The Blue Angel (1930)

  • Directed by Josef von Sternberg.
  • Emil Jannings plays a stuffy, straight-laced Professor, who lives in a stinky apartment filled with books. We know it is stinky, because the maid (Ilse Fürstenburg) tells us so.
  • Poor Professor Rath’s pet bird dies, and the maid’s just like, ‘Oh well – it didn’t sing that great anyway,’ and tosses it in the incinerator. This seems quite insensitive. But I suppose the Professor will have a Marlene Dietrich coming along to comfort him before too long, so…whatever.
  • The Professor does not seem to be a very fun-loving or enjoyable teacher – he shoutily commands things, and also seems to like authoritatively & jabbily pointing at people, just for kicks.
  • All of the Professor’s students hang out at a cabaret called The Blue Angel, and one night he decides to go investigate. He stumbles into Lola Lola (Dietrich)’s dressing room and, after removing his top hat, informs her that she is “corrupting his pupils!”
  • This introductory scene between Dietrich & Jannings is really well orchestrated – various performers continually burst in & out of the room, the music from the main room coming & going with them. It’s a great introduction to not only the characters, but also the atmosphere of The Blue Angel Cabaret.
  • Haha! After the drained Professor has made it home for the night, he realizes that his handkerchief has somehow been exchanged for Lola Lola’s underpants. Glorious!
  • It’s weird how the object sound effects (like – papers rustling, footsteps on stairs, etc.) are there in some scenes, but not in others. I know this was super early in the sound era…but still…it’s interesting to note.
  • The students’ nickname for the Professor is “Garbage.” I find this to be equal parts mean & hilarious.
  • Professor Garbage returns to The Blue Angel the next night to bring Lola Lola’s underpants back to her – and she employs him to assist her in putting on her makeup for the evening. It’s a sweet scene, and we see Professor Garbage smile for the first time, when Lola Lola calls him “handsome.”
  • The show’s manager (“The Magician,” played by Kurt Gerron) tells Lola that she needs to let a fat old sailor come hang out in her dressing room, so he’ll spend a lot of money on champagne. Lola’s like, ‘Uh – – pass,’ but MM (Manager Magician) has him come in, anyway. Awesomely, Professor Garbage calls Fatso the Sailor (he’s just billed as “Captain,” played by Wilhelm Diegelmann) a “miserable villain” and tells him to get out. Then, he literally gets him out, via some forceful pushing.

(MM is less than thrilled – but Lola is head-over-heels grateful, which, when it comes down to it, is really all that matters.)

  • I like the clown (like – not figuratively – literally, he’s a guy dressed as a clown – face makeup, hair, clothes, the works) that keeps appearing intermittently & in the background of scenes (played by Reinhold Bernt). He never says anything – just stares. It’s an excellent detail.
  • Gasp! The Maid goes to wake up Professor Garbage for breakfast…and he’s not there! He never came home! He spent the night at Lola’s!

If only his students could see him now!

  • Lola has pet birds. Professor Garbage is ecstatic.
  • Wuh-oh. Professor Garbage is in trouble with his boss. When asked how he could put his entire career & reputation at risk for “that kind of woman,” Professor Garbage, insulted, responds by saying, “I beg your pardon, sir. You are speaking of my future wife.”

Well, that escalated quickly.

(After one night, Professor???)

  • “You can’t be serious,” says his boss. (I’m with you on that one, buddy!)
  • Oh sweet Jesus. He was dead serious.

Surprise! Now they’re married!

  • In one fell swoop, Professor Garbage quits/is fired from his job, gets married, & goes on the road with the cabaret show.
  • Almost immediately, he hates the life, and he & Lola start squabbling all the time.

Wow! This marriage might not work out? No one saw that coming!

  • Suddenly, it is four years later…and ex-Professor Garbage now has his own clown act. I am legitimately impressed that he & Lola are still married. Good job, kids!
  • Their manager (still the Magician) books Lola & the ex-Professor’s clown act back at The Blue Angel…which is pretty damn cruel.
  • The show sells out, because everyone wants to see Stuffy Professor Garbage humiliate himself as a clown.
  • Lola openly flirts with a guy (Mazeppa, played by Hans Albers), right in front of the ex-Professor. (Something tells me this is not the first time this has happened.) It’s real mean. Plus, the ex-Professor doesn’t want to go on stage, but everyone forces him to, anyway…including Lola. What a poop she’s turned out to be!
  • Uh…it’s official – ex-Professor Garbage has lost it, mentally. Part of his act is crowing like a rooster when MM (seemingly) pulls eggs out of the ex-Professor’s nose – except while they’re on stage at The Blue Angel, he starts crowing like an insane, possessed rooster, & spins off the stage…to go assault Lola & her flirty admirer, who he saw canoodling off the side of the stage during the first part of the act. The whole time he’s going after Lola & the Flirter, the ex-Professor continues to crow, and it’s terrifying as hell.
  • Emil Jannings is (as expected) crazy good in this. The emotional range that’s required to play this role from start to finish, given the changes that occur in his personality & demeanor, is incredible, and Jannings completely owns it. He is absolutely brilliant.
  • (The costume & makeup departments did an excellent job portraying the weight of the years on the Professor, too.)
  • The movie ends with the Professor limping his way back to his old classroom in the dead of night, collapsing on his old desk & gripping the edge of it so hard with his hand, that the nightwatchman who finds him there cannot pry it off.
  • The final shot is from the back of the classroom, looking at the collapsed Professor & rows of empty desks, while the town’s clock chimes in the background.

It’s a super powerful ending, and I love how it was done.

  • Dietrich really wasn’t that sensational in this – not nearly as sensational as I’d expected, anyway. I mean – she was good – but not super memorable. Weird.
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