The Blonde Venus (1932)

What is love? Is it in the form of a role adorned by a particular person for another? One cannot define precisely, as it is based on situations limited by one’s thinking and feeling.

Blonde Venus is one such story where love at first sight, so to speak, hooks Helen (Marlene Dietrich), a German entertainer with an American chemist Ned Faraday (Herbert Marshall). They meet on a picnic accidentally, and soon they get married.

Helen is a family woman, and they both have a kid; it is like any other story next door until Ned becomes unhealthy due to radium exposure at his lab. Treatment costs money, and while he was being treated in Germany, to support him and the kid, Helen gets back to her entertaining profession and soon becomes popular as The “Venus Blonde.”

As the film points, she gets into an affair of sorts with the millionaire Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) to earn more money for the treatment. As it is left to one’s interpretation, I believe it was a bit hard on Helen to make this choice.

What’s important here is, it is Helen’s choice, victimised by the circumstances. She did care for her husband. And this very fact did not go well with Ned when he accidentally discovered Helen’s affair with Nick when he returns home 15 days in advance.

Unable to accept the reality, he expresses his angst at Helen. Helen flees with her kid away from Ned as he tried to separate them. She runs from one town to another before being caught by Missing Person’s Bureau.

Away from her kid and her husband, she returns to her old profession to live the remaining days when she could have chosen to go back with Nick. It shows she wasn’t entirely interested in Nick. Infidelity can occur if one is not interested in a partner, but in this case, it was for her husband’s sake Helen chose to stay with Nick. But she was not interested in getting back with Nick.

In her new avatar, she reencounters Nick while on tour in Paris, away from family. There comes a time for every human to move on. It was one such occasion for Helen to move on and start a new chapter.

The new chapter, which she hoped to start with Nick, was entwined with the previous chapters, and it wasn’t easy to remove the links of the past. Upon returning to America, unable to hide missing her family, she goes to Ned.

Time is a great healer if one can understand what one truly needs. Ned also recognises the efforts made by Helen, and in the end, they both get together.

What can one say about Nick? It wasn’t an emotional attachment of sorts with Helen. So he should be ok. From the beginning until the end, this movie is all about Marlene Dietrich who supersedes her two male colleagues for the movie’s entire duration.

Released in 1932, the movie was directed by Josef von Sternberg, mentor of Marlene Dietrich, who also made a significant contribution to the style quotient of Cary Grant through this movie.

He suggested Cary have the hairstyle (which he retained for the rest of his life), which would become a trademark and helped Cary Grant be recognised as one of the stylish actors in Hollywood’s history.

Madame Butterfly (1932)

Love has no boundaries, and it has no language. Madame Butterfly is one such story of different cultures and how one can get caught in the web of hope. The story is about lust on one side and love on the other.

Lieutenant Pinkerton (Cary Grant) arrives on the shore of Japan for a holiday. Lt Barton, his buddy, accompanies him to a local establishment to look out for food, drinks, and girls. Pinkerton gets attracted to the local muse Cho-Cho San (Sylvia Sidney).

Pinkerton is given Barton’s advice to marry Cho and enjoy her company with the family’s approval. Although not serious, he was concerned about what would happen to Cho once he leaves Japan.

Abandonment is considered equivalent to divorce in Japan. Barton stressed this point to Pinkerton, saying Cho will be free to marry any local guy once he abandons her and returns to America. Pinkerton marries Cho and spends few days at her place.

Cho’s mom and grandfather treat Pinkerton well. Cho is in love with him, and it was hard for her to accept that he will be away in a few days. With no promise, Cho waits for the return of Pinkerton. Three years pass by; she eagerly waits to meet her husband and give him a surprise, their son. She makes frequent visits to the harbour in the hope of seeing Pinkerton coming to meet her.

Pinkerton does arrive in Japan, along with his American bride. He meets Cho and tells the true story, and apologises to her. This admission by Pinkerton dashed the hope through which Cho lived for the past three years.

This is the story of Madame Butterfly. Paramount’s 1932 movie and directed by Marion Gering, was a non-singing version of the opera by the same name by Giacomo Puccini. The opera is based on the short story written by John Luther Long in 1898 and dramatised by David Belasco.