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Professor Rath (Emil Jannings) is his hometown's most respected
citizen, a highschool professor who's feared and hated by his students,
but who also puts a great deal of work in their moral and ethical
education - so when he learns that several of them visit a seedy
nightclub, the Blue Angel, he is outraged, and decides to go there to
catch them redhanded to teach them a lesson. On his hunt for his students,
he stumbles into the changing room of nightclub singer Lola (Marlene
Dietrich), whose permissive attitude and revealing clothing style shock
and embarrass but also charm him.
The next night, he's back, to
see Lola, and she invites him into her changing room. When her boss, the
stage magician Kiepert (Kurt Gerron), wants to force her to have champagne
with a drunk customer, Rath stands up for her, to defend her honour. Lola
is so touched that she invites Rath to stay overnight. This leads to a
scandal, and eventually word of this scandal reaches the school Rath works
at. The principal gives Rath a good scholding and thinks that's it, but
Rath is stubborn, and claims he will marry the girl, which leaves the
principal no other way out than to fire him.
When Rath arrives at Lola's
place, she (and her troupe) are ready to leave to put up camp in another
city. When Rath proposes to her, she bursts out into laughter, but then
accepts. Out of a job anyway, Rath travels with Lola's company, but there
isn't much he can contribute to the troupe, and theatre life just isn't
for him. Eventually, he is degraded to selling dirty pictures of Lola to
the audience, and he isn't even good at that ... and more and more he
becomes a broken man.
Four years later: Despite Rath's protests, Lola's
troupe returns to his hometown, and Kiepert decides to make him a featured
attraction on the show, his assistant during his magic act, as he figures
everyone in Rath's hometown will love to see the professor being
humiliated on stage - and he is right, the first show is sold out in a
matter of minutes. Lola in the meantime has grown somewhat tired of Rath,
basically because he does nothing, is living off her money, and even
complains about it - so she supports Kiepert's plan to get him onto the
stage. Enter Matezza (Hans Albers), the strongman, who feels attracted to
Lola almost immediately, and even Rath can't help but notice she feels
drawn to him as well. And Matezza has picked the time during Rath's first
onstage appearance to try to seduce her. Like in a trance, Rath witnesses
glimpses of this while on stage being humiliated, but eventually he storms
off stage to violently attack both Lola and Matezza - but his colleagues
somehow manage to keep them apart, and Rath is put into a strait jacket
for everyone's good until he has calmed down.
Later than night, after
Kiepert has taken off his strait jacket once more, Rath flees the night
club, wanders town with a maniacal look on his face, eventually breaks
into his old school, his old classroom, where he dies holding onto his
The Blue Angel is full of iconic pictures, iconic songs, and is
best known for having made Marlene Dietrich an international star - and
past the surface it's also a pretty great film, a drama about human
failure set in great sets, brought to the screen in striking images and by
Pretty much a must-see!
By the way, this film was shot simultaneously in German and
English language (not an unusual thing in the early talky era). This review is
based on the German language version.