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Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Garden Of Allah (1936)

A wealthy but lonely woman (Marlene Dietrich), armed with only her strong faith, is drifting aimlessly looking for a great happiness in her life. A young monk (Charles Boyer) has second thoughts about his vocation and flees the shelter of his monastery for the secular world. They meet and fall in love but he withholds his past from her. Richard Boleslawski (THEODORA GOES WILD) directed this delirious piece of kitsch in lurid three strip Technicolor and the cinematographers W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson won a special Oscar for their color photography. Boyer has never been more romantically brooding, suffering in silence exquisitely. I've never been a fan of Dietrich's artificial glamour and her exotic woman of mystery act tires quickly. But her work here may be my favorite Dietrich performance. She's rather vulnerable and there's a delicacy about her that I find preferable to her hard edged mamas of DESTRY RIDES AGAIN or imperious goddesses like SCARLET EMPRESS. It's all blissfully ostentatious but irresistible nonsense. Max Steiner did the score, one of his rare good ones. With Basil Rathbone, Alan Marshal, Joseph Schildkraut, C. Aubrey Smith, Lucile Watson, John Carradine and Tilly Losch.

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