Josef von Sternberg (1894–1969) has already been represented in this series by The Docks of New York (1928) and Morocco (1930). After The Blue Angel and Morocco, Sternberg went on to make five more semi-autobiographical films with his star and lover, Marlene Dietrich. In my judgment, the best of these were Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, and the confessional The Devil Is a Woman. The films starring his “discovery,” Dietrich, are the centerpiece of the director’s career and represent perhaps the highest point achieved in cinema’s early sound era. Read more
TAG: JOSEF VON STERNBERG
Posts tagged ‘Josef von Sternberg’
On March 31, 1930, Marlene Dietrich appeared on the stage of Berlin’s Gloria Palast for the premiere of The Blue Angel before sailing that very night for America to work on Morocco. The director of both films, Josef von Sternberg (1894–1969), had long since departed, expecting never to see the actress again. Read more
Josef von Sternberg (1894–1969) divided his childhood between his native Vienna and Queens, New York. Before going to Hollywood in the mid-1920s, he learned the rudiments of filmmaking at the studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and in the Army Signal Corps during the Great War. His first film, The Salvation Hunters (1925), was amazingly accomplished, especially considering its miniscule budget. It was, in essence, an independent film, an almost unique specimen in its time. Only the good fortune of capturing the eyes of Douglas Fairbanks and Charles Chaplin brought Sternberg out of obscurity and to the attention of the studios. Of his nine silent films, only four survive. These other works (Underworld, The Last Command, and The Docks of New York) are so good that one must conclude that Sternberg’s career, more than that of any other director, suffers from the blight on film history we have come think of as “lost-film syndrome.” In a pattern set by The Salvation Hunters, his films deal with complex and painful romantic relationships shot in a stylized manner. While Erich von Stroheim made a false claim to realism, Sternberg was often apologetic for having too closely approximated reality. By the end of his first decade as a director (far and away his most productive period), Sternberg could certainly be considered the cinema’s greatest Romantic artist, rivaled only later by Max Ophuls. Read more
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