Desire

This 1936 romantic comedy-drama stars Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper and was directed by Frank Borzage, who is best known for his films where love triumphs over adversity (e.g., war, the Depression, Titanic disaster).  That predisposition is clearly evident in this film (we recorded it in June when TCM featured Dietrich as the star of the month, however the film is available from Prime Video). Madeleine de Beaupre (Dietrich) is a professional jewel thief who uses her charms to con a jeweler out of an expensive pearl neckless in Paris and then heads for San Sabastian in Spain where her partner in crime, Carlos Margoli (John Halliday), awaits..  Speeding along toward the border in her car, she passes and nearly runs off the road a vacationing American engineer, Tom Bradley (Cooper). Once at the border, seeing that guards are checking the luggage and purses of those entering the country, she slips the necklace in Cooper’s pocket as he caught up with her at the checkpoint. After assorted shenanigans, Madeleine seizes an opportunity to steal Tom’s car, leaving him standing in the road and, ultimately, crashes the car while evading police.  Upon arriving in San Sabastian, Bradley, with the help of the police locates Madeline, but is reluctant to finger her as a car thief.  Margoli, who is present for the encounter with the police, offers to pay for the repair of Bradley’s car and they soon move on to his villa where they stay and become friendly. Bradley still unknowingly has the pearl necklace in his jacket pocket, and it becomes the focus of Margoli’s attention because he wants to quickly sell it, split the proceeds with Madeline and move on to another caper. During the stay at the villa, Madeline finds herself falling in love with Bradley and tells Margoli who tries to convince her that Bradley will never accept her once he finds out she is a professional thief. True to Borzage’s directing style, love overcomes adversity – Bradley learns the truth about her, convinces her to return the necklace and go “straight” and to marry him, all in very quick order after several scenes to get us there.  Although the film’s run time is only 90 minutes, it seems longer because there is a lot going on that you must pay attention to.  The dialogue is at times quick-paced and there are some “leaps of faith” in the storyline between scenes.  Nonetheless, Dietrich and Cooper turn in solid performances and if you are a fan of each (or both) it is worth the watch.  We give a Good of an Afternoon rating.

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