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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936)

David O Selznick’s second film as an independent producer, one of the early triumphs of the still new three-strip TechniColor process, remains breathtakingly beautiful as artifact and breathtakingly silly as drama. But who would want it otherwise? Dressed appropriately in a series of glamorous, flowing pastel chiffon outfits, Marlene Dietrich heads to the desert to purity her unhappy soul. There, she falls for dewy, doe-eyed Charles Boyer and they marry before she discovers his terrible secret; he’s a monk on the lam. Will the secret of the monastery’s famous liqueur be lost forever to secular passion? Will Basil Rathbone’s romantic arab prince reveal all? Will Tilly Losch’s lap dance unnerve Boyer? Will Joseph Schildkraut lose Dietrich’s luggage? There’s so much at stake! You really can’t make fun of kitsch this pure. And don’t kid yourself, underrated helmer Richard Boleslawski, originally a member of Stanislawski’s Moscow Art Players, knows the score. Just let it roll over you like the Max Steiner music that looks toward Sigmund Romberg’s THE DESERT SONG for it’s own brand of Golden Age Hollywood authenticity.

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