A Little Sound and a Little Glamour Go a Long Way

It’s almost hard to believe that it was eighty years ago that movies–that commonplace commodity now so easily accessible with Netflix and the internet–began to introduce sound to its silent pictures. It’s 1930, and audiences around the world crowd into stuffy theaters to escape the outside world of economic distress and political unrest, just for a few hours of immersion in all the vice and wonder that the silver screen brings. The picture starts rolling, and though the sound crackles and voices come across a bit high-pitched, the viewers are transfixed by a sultry creature gracing the screen. She’s  just some German actress named Marlene Dietrich, but those eyes…those indifferent eyes gazing out from behind heavy lashes and topped off with minutely plucked eyebrows…

The picture is called “The Blue Angel,” and is one of Germany’s first major sound films. Any vocal richness lost by the insufficient recording technology of the time is certainly made up for in visual glamour and Dietrich’s striking presence. The young actress’s character, “Lola Lola,”  is a cabaret singer, whose cheeky, frilly, leg-bearing stage costumes  and brash sexuality had the film facing censorship in California after its release to the public. Though a second, censored version of the story was released in the States, the original remained a paragon of style in the eye of moviegoers worldwide, and Marlene Dietrich came to epitomize old Hollywood glamour. To this day, who can argue that oversized fur coats, long, sensual gloves and swept-back curls are not the embodiment of glamourous allure?