Friday, September 19, 2014

Blonde Venus

TCM's Friday pre-Code marathon for this week includes several movies from Paramount, including a couple from the beginning of Cary Grant's career. One that seems to be coming up tonight and not again soon is Blonde Venus, at 8:00 PM.

Cary Grant only gets third billing, as the star is the woman who's pictured above, Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich plays Helen, who at one time in her life was a showgirl in glamorous nightclubs. But then she met research chemist Ned Faraday (Herbert Marshall) and they fell in love and got married. It wouldn't do for the wife of a respectable chemist to be doing her showgirl thing, so Helen settles down and becomes a respetable housewife and mother.

And then Ned gets sick with radiation poisoning, and needs to go off to Europe for the only treatment possible that will save his life. However, that's going to take money that the Faradays just don't have. Well, Helen could fairly quickly get the money if she went back to being a showgirl, but Ned obviously isn't happy about that. Still, Helen isn't about to let her husband die, so she goes to work at a club, which is where she meets Cary Grant, who this time is another wealthy playboy, named Nick Townsend. Nick gives Helen the money Ned needs for his treatment, and Ned goes off to Europe. Helen, meanwhile, stays home to work, as well as to spend some quality time with Nick.

All's well, more or less, until Ned gets cured early and comes home before everybody expects him, which is how he finds out what Helen's been doing with Nick. As the wronged husband, Ned is unsurprisingly unhappy, and wants to divorce Helen and take custody of the kid. It also shouldn't be a surprise that he wins the custody case, considering that he did nothing wrong here. But Helen doesn't want to give up her son, so she runs off with the kids, performing in less glamorous joints across the country until the law finally catches up with her, and she's forced to go off to Paris to work, which is where she becomes a true sensation. It's in Paris that she meets Nick again....

As I wrote the plot down, I noticed that it's all a bit nuts. And yet, the movie works well beyond the point that you'd notice that there's something not quite right with the plot. That, of course, is down to Marlene Dietrich, who is in her charismatic form here, helped out in part by a couple of riveting outfits. One, pictured above, is a dazzling sequined suit with leotard and tights that she wears in Paris and must have been even more dazzling on the big screen. The other is a more absurd gorilla number. But hey, it's Marlene Dietrich. She alone would be worth watching. But you've got a young and dashing Cary Grant showing up, as well as Herbert Marshall to provide the serious groiunding for the movie. The ultimate effect is a movie that's quite a bit better than it probably ought to be.

TCM lists Blonde Venus as being available from the TCM Shop.

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