The chance to see Marlena Dietrich, in a tuxedo, kiss a woman was enough to get me to Morocco. I love punctuating my MIFF experience with the nostalgia of a classic and any of the 30s black-and-white dramas and melodramas are like entering a different universe.
We are treated to the anticipated scene early on as Amy Jolly (Dietrich), a vaudeville performer who has fallen on hard times, takes the stage at Lo Tinto’s (Paul Porcasi) club, soon after she arrives in Morocco. It’s as good as expected and sets up Jolly as a self-possessed woman who makes her own choices.
She meets Monsieur La Bessiere (Adolphe Menjou) and he is quickly smitten. He has the wealth and confidence to give her an easier life. At the club she also meets Lieutenant Tom Brown (Gary Cooper) of the Foreign Legion and she is drawn to him, perhaps for the same reason La Bessiere is taken with her; he is independent and doesn’t seem to need anyone’s approval.
Where the plot goes from here is pretty awful and unbelievable. There are lots of pauses between lines and sometimes the acting feels terribly hammy. The lines, though, are often zingers and everything Dietrich delivers, with her sardonic half smile, is sublime. It’s nice to see Cooper playing a non-heroic role.
According to IMDB, the studio wanted to cut out the kiss, added by Dietrich; it along with Dietrich’s masculine attire being too controversial. It was kept in as she argued that the flower she plucks from the woman’s hair and then tosses to Cooper would otherwise make no sense.
The ending is laughably absurd but somehow fitting and you can’t help but applaud.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.