Insolent Enigma/Arrogant Auteur: Marlene Dietrich & Josef von Sternberg

Seven Sinners

Tay Garnett

When director Tay Garnett first pointed out a neophyte John Wayne in the Universal canteen, Dietrich surreptitiously surveyed the strapping actor and whispered, "Oh Daddy, buy me that!"; she subsequently seduced Wayne in her dressing room, and the affair that ensued certainly helped light up this lascivious adventure. Dietrich plays Bijou Blanche, a nightclub entertainer who is running out of islands to hop after being expelled from countless atolls for inciting riots with her act. When an affianced naval lieutenant (Wayne) falls for her, Bijou seizes this only opportunity for stability she has ever been offered. Dietrich biographer Donald Spoto considers the star's performance here to be one of her finest, while her director Garnett "has great fun at the expense of von Sternberg, with a camera style that finds the shadows of shutters over everything.... In no other post-von Sternberg film is [Dietrich] allowed to do her thing so much and so well" (David Shipman).


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