Desire (1936)

After one of the most elaborate jewel heists in European history — in which our female protagonist convinces not just one, but two men that she’s about to marry them — Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) has escaped with a small fortune of pearls.

On her way to Spain to fence the goods, she runs into car trouble and is helped by Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper), a kindly American who just wants to help. She leaves him behind but he accidentally ends up with the hot pearls. That means that she has to romance him in the hopes of getting them back. But what happens when she falls for someone instead of just trying to work them?

A remake of Happy Days in Aranjuez, which was based on the play Die Schönen Tage von Aranjuez, by Hans Székely and Robert A. Stemmle, this movie was supposed to be the comeback movie for John Gilbert after a series of failures. Only days before shooting started, he had a heart attack and got replaced by John Halliday.

Supposedly, Gilbert and Dietrich were living together when she tried to use her influence to have him cast opposite her. However, she withdrew her support when he started seeing former fiancée Greta Garbo again. Dietrich then got back with Gary Cooper and Gilbert had a fatal heart attack occurred on the same day that Cooper’s casting was officially announced by Paramount.

Dietrich spoke highly of this movie, saying: “The only film I need not be ashamed of is Desire…” and “Desire became a good film and, moreover, also proved to be a box-office success. The script was excellent, the roles superb – one more proof that these elements are more important than actors.” She must have really enjoyed this movie, because she played the role at least two more times in radio adaptions.

The new Kino Lorber blu ray of Desire has two commentary tracks, with one by Samm Deighan and the other featuring David Del Valle and Nathaniel Bell. The 2K remastering of the film looks great and this is just about a perfect release for lovers of Hollywood history.

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