The Devil Is a Woman (1935)
Directed and Photographed by Josef von Sternberg.
There’s a credit we don’t see on films anymore. Once again Marlene Dietrich turns herself over to von Sternberg’s care and looks absolutely stunning in close ups that dominate her scenes. Not to mention I don’t recall seeing a film where the leading lady had quite so many costume changes in a 80 minute movie. Did I mention Marlene looks stunning? So to thought Lionel Atwill who falls under her spell and for the rest of the movie is bewitched by her beauty, condemned to the life that awaits him. To see Atwill in this first rate production is really a reminder of how good an actor he could be in a role that had the film been made a decade later would have been in the Claude Rains category. For today’s audiences I think we are accustomed to seeing him ham it up a notch in the very enjoyable Universal Frankenstein series. No eyepiece or wooden arm in this film. Just a first rate performance.
The film takes place in the turn of the century Spain where practically every male that Dietrich comes into contact with lusts after her beauty and wants to capture it for themselves. Despite the warnings of Atwill a very young and effective Cesar Romero enters into her circle. Is he the next man to follow her into self pity? Never working to hard, Dietrich is a well kept woman from various suitors which allows her to wear the most glorious costumes and in b/w photography the sequins on her many headdresses and outfits light up the screen. Let’s not forget that the script gives Marlene a song and dance routine to keep the boys interest firmly planted on her. Without spoiling anything perhaps there is redemption for Marlene’s wicked ways at the fadeout. Favorite line from the film just might be her uninterested answer to Atwill stating “Life without you means nothing.” “One moment and I’ll give you a kiss” she throws back.
As for interesting facts, this is the final film of Marlene’s that was directed by her sometimes lover Sternberg and despite the fact that it is a Paramount Production, Universal Studios owns the film and many others due to buying Paramount’s earlier film productions of 1929 to 1949 in 1958 for t.v. showings. They have retained the rights ever since. The film itself is said to have been Miss Dietrich’s favorite. This was released as part of the Marlene Dietrich Collection on DVD from Universal if you are so inclined.