Desire (1936)

Synopsis:

An average American engineer, Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper, High Noon), inadvertently bumps into a sophisticated jewel thief, Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich, Rancho Notorious), and his life is never the same.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Brandy is the only thing I’m straight about.”

Although directed by the highly acclaimed German filmmaker Frank Borzage (The Mortal Storm), Desire has the stamp of its producer, the great Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner). Have you ever heard of “The Lubitsch Touch”? It’s one of those things that’s a bit hard to describe. I define “The Lubitsch Touch” as the kind of subtle humor that takes a few seconds to process… Desire has a lot of that!

Desire reunited Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich in an attempt to recapture the magic of one of their earliest hits, Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco (1930). Even though it has nothing in common with Sternberg’s 1930 classic, Desire manages to catch lightning in a bottle again — the Cooper-Dietrich chemistry is irresistible!

I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again: Cooper is one of cinema’s most underrated comedians. Dietrich and the rest of the cast play it straight, leaving Cooper all alone to provide comic relief, and he doesn’t disappoint: Cooper’s clean, uncomplicated persona is brilliantly milked for laughs.

Cooper plays an American simpleton who has no idea he’s being duped by the worldly Dietrich. He is funny because he misinterprets Dietrich’s nefarious intentions. For example, there is a hilarious scene with Cooper having dinner with Dietrich. She is trying to retrieve something from his pockets, but Cooper thinks Dietrich is trying to grab his [bleep]! Cooper also demonstrates how people took selfies in the 1930s.

John Halliday (The Philadelphia Story) is excellent as Dietrich’s partner-in-crime and Akim Tamiroff (For Whom the Bell Tolls) is effective as a police officer. Apart from the great work by the actors, Desire looks gorgeous. The glossy cinematography, by Oscar-winners Charles Lang (Some Like It Hot) and Victor Milner (Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra), makes everything look very elegant, very sophisticated.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Desire is a classy, funny and very naughty romantic comedy. While not nearly as popular as My Man Godfrey, NinotchkaHis Girl Friday or The Lady Eve, this is top-notch entertainment. B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.

4 responses to “Desire (1936)

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