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Blonde Venus

Blonde Venus(1932)

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The pre-production title for this film was Velvet. A July 20, 1932 Film Daily news item lists "Getting What I Want When I Want It" among the new songs to be performed by Marlene Dietrich in the film, but apparently it was cut. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, on April 19, 1932, the film had been scheduled to start 28 Apr; however, according to a Film Daily news item on April 27, 1932, director Josef von Sternberg and Paramount studio head B. P. Schulberg had a dispute over the story for the film, which caused Sternberg to quit the picture and leave for New York, while Schulberg assigned Richard Wallace to direct. According to a Hays Office memo dated April 22, 1932, Sternberg's original script was being entirely re-written according to Schulberg's demands. In his autobiography, Sternberg says that he tried to quit Paramount, but Dietrich refused to work with another director, and because they were both under contract, Sternberg was forced to return to the studio. A modern source states that Sternberg was suspended for two weeks, and after a few concessions were made by him regarding the script, production was resumed. A memo dated May 21, 1932 from Director of Studio Relations, AMPP, Colonel Jason S. Joy to Will H. Hays, head of the MPPDA, states: "The argument started because the original script was too raw for Schulberg. A perfectly safe version of the script was developed, but now that von Sternberg and Schulberg have patched up their differences, the re-write on the script seems to indicate that Schulberg has compromised pretty much with von Sternberg." Despite Schulberg's compromises, the Hays Office approved the film without significant recommendations for deletions. In a letter to Paramount executive John Hammell dated September 16, 1932, Joy explained why the film had received a Code seal: "Never is [Helen] glorified as an unfaithful wife or as a prostitute; and never are infidelity and prostitution themselves made attractive." Although no evidence of specific Hays Office recommendations for a revised ending were found in the Code file, a modern source states that the Hays Office, and subsequently Paramount executives, considered Helen's reunion with Ned at the end of the film immoral, and according to the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, an alternate ending was written for the film on April 26, 1932. It reads: "Nick makes allegation that Ned has been living with his young housekeeper for a year and threatens a custody suit until Ned capitulates to let Helen see Johnny. Nick then proposes to her." According to a modern source, while Sternberg was removed from Paramount, he secretly tried to set up his own production company in Berlin, but found conditions unfavorable. According to the papers of cinematographer Paul Ivano at the AMPAS Library, he did camera work on this film.
       According to a modern source, this film was released in two versions, one which cut out the opening scene in which Ned discovers Helen and her friends swimming naked in a lake. Modern critics have written much about the nightclub scene in which Dietrich, in a blonde wig, emerges from a gorilla suit singing "Hot Voodoo." In his autobiography, Sternberg refers to a night he spent in a Bowery flophouse at the age of seventeen that "emerged in one of my films" [probably Blonde Venus]. Sternberg says the film's story was "written swiftly to provide something other than the sob stories that were being submitted." Referring to the fashion craze of women wearing pants allegedly started by Dietrich in this film, Sternberg states, "in one of my earlier films I had Miss Dietrich dress in well-cut trousers without fully considering the frightful influence she exerted on others." An ad for the film touting Dietrich's talents states, "no other personality can give such beauty...such dignity-such pity-quickening allure to the scarlet letter. A fallen woman you can not help but love...understand and-forgive." An exploitation preview ad in Film Daily on March 24, 1932 for a Dietrich/Sternberg film called Deep Night is possibly an ad for an earlier version of this film. The ad reads, "How they'll go for her as the gorgeous stage beauty who takes New York by storm...the idol of millions and millionaires...who gives up a brilliant career to marry the man she loves-and sacrifices her soul to save his life!" Modern sources credit Wiard Ihnen with art direction, Oscar Potoker with musical score and Travis Banton with costumes for this film. Modern sources list the following character names for actors listed above: Robert Graves (La Farge), James Kilgannon (Janitor), Charles Morton (Bob), Ferdinand Schumann-Heink (Henry) and Jerry Tucker (Otto). Additional cast members included in modern sources are: Lloyd Whitlock (Baltimore manager), Emile Chautard (Chautard), Pat Somerset (Companion) and Kent Taylor.