Marlene Dietrich's 1929 screen test for 'The Blue Angel'



In 1929, director Josef von Sternberg was putting together the cast for what would be the first major German motion picture in sound: "The Blue Angel." It starred then unknown actress Marlene Dietrich as Lola-Lola, a sex symbol playing at the local cabaret. Lola-Lola was, it has been said, a "liberated woman of the world who chose her men, earned her own living and viewed sex as a challenge." To say movie audiences were captivated would be an understatement, Dietrich became a global phenomenon because of the film, which had been simultaneously filmed in both German and English.
Above, is a video Dietrich's screen test for the film, discovered in 1992 at a Viennese film archive, legendary for the way she ends up throwing three temper tantrums, including giving the poor piano player an earful (essentially saying, "How the hell can I sing through this garbage with you playing like that?"). Then she works her way through "Why Cry at Parting?" and climbs on that piano, cigarette no longer in hand, and puts on a show...

As The New York Times puts it "Von Sternberg's heart must have jumped or stopped," he continued. "I think he knew that this was the discovery of a lifetime."

The screen test, which occurred in Berlin, happened in 1929. It was setup when Von Sternberg saw Dietrich in a hit stage production and decided on the spot that he wanted her for the part of Lola Lola.  "The test had been made as a courtesy for Paramount Pictures, although Dietrich herself did not know she had already been chosen for the part."

[NYT]
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