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THE WOMAN THAT MEN YEARN FOR

Germany, 1929 (MIFF 1996, Retrospecta)

Director: Kurt Bernhardt

Blackmail, murder, adultery and a few other deadly sins form the basis for The Woman That Men Yearn for (1929). The film pre-dated The Blue Angel (1930), for many the first acknowledged screen appearance of Marlene Dietrich, and was her very first femme fatale part. The man-enslaving seductress, Stasha (Dietrich) has been implicated in the murder of her first husband and is now hooked up with the homicidal Dr. Karoff, who is also obsessed with her. The sinister Stasha mesmerises the newly-wed Henry, luring him away from his young bride, Angela, the daughter of a rich industrialist and a woman he really only married to save his firm-a large smelting company-from insolvency.

Dietrich is sinister throughout and sets Ladislaus Vajda's already taut script aflame. Kurt Bernhardt provided interesting direction and was cogniscent of exactly how to make the best use of his photogenic, nascent screen goddess. Stasha manipulates practically the entire cast and turns Henry's life into a stressful chaotic scramble with his attempts to assist her. The men surrounding her are compelled, always against logic and their better judgement, to serve Stasha's needs. And thus the Dietrich legend was born...

Despite being the opening of her film career The Woman That Men Yearn For. captures Dietrich's remarkable screen presence, captivating beauty and inimitable style. Never previously seen in Australia, this newly restored print from the Berlin Film Archive will be presented by Archive Director and Dietrich scholar, Werner Sudendorf.

• Musical accompaniment

(Alan Hovhaness and Ross Edwards)

Selected and edited by Ross Campbell

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