Sunday, September 24, 2017


So I DVRed Desire when TCM ran it back in June as part of a night of Marlene Dietrich movies. It turns out that the movie is available on DVD as part of Universal's MOD scheme, so I can be comfortable blogging about it and anybody who wants to see it being able to.

Gary Cooper plays Tom Bradley, an American automotive engineer who has been doing some work in Paris, and who wants to go vacation in Spain for a bit before heading back to America. (The movie was released a few months before the start of the Spanish Civil War, for those paying attention.) The only thing is, he's going to have to drive there because of his employer's desire to have him do some PR work. On the way out of Paris, he has a bumper-to-bumper collision with Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich).

Madeleine goes to Duvalle, a fine jeweler, and decides to buy one of the finest strings of pearls in the shop. She tells the jeweler that she's the wife of Dr. Pauquet (Alan Mowbray), one of the most renowned neurologists in France even if they didn't use that term back in the day. When Madeleine goes to see Dr. Pauquet that she's Mme. Duvalle and that she's worried about her husband, who is going to try to bring a bill to Dr. Pauquet. Madeleine walks out of the doctor's office, basically having Pauquet, but especially Duvalle.

However, she has to get the pearls out of the country. At the border of France and Spain, who should she meet but good old Tom Bradley? She's able to slip him the pearls without his knowledge, and the pearls make it safely into Spain. However, Madeleine has car troubles and hitches a ride with Tom before ultimately stealing and crashing his car!

Of course, Tom is going to find out where Madeleine is staying in San Sebastian, in order to look her up to be reimbursed for the car. Tom, of course, knows nothing about the pearls. But Tom also knows he's beginning to fall in love with Madeleine. Madeleine, for her part, finds herself falling in love with Tom, too, which presents a bigger problem. Madeleine didn't steal those pearls herself; she's part of a gang with Margoli (John Halliday), who is posing in San Sebastian as her uncle. The last half (at least) of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game among the three involving both romance and the attempt to get those pearls.

Desire is another of those very well-made movies, down in no small part to Ernst Lubitsch being on board as the producer (not the director; that was Frank Borzage who was also pretty darn good). It helps to have Dietrich and Cooper, as well as the higher-end production values that Paramount was always able to bring.

As for the story, I have to admit that it fell slightly short of expectations for me. That's probably more because the drawing-room style of comedy that had been a bigger thing in the early 1930s when the camera was more static has never been my thing. Too much of the second half is stuck in that hotel room, and why is Tom staying with them anyway once they get the pearls off him? There's also the problem that, since Madeleine is after all a thief, the Production Code is going to have a problem with resolving the story in the way you'd expect of Tom and Madeleine ending up together. That's a minor quibble, however, and as more my slightly bigger problem, anybody who likes this style of comedy is absolutely going to love the movie.

No comments: