Combustible Celluloid
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With: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley, Ernest Cossart, Akim Tamiroff, Alan Mowbray, Zeffie Tilbury
Written by: Edwin Justus Mayer, Waldemar Young, Samuel Hoffenstein, based on a play by Hans Székely, Robert A. Stemmle
Directed by: Frank Borzage
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 02/28/1936

Desire (1936)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Pearl Scam

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not particularly known for comedies, director Frank Borzage made a sparking gem of one with Desire, which reunited Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper after their star turns in Josef von Sternberg's Morocco (1930). Cooper plays Tom Bradley, an engineer for the Bronson 8 car company, located in Paris. He's granted a long-awaited vacation and heads off to Spain. Meanwhile, Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) pulls off an elaborate — and amazing — con, walking away with a string of pearls worth 2.2 million francs. Of course, she interrupts Tom's vacation, splashing mud on him. Then, to get the pearls past customs, she slips them in his coat pocket. From there, it's a balancing act as Madeleine and her cohort, Carlos Margoli (John Halliday) — who poses as her uncle — try to get it back while Tom falls in love with her. The stars are a perfect match, both clever, but Cooper in a peppy, optimistic way and Dietrich in an icy, calculating way. The movie has a delightful, light touch that feels simultaneously sophisticated and silly. (Producer Ernst Lubitsch might have had some influence on things.) Kino Lorber's excellent Blu-ray release comes with two film historian commentary tracks, one by David Del Valle and Nathaniel Bell, and one by Samm Deighan, plus more trailers than you can shake a stick at.

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