Those who feel that Marlene Dietrich was merely a beautiful figure whose performances were molded only by director Josef von Sternberg should take a look at Song of Songs, which contains some of Dietrich's finest (if often overlooked) work. Granted, she was once again working with a strong director (Rouben Mamoulian in this case), but it's clear that this was a woman who not only had abundant talent but had a clear sense of how to act specifically for the camera. Observe the many ways she looks at the camera, always embracing it, but doing so with a tremendous variety -- sometimes tenderly, sometimes angrily, sometimes teasingly, sometimes aloofly. Dietrich also gets a chance to show some range here, creating a character who changes from naïve and trusting to one who is cynical and world weary -- and making all aspects of the character quite believable. For his part, Mamoulian's direction is a bit more "conventional" than usual but enormously effective nonetheless. If he's not able to draw a very lively performance from Brian Aherne, he compensates with his work from Lionel Atwill, Alison Skipworth, and Helen Freeman. Add in some evocative Victor Milner cinematography and some stunning sculptures, buttressing a sturdy screenplay, and the result is an enormously entertaining drama in the Dietrich manner.
by Craig Butler review