One of the many collaborative efforts between director Josef von Sternberg and star Marlene Dietrich, Blonde Venus is a standard melodrama that exemplifies the portrayal of the "fallen woman" who must suffer for her indignity. The usually dashing Cary Grant co-stars as tycoon Nick Townsend, however his performance is subdued by the well-lit Dietrich's stunning star presence as Helen Faraday. Though the trappings of the genre require wifely duties and motherhood to supersede other talents, Dietrich infuses power into her role. Memorable musical numbers include a ridiculous minstrel-style performance of "Hot Voodoo," where Dietrich is dressed in an ape suit, as well as a number in a Paris nightclub, where she dons her sexually ambiguous tuxedo, an outfit which she also wore in the famous kissing scene in Morocco (1930). While the story line of Helen's recurring financial trouble seems straight out of Depression-era concerns, her nightclub success story mirrors the career of Josephine Baker, frequently billed as "the Black Venus," who was a star in Paris and a symbol of sexual freedom at the time.
by Andrea LeVasseur review