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Film / The Blue Angel

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The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) is a 1930 film from Germany's Ufa (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft) studio, directed by Josef von Sternberg, loosely based on Heinrich Mann's novel Professor Unrat, and starring Emil Jannings. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film and it brought world fame to actress Marlene Dietrich.

The plot follows Emmanuel Rath (Jannings) through a transformation from esteemed educator at the local Gymnasium to a destitute vagrant in Weimar Germany. Rath's descent begins when he punishes several of his students for circulating photographs of the beautiful Lola Lola (Dietrich), the headliner for the local cabaret, "The Blue Angel." Hoping to catch the boys at the club, Professor Rath goes to the club later that evening and meets Lola herself. He soon becomes enthralled with the girl and begins to woo her, slowly being overcome by lust and jealousy regarding the others who watch her act. Tragedy ensues.

Notable also for introducing the song ', Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt''‟ (usually translated as "Falling in Love Again") which became Dietrich's Signature Song. Those familiar with Dietrich's later deep vocal growl are often surprised by her thin soprano in this film.

The Blue Angel received an English-language remake by Edward Dmytryk in 1959, starring Curd Jürgens and May Britt. The remake followed the original closely, except for changing the ending. It was not well-received by critics.

Tropes in The Blue Angel:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Professor as played by Emil Jannings is an old gentleman of plain appearance. The character in the book is described as very ugly, dirty and slovenly.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Lola Lola is called Rosa Fröhlich in the novel.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Professor is a far more sympathetic character in the film than in the novel. In the film, he's merely a Stern Teacher while in the book he's a Sadist Teacher who hates all of his students, and delights in punishing them. In the film, after he's fired from his school, he's reduced to performing as a clown in in Lola's troupe; in the novel, he starts a gambling ring. The film ends with his tragic Death by Despair, while the novel ends with his arrest.

  • Animal Motif: The professor crows like a rooster in two different parts of the film: at his wedding reception when Lola is making chicken noises, and when he's humiliated on-stage at The Blue Angel.
  • Break the Haughty: Rath.
  • Come to Gawk: The students and later the professor.
  • Death by Despair: Rath at the end. When he lost everything, he returns to his old classroom, and dies clutching the desk.
  • Downer Ending: Lola kisses the strongman and Rath, destitute and humiliated, dies at the desk where he once taught.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For Marlene Dietrich, whose singing voice is much higher than it was in her subsequent career.
  • Exploding Calendar: Literally burning page after page on screen, as Rath tears them off with Lola's hot curling iron. One of the most powerful and heartbreaking examples of the trope.
  • Femme Fatale: Lola Lola
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The silent clown that appears when the professor first arrives at The Blue Angel? He's going to be succeeded by the professor in five years.
    • The bird at the beginning foreshadows the fate of the professor. Much like the professor, he dies after years of being caged. Both of them have outlived their usefulness; as she burns it in the furnace, the housekeeper notes that the bird hasn't sang in years anyway.
  • Handsome Lech: Hans Albers' strongman, who becomes Rath's rival for Lola's affections.
  • Leitmotif: The opening notes of Mozart's Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen‟ (as played on the town-clock) become symbolic of the respectable life that Rath loses; Lola's „Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß‟ symbolizes her faithlessness.
  • Meaningful Name: The main character's name, Rath (which means "advice, counsel, good sense"); his students call him "Unrath," which (now spelled without the "h") is German for "something worthless, garbage, dross" — "a bad idea."
  • Sad Clown: The professor, becoming a clown in Lola's troupe to support them. His first performance in full clown make-up, where he is continuously debased and forced to crow like a cock, is the climax of the movie and shows just how pathetic the once proud man has become.
  • Stage Magician: The Master of Ceremonies Kiepert (Kurt Gerron, who would later die in Auschwitz) makes Rath a stooge in his magic act.
  • Stocking Filler
  • Teens Are Monsters: Rath's pupils aren't the most grateful bunch, calling him "Rat-Shit" before he even finds out about the club and mocking his clown act like he's a chained-up animal.
    • And then there's them ganging up on the one boy among them who does respect the Professor—they frame him for carrying photos of Lola, and later pound him to a bloody pulp for no discernible reason.