Blonde Venus (1932)

80, 85 or 92-93 mins | Drama | 16 September 1932

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HISTORY

The pre-production title for this film was Velvet . A 20 Jul 1932 FD news item lists "Getting What I Want When I Want It" among the new songs to be performed by Marlene Dietrich in the film, but apparently it was cut. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, on 19 Apr 1932, the film had been scheduled to start 28 Apr; however, according to a FD news item on 27 Apr 1932, director Josef von Sternberg and Paramount studio head B. P. Schulberg had a dispute over the story for the film, which caused Sternberg to quit the picture and leave for New York, while Schulberg assigned Richard Wallace to direct. According to a Hays Office memo dated 22 Apr 1932, Sternberg's original script was being entirely re-written according to Schulberg's demands. In his autobiography, Sternberg says that he tried to quit Paramount, but Dietrich refused to work with another director, and because they were both under contract, Sternberg was forced to return to the studio. A modern source states that Sternberg was suspended for two weeks, and after a few concessions were made by him regarding the script, production was resumed. A memo dated 21 May 1932 from Director of Studio Relations, AMPP, Colonel Jason S. Joy to Will H. Hays, head of the MPPDA, states: "The argument started because the original script was too raw for Schulberg. A perfectly safe version of the script was developed, but now that von Sternberg and Schulberg have patched up their differences, the re-write on the script seems to indicate that Schulberg has compromised pretty much with ... More Less

The pre-production title for this film was Velvet . A 20 Jul 1932 FD news item lists "Getting What I Want When I Want It" among the new songs to be performed by Marlene Dietrich in the film, but apparently it was cut. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, on 19 Apr 1932, the film had been scheduled to start 28 Apr; however, according to a FD news item on 27 Apr 1932, director Josef von Sternberg and Paramount studio head B. P. Schulberg had a dispute over the story for the film, which caused Sternberg to quit the picture and leave for New York, while Schulberg assigned Richard Wallace to direct. According to a Hays Office memo dated 22 Apr 1932, Sternberg's original script was being entirely re-written according to Schulberg's demands. In his autobiography, Sternberg says that he tried to quit Paramount, but Dietrich refused to work with another director, and because they were both under contract, Sternberg was forced to return to the studio. A modern source states that Sternberg was suspended for two weeks, and after a few concessions were made by him regarding the script, production was resumed. A memo dated 21 May 1932 from Director of Studio Relations, AMPP, Colonel Jason S. Joy to Will H. Hays, head of the MPPDA, states: "The argument started because the original script was too raw for Schulberg. A perfectly safe version of the script was developed, but now that von Sternberg and Schulberg have patched up their differences, the re-write on the script seems to indicate that Schulberg has compromised pretty much with von Sternberg." Despite Schulberg's compromises, the Hays Office approved the film without significant recommendations for deletions. In a letter to Paramount executive John Hammell dated 16 Sep 1932, Joy explained why the film had received a Code seal: "Never is [Helen] glorified as an unfaithful wife or as a prostitute; and never are infidelity and prostitution themselves made attractive." Although no evidence of specific Hays Office recommendations for a revised ending were found in the Code file, a modern source states that the Hays Office, and subsequently Paramount executives, considered Helen's reunion with Ned at the end of the film immoral, and according to the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, an alternate ending was written for the film on 26 Apr 1932. It reads: "Nick makes allegation that Ned has been living with his young housekeeper for a year and threatens a custody suit until Ned capitulates to let Helen see Johnny. Nick then proposes to her." According to a modern source, while Sternberg was removed from Paramount, he secretly tried to set up his own production company in Berlin, but found conditions unfavorable. According to the papers of cinematographer Paul Ivano at the AMPAS Library, he did camera work on this film.
       According to a modern source, this film was released in two versions, one which cut out the opening scene in which Ned discovers Helen and her friends swimming naked in a lake. Modern critics have written much about the nightclub scene in which Dietrich, in a blonde wig, emerges from a gorilla suit singing "Hot Voodoo." In his autobiography, Sternberg refers to a night he spent in a Bowery flophouse at the age of seventeen that "emerged in one of my films" [probably Blonde Venus ]. Sternberg says the film's story was "written swiftly to provide something other than the sob stories that were being submitted." Referring to the fashion craze of women wearing pants allegedly started by Dietrich in this film, Sternberg states, "in one of my earlier films I had Miss Dietrich dress in well-cut trousers without fully considering the frightful influence she exerted on others." An ad for the film touting Dietrich's talents states, "no other personality can give such beauty...such dignity--such pity-quickening allure to the scarlet letter. A fallen woman you can not help but love...understand and--forgive." An exploitation preview ad in FD on 24 Mar 1932 for a Dietrich/Sternberg film called Deep Night is possibly an ad for an earlier version of this film. The ad reads, "How they'll go for her as the gorgeous stage beauty who takes New York by storm...the idol of millions and millionaires...who gives up a brilliant career to marry the man she loves--and sacrifices her soul to save his life!" Modern sources credit Wiard Ihnen with art direction, Oscar Potoker with musical score and Travis Banton with costumes for this film. Modern sources list the following character names for actors listed above: Robert Graves ( La Farge ), James Kilgannon ( Janitor ), Charles Morton ( Bob ), Ferdinand Schumann-Heink ( Henry ) and Jerry Tucker ( Otto ). Additional cast members included in modern sources are: Lloyd Whitlock ( Baltimore manager ), Emile Chautard ( Chautard ), Pat Somerset ( Companion ) and Kent Taylor. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
24 Mar 32
pp. 12-13.
Film Daily
27 Apr 32
p. 2.
Film Daily
20 Jul 32
p. 28.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 32
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 32
p. 7.
International Photographer
1 Oct 32
p. 38.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Sep 32
p. 38.
New York Times
24 Sep 32
p. 18.
Time
3 Oct 32
p. 36.
Variety
27 Sep 32
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam op
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Addl cam
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
SOURCES
SONGS
"Hot Voodoo," music by Ralph Rainger, lyrics by Sam Coslow
"You Little So-and-So," music and lyrics by Sam Coslow and Leo Robin
"I Couldn't Be Annoyed," music and lyrics by Leo Robin and Dick Whiting.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Velvet
Deep Night
Release Date:
16 September 1932
Production Date:
July--early August 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Publix Corp.
Copyright Date:
23 September 1932
Copyright Number:
LP3274
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80, 85 or 92-93
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Chemist Edward Faraday marries German cabaret singer Helen and the couple settles in the United States, where they have a son, Johnny. Years later, Ned develops radium poisoning and must travel to Europe to receive treatment, but cannot afford the trip. Helen, therefore, goes to work for nightclub manager Dan O'Connor, who gives her the name "Blonde Venus" and features her in his act. At Helen's debut, she enchants politician and millionaire Nick Townsend, who gives her the three-hundred dollars Ned needs. Helen tells Ned the money was an advance from O'Connor, and the next day Ned sails for Europe for six months. Nick convinces Helen to quit the club and let him support her for the summer. When Ned arrives home early, cured of his illness, Helen is on vacation with Nick. After Helen confesses her infidelity, Ned demands custody of Johnny. Helen runs away with Johnny, moving from town to town trying to get work in cabarets, while the Bureau of Missing Persons tracks her. In New Orleans, when Helen can no longer work because the authorities have circulated her picture in clubs all over the country, she gives Johnny up to Ned. Within a year after being reduced to staying in a women's flophouse, Helen has become a sensation in Paris nightclubs under the name Helen Jones. There she meets Nick again, who has heard rumors that Helen used men as a stepping stone to stardom. He swears his love to her, but she is cold to him. The next day, the couple sails for America as newspaper headlines announce that Helen is forfeiting Parisian success to marry ... +


