Marlene Dietrich is well known for her sound films, especially her collaborations with the director Joseph von Sternberg. Films such as The Blue Angel (1930), Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil is a Woman (1935) are well known and not infrequently shown or screened. Each is also available on DVD.
What's little known and seldom seen are Dietrich's silent films. On Saturday, July 16th, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will screen one of the actress' best early works, The Woman Men Yearn For (1929). This German silent, directed by Kurt Bernhard and originally titled Die Frau, nach der man sich sehnt, stars Dietrich, Fritz Kortner, Frida Richard, and Oskar Sima.
As the Festival film notes suggest, Dietrich's performance in The Woman Men Yearn For prefigures her Sternberg directed "dances of passion and power."
"Without question, her charisma is in full flower, suggesting that she brought rather more to Sternberg than is usually acknowledged. Dietrich works her trademark stillness, economy and intensity, with all the centrality of a star, and from her striking entrance, she is photographed like a star, yet Bernhardt’s silent film was forgotten in the rush to talkies and the excitement of The Blue Angel, and Marlene herself was content to forget it."
The Silent Film Festival screening on July 16th is a rare opportunity to see a great actress coming into her own.
Though The Woman Men Yearn For marks Dietrich's first appearance at the Silent Film Festival, not so for the actress' co-star, the notable Fritz Kortner. He last graced the Festival screen in 2006, as Louise Brooks' co-star in another German production from 1929, Pandora's Box. Interestingly, The Woman Men Yearn For is based on a book by Max Brod, who is best known today for his friendship with Franz Kafka, and for having saving Kafka's manuscripts against the writer's wishes after Kafka's death. Brod's book was adapted for the screen by Ladislaus Vajda, who had also penned the scenario for Pandora's Box.
Want to learn more about Marlene Dietrich and her films? Be sure and check out the informative and in-depth Dietrich website at www.marlenedietrich.org Well worth subscribing to is their free email newsletter.