead. Though his acting is usually good (see “Ninotchka”, for instance), Douglas is not particularly suitable for the “great lover” parts. He is somehow aloof and aristocratic as Marshall, but to me, Marshall is physically more appealing. Dietrich simply steals the show, and she wears some magnificent costumes, too. The film, directed by Ernst Lubitsch in his incomparable style, is very realistic to the lifestyle of high class people in the 30s. Beautiful, young, sophisticated wives married to boring aristocrats, diplomats or businessmen, and trying to live their life as mistresses – some of them having a child or none with their respective husbands. Dietrich manages to play very well the role of the unfulfilled wife and desirable woman, sometimes assuming false or double identity to find moments of happiness and sentimental fulfillment. Even if the film is not particularly original (there have been lots of films in the 1930s on the problem of love triangles; see also “Bella Donna”, an extremely rare British production from 1934, starring Conrad Veidt, Mary Ellis and John Stuart), it does have the glamour of the Hollywoodian productions between the two World Wars. So, I recommend “Angel” (Dietrich’s character’s pseudonym) to the fans of Marlene Dietrich and to all those who love good, old, black-and-white productions.

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