Chemist Edward Faraday marries German cabaret singer Helen and the couple settles in the United States, where they have a son, Johnny. Years later, Ned develops radium poisoning and must travel to Europe to receive treatment, but cannot afford the trip. Helen, therefore, goes to work for nightclub manager Dan O'Connor, who gives her the name "Blonde Venus" and features her in his act. At Helen's debut, she enchants politician and millionaire Nick Townsend, who gives her the three-hundred dollars Ned needs. Helen tells Ned the money was an advance from O'Connor, and the next day Ned sails for Europe for six months. Nick convinces Helen to quit the club and let him support her for the summer. When Ned arrives home early, cured of his illness, Helen is on vacation with Nick. After Helen confesses her infidelity, Ned demands custody of Johnny. Helen runs away with Johnny, moving from town to town trying to get work in cabarets, while the Bureau of Missing Persons tracks her. In New Orleans, when Helen can no longer work because the authorities have circulated her picture in clubs all over the country, she gives Johnny up to Ned. Within a year after being reduced to staying in a women's flophouse, Helen has become a sensation in Paris nightclubs under the name Helen Jones. There she meets Nick again, who has heard rumors that Helen used men as a stepping stone to stardom. He swears his love to her, but she is cold to him. The next day, the couple sails for America as newspaper headlines announce that Helen is forfeiting Parisian success to marry a New York millionaire. Before they can marry, however, Nick insists that Helen see Johnny again, knowing that the boy is her only true happiness. When they arrive at the Faraday home, Ned refuses to let Helen inside until Nick offers to "buy" Helen a visit with Johnny. Ned refuses the bribe, but allows her in. Helen puts Johnny to bed, and he asks for the story of how his parents met. Reluctantly Ned and Helen tell it, but without the usual happy ending. When Helen sings Johnny to sleep, she asks Ned if she may stay with them both, and he says it is where she belongs. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.