Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou, Ullrich Haupt, Eve Southern, Francis McDonald, Paul Porcasi
Written by: Jules Furthman, based on a novel by Benno Vigny
Directed by: Josef von Sternberg
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 92
Date: 11/14/1930

Morocco (1930)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Desert Rose

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Morocco was the second of Josef von Sternberg's seven great films with Marlene Dietrich, and the first in English, though it was released in American theaters before The Blue Angel (1930). With its desert town, vendor stalls, nightclubs, dark alleys, and ragtag little rooms, Sternberg went all out decorating his frames with lush, beautiful garnish, intruding in on the action and complimenting it. Dietrich plays a burnt-out nightclub singer who rolls into town and gets a job performing. In an iconic moment, she wears a man's tuxedo and kisses a woman in the audience during the song "When Love Dies." A virile legionnaire, Tom Brown (Gary Cooper) and a wealthy fop, Monsieur La Bessière (Adolphe Menjou) both fall for her, and the plot is a complex series of plot machinations, with characters second-guessing themselves and others, as well as subplots about Tom's commanding officer and other soap opera stuff, but screenwriter Jules Furthman keeps everything flowing. The characters drive it, each with their own sense of weary, jaded history, and it all comes together as a beautiful work of art.

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