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December 27, 2021

20 Stunning Portraits of Marlene Dietrich as Maria ‘Angel’ Barker in 1937

Angel is a 1937 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch from a screenplay by Samson Raphaelson and Frederick Lonsdale. It was adapted by Guy Bolton and Russell Medcraft from the play Angyal by Melchior Lengyel.


Angel was the last film Marlene Dietrich would make under her Paramount contract, which had begun in 1930 with Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco. It was also the last film she would make with costume designer Travis Banton who, along with von Sternberg, had been responsible for creating the Dietrich ‘image’: sculpted cheekbones, immaculate poise and assured sexuality with a dash of feminine mystique thrown in for good measure.

In Angel, she plays Lady Maria, the bored wife of English diplomat Sir Frederick Barker (Herbert Marshall). During an impulsive visit to Paris whilst her husband is away on business she meets a handsome stranger, Anthony Halton (Melvyn Douglas). He takes her to dinner and they finish the evening kissing in a park before she runs away. Back in London she is racked with guilt as, thanks to a fortuitous series of coincides, Anthony comes back into her life.

Although Angel had a respected director and several stars attached, the film was a commercial and critical flop and led to Dietrich being labelled as box-office poison. One of the reasons is a lack of pace – it feels very languorous and, at times, labored – and there’s an uneasy Post-Code morality that places too much emphasis on the sanctity of marriage.

Whilst Dietrich has a commanding screen presence, she struggles to convey the demurity expected of a diplomat’s wife. She’s clearly much more comfortable as the flirty Angel, rather than the trophy wife – and that’s reflected in the quality of the scenes. It must have been difficult for a 1930s audience to feel sympathy for a character caught in a trap of her own making, so that might go some way to explaining lack of interest. Despite these issues, Angel is beautifully shot and Lubitsch captures, almost nostalgically, a European way of life that wouldn’t exist for much longer.





















(via Girls Do Film)




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