Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Desire (1936)

Last year I picked up the four-film Universal Hollywood Icons Marlene Dietrich Collection for a few dollars on Amazon. It was certainly a deal, at under $2.50 a movie.

This weekend, inspired by a Twitter recommendation, I pulled the set off the shelf and popped DESIRE (1936), a romantic comedy starring Dietrich and Gary Cooper, into our DVD player. To say it was delightful is an understatement. It was produced by Ernst Lubitsch and directed by Frank Borzage, leading me to wonder how I had missed seeing it previously!

(Well, honestly, I probably missed it because I used to be more resistant to watching Dietrich films, but I'm getting over that, and a film like DESIRE is part of the reason why.)

Dietrich plays Madeleine, a jewel thief who pulls off an elaborate heist of an expensive pearl necklace, confounding both a jeweller (Ernest Cossart) and a psychiatrist (Alan Mowbray) she involves in her scheme.

As she escapes from Paris to Spain Madeleine is forced by circumstances to hide the necklace in the pocket of unsuspecting engineer Tom Bradley (Cooper), a vacationing American. Misadventures with both his car and the necklace follow, as the couple fall in love.

Will Madeleine trust Tom enough to tell him the truth, and can he free her from the clutches of her crooked confederates (John Halliday and Zeffie Tilbury)? What do you think?

This was such a fun film, from the ingenious robbery, which leaves doctor and jeweler babbling at each other as the light only slowly dawns on them, to the final dinner table confrontation between Tom and Carlos (Halliday). There's a bit with a gun in that scene which is absolutely priceless.

Some classic film fans like to say that "Paris by Paramount" was better than the real thing, and this film is certainly a great exemplar of that. The set designs for both Paris and Spain, along with Dietrich's Travis Banton gowns, are all stunningly beautiful. The film is a feast for the eyes as well as being rib-ticklingly amusing and romantic.

DESIRE was filmed by Charles Lang and the uncredited Victor Milner and runs 95 minutes.

A side note: The physical discs themselves in this Universal set are quite visually pleasing, designed in a beautiful shade of pink. It's not often I pay much attention to the DVD design but I really appreciated the set's appealing look.

DESIRE is also available at a higher price as a single-title DVD release in the Universal Vault Collection.

2021 Update: DESIRE will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in August 2021.  Extras will include two separate commentary tracks.


Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, good review. I could view Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper both standing watching paint dry and they would somehow make movie magic. Here they were both in their prime and their on screen chemistry made DESIRE desirable. Needless to say, if anyone hasn't seen this enjoyable movie, seek it out.

9:24 PM  
Blogger The Metzinger Sisters said...

Oh gosh, this sounds good! I have heard the title so many times but had no idea what it was about. Dietrich, Cooper, jewel heists, and a fun plot seem too good to pass up.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you both! Walter, I appreciate you adding your recommendation of this movie, and I hope the Metzinger Sisters will enjoy it! I had a very good time watching it.

Best wishes,

7:02 PM  

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