Born in Vienna, director Joseph von Sternberg spent much of his youth in New York; his entrée into show business was as a film repairer for the World Film Company of Fort Lee, NJ. After returning to Austria to complete his education, he joined the U.S. Signal Corps as a photographer in 1917, then took assistant director jobs after the end of World War I. It was either actor Elliot Dexter or an anonymous producer who suggested that Sternberg would go farther in the industry if he affixed a “von” to his last name, à la Erich von Stroheim. Von Sternberg went whole hog in creating a “genius” veneer, adopting a strutting, imperious attitude, dressing in regulation beret and puttees, and even growing an obnoxious little mustache so he would be certain to be hated and feared. This posturing tended to obscure his genuine cinematic gifts, especially in the field of photographic lighting and composition (at one point, he was the only director permitted to carry an American Society of Cinematographers… read more
The seventh and last film of the legendary von Sternberg/Dietrich partnership is gloriously entertaining high camp nonsense and said to be the one Dietrich was most proud of. As you would expect from von Sternberg, the film looks fantastic and is pure visual poetry. It's boldy told in flashback and is basically a story of male masochism in which Dietrich wraps men around her fingers only to heartlessly discard them..
Less tender than The Blue Angel or Morocco, the movie is the last Marlene & Josef made together. With Lola you could say the girl can't help it: Concha can & doesn't want to. Those tempted to dislike it should allow the lighting & the Sternbergian mise en scene their equal roles as actors. The decor always seems to be trying to express something inexpressible. There is tragedy & selfabasement in the midst of kitsch