PREMIERE SCREENING FRIDAY JULY 29 - WITH INTRODUCTION BY SANNI BAUMGARTNER The premiere screening on Friday July 29 will be introduced by Sanni Baumgärtner, the German lead singer of Athens' band Audition with Max Reinhardt that plays German cabaret music of the Blue Angel period and beyond. Sanni will talk about the music, about songwriter Friedrich Hollaender, and about how the movie introduced a new star, Marlene Dietrich, whose breakthrough role of Lola-Lola, a cabaret singer, who causes the downfall of a respected schoolmaster, made her world famous as an actress and singer, with whom people keep "Falling In Love Again" and again.
The story of THE BLUE ANGEL involves the fall and humiliation of Prof. Immanuel Rath (Jannings), a respected high school professor who one day confiscates a postcard showing Lola Lola (Dietrich), the dancer at a local nightclub. Visiting the club to reprimand any students he might find there, the professor falls under the spell of Dietrich, who looks fleshier and more carnal than she later appeared. Soon he is lost. He marries her (in a show-biz wedding of grotesque toasts and whispered gossip), goes on the road, and returns to his hometown some years later as a bit player in her stage show--the stooge of a magician who produces eggs from the professor's nose and cracks them on the old man's head.
THE BLUE ANGEL will always have a place in film history as the movie that brought Marlene Dietrich to international stardom. At the time it was made, at the birth of the sound era in 1929, it was seen as a vehicle for Emil Jannings, the German actor who had just won the first Academy Award for best actor (for both THE LAST COMMAND and THE WAY OF ALL FLESH). Dietrich's overnight stardom inspired distributors to recut the film, ending it with one of her songs instead of his pathetic closing moments, and this restored version shows the entire film for the first time in years.
Jannings specialized in roles where he was humiliated. His performance in THE BLUE ANGEL is odd; he plays a high school teacher and is presumably intelligent, yet his thoughts and actions seem slowed down and laborious, as if he's puzzling things out as he goes along. Dietrich had made seven silent films before this one, but seems to adapt easily to the quickened pace of talkies, and of course her stardom depended on sound; her singing of "Falling in Love Again" in this film established it as her trademark. (Three years later, in von Sternberg's SHANGHAI EXPRESS, she would utter that masterpiece of understatement, "It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.") The puzzle throughout THE BLUE ANGEL is why Lola Lola marries the sad, besotted professor. It appears they have a sex life, at least for one night, although it is not appealing to imagine its nature. There are times when she seems fond of him, times when she is indifferent, times when she is unfaithful, and yet she has a certain stubborn affection for this pathetic figure. Perhaps he acts as a front for her shadow life of discreet prostitution; perhaps, in a world that regards her as a tramp, she values the one man who idealizes her. rogerebert