Birth of a star

Birth of a star

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Marlène Dietrich in "L'Ange bleu".

© BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - Photographer unknown

Publication date: February 2008

Historical context

Desire and forfeiture

In 1929, German producer Erich Pommer of UFA asked Josef von Sternberg, an Austrian-born filmmaker, to make the first talking film with the great comedian Emil Jannings, who had returned from Hollywood. The screenplay is an adaptation of a novel by Heinrich Mann entitled The Blue Angel. The story takes place in a small provincial town in Germany in the 1920s, where Professor Rath, in his forties, teaches English. During one of his lessons, he discovers photographs of a certain Lola that his students are passing. The latter is one of the singers of the cabaret "L'Ange Bleu". His life will then change: falling in love with this woman, he abandons his social situation and sinks into decline.

Image Analysis

Provocative pose

Photograph of Lola (Marlène Dietrich) on the stage of a fairy-tale cabaret where she sings every evening, exposing all the sensuality of her body. Her attitude, sitting on a barrel, in a top hat, showing her legs covered in stockings, with her alluring gaze, is very provocative. Her youth and her beauty contrast with the physique of the other women behind her. This iconic image from the film will remain in the imaginations of spectators who have seen it for a long time and will become a kind of erotic icon.


Marlene Dietrich sex symbol

This exploitation photograph from the film The Blue Angel (we can make out the logo of the studio that produced it, the UFA at the bottom left) shows the cabaret scene where Lola (Marlène Dietrich) performs in the eyes of men. It reflects wonderfully the magical universe of this place of temptation and desire. A character nourished by the Berlin atmosphere of the 1920s, this singer, leading to the downfall of an honorable teacher, will propel the near-beginner actress to the front row. Strenberg was able to harness Dietrich's triumphant sensuality to the point of making him a true sexual symbol. Moreover, the story of this vamp that sinks a notable into debauchery is also a metaphorical representation of the collapse of the values ​​of the old bourgeois-liberal world of the post-Wilhelmian era.

  • Germany
  • cabarets
  • cinema
  • Hollywood


L’Avant-scène cinema n ° 57, Sternberg: L’Ange bleu24167 Siegfried KRACAUER From Caligari to Hitler.A History of German Cinema 1919-1933Paris, Flammarion, 1987.Klaus KREIMEIERA History of German Cinema: UFAParis, Flammarion, 1994.

To cite this article

Laurent VÉRAY, "Birth of a star"

Video: Birth of Stars