In 1929, Josef von Sternberg began assembling the cast for the first major German sound film – Der blaue Engel, otherwise known as The Blue Angel. A classic of Weimar cinema, the 1930 film featured Marlene Dietrich playing Lola-Lola, a seductive singer in 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.” The persona captivated audiences, and it made Dietrich an international star.
Above, you can watch Dietrich’s screen test for the film. Inhabiting the role, she gives 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…
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