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Directed by Josef von Sternberg

United States 1932 93 mins. In English

Six months after the massive success of their other 1932 collaboration, Shanghai Express, Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg tackled a relatively tamer beast: the domestic drama. Dietrich, by now legendary for her gender-bending public persona and deeply seductive performances, stars as Helen, a housewife and mother whose chemist husband Ned (Herbert Marshall) becomes gravely ill and must travel abroad for treatment. In order to fund Ned’s treatment, Helen sacrifices her idyllic life to work in a smoke-filled cabaret , where she quickly falls in love with Nick (Cary Grant), a rich politician who might also represent Ned’s best hope at health. Famous for its sordid scene of Dietrich donning a gorilla suit on the cabaret stage, among a bevy of other salacious pre-Code signifiers (including an unforgettable number entitled “Hot Voodoo”), Blonde Venus is “a powerhouse of a film, made by a great director at the height of his creative abilities.”—