The Foreign Legion marches in to Mogador with booze and women in mind just as singer Amy Jolly arrives from Paris to work at Lo Tinto\'s cabaret. That night, insouciant legionnaire Tom Brown catches her inimitably seductive, tuxedo-clad act. Both bruised by their past lives, the two edge cautiously into a no-strings relationship while being pursued by others. But Tom must leave on a perilous mission: is it too late for them?
Gary Cooper ... Légionnaire Tom Brown
Marlene Dietrich ... Mademoiselle Amy Jolly
Adolphe Menjou ... Monsieur La Bessiere
Ullrich Haupt ... Adjutant Caesar
Eve Southern ... Madame Caesar
Francis McDonald ... A Sergeant
Paul Porcasi ... Lo Tinto, Nightclub Owner
Of course Morocco has dated - mostly in its scripting, yet if one is willing to fantasize a little, to place oneself in a 1930 sensibility, the film works brilliantly. Even without taking that delicious mindstep Morocco is a delectable cinema classic, even if it isn\'t the finest of the Sternberg-Dietrich collaborations.
That hot kiss the white-tie-and-tails-clad Dietrich plants on the lips of a woman seated, helplessly, at a cabaret table is still breathtaking. Seeing that kiss still sizzle nowadays makes one wonder why so much hubbub ensued after 2003\'s gratuitous, lackluster liplock shared by Madonna and Britney Spears (which, as it made me yawn also made me think of Madeline Kahn\'s Dietrich-parodying Lilli von Shtupp dismissing Hedley Lamar\'s bouquet offering: \"Oh. How odinawy.\"). Moreover, Dietrich\'s Amy Jolly deliberately ignores the luststruck man who handed a flower to her following her cabaret act, and instead humiliates him by kissing his startled, but not at all displeased - and rather persuaded to complaisance, date. No penis envy nonsense here: its all Marlene being woman almighty flexing woman\'s timeless power.
One ought not, as one amateur reviewer has, to judge myopically this film by today\'s anal PC standards by dint of sanctimonious judgments about colonialism - and by taking a badly mistaken swipe at Gary Cooper\'s character speaking American English instead of affecting a French accent when, in fact, Cooper was playing an American in the Foreign Legion (did the character\'s name, Tom Brown, not clue that reviewer to Brown\'s nationality?); further, the uniform of enlisted legionnaires wasn\'t tailored to fit handsomely - it was made mostly of coarse wool and issued \"as-is,\" quite often ill-fitting, to men who volunteered for arduous service. Instead one ought to see Morocco\'s characters for what they are: broadly-painted archetypes of white colonialists behaving as white colonialists behaved, indeed as people in archetypal roles since Sophocles still behave - albeit in the cinematic mannerist modality of the film\'s period.
Missed too often, but not to be missed here is how Morocco, in its own stylized Sternbergian way, deals with enduring human nature: lust and love; jealousy and covetousness; pettiness and spite, anger and beneficence; harshness and tenderness; not to mention the ineffable human wont to go head over heels, round the bend, over a lover: what we have in Morocco is not a didactic narrative but an epoch-bridging fable. And despite the dated dialect of its dialogue language, it\'s remarkable how much and exactly what this 1930 film dared to show and got away with showing. (Anyone with a matured world-view ought to be aware that, seventy years hence, rap star films of the two thousand-aughts - as well as films employing the standard English of the early twenty-first century - are likely to be ridiculed or dismissed for their peculiarities of dialect.)
Give yourself a huge wink and watch Morocco, and savor its seductive lenswork, its atmopsheric sets and and costumes and lighting, and its timeless, classical themes which, over all these years since its shooting, remind us that \"Plus ca change, plus c\'est la meme chose.\"
After her stunning international success in The Blue Angel, Marlene Dietrich was open to all kinds of film offers from all countries. She shrewdly negotiated with Adolph Zukor at Paramount Pictures in the USA and made her feature film debut in Morocco co-starring with Paramount\'s number one leading man Gary Cooper. She couldn\'t have predicted it, but it was a permanent move away from Germany.
Dietrich was a package deal for with her came the director of The Blue Angel Joseph Von Sternberg. No doubt Von Sternberg created the image that we now know her for, sensual, alluring, and standing by her man when she does make her choice.
One thing about Morocco I found different than most of the films I\'ve seen of Dietrich is that she\'s not in control of the situation. In most films she usually is, but in Morocco Cooper\'s very much in charge. She\'s got a wealthy man in Adolphe Menjou panting after her, but she can\'t see him for beans. It\'s Gary Cooper an ordinary dogface Foreign Legionaire that she\'s fallen for.
Cooper in fact plays a part Tyrone Power would affect great success with later, a hero/heel. Cooper is carrying on an affair with the wife of one of the officers at his post when he meets Dietrich. The man must have had something going for him.
Von Sternberg did a great job in creating the atmosphere of not only Morocco, but of the Foreign Legion. Men with forgotten pasts and dubious futures, living only for the moment.
Although I think Marlene Dietrich did better films than Morocco in her Hollywood years, Morocco was a grand and auspicious beginning for her.
MOROCCO is the second of seven collaborations between Marlene Dietrich and the director that discovered her and probably photographed her the best, Josef von Sternberg. In fact, it is Dietrich\'s first English-language film, and she stars in it as the world-weary, man-weary French entertainer Amy Jolly. She\'s never had a reason to trust a man, much less love one, until she sees Legionnaire Tom Brown (Gary Cooper) defend her honour the first time she arrives onstage--this is surely a classic movie moment, Marlene Dietrich arriving in full top hat and tails. Tom is just as cynical about women as Amy is about men, but from their first encounter over the price of an apple, you know that these two have met the one person of the opposite sex who could change everything. Much as he loves her, however, Tom believes that Monsieur La Bessiere (Adolphe Menjou) could bring Amy more happiness and stability through his marriage proposal... so he leaves, to march off with the Foreign Legion.
To be frank, the story really isn\'t all that important--it\'s pretty one-note, with the sole amusement being provided by the zings Amy and Tom trade each time they meet. That\'s a nice touch, the slightly wry way in which they both approach the budding relationship, both because they\'ve been hurt before, and because there\'s also no conventional way for the two of them to stay together. This is brought out very nicely by the ending of the film.
Whatever other reason you might have to watch MOROCCO, there\'s no denying that Marlene Dietrich is very clearly the star of the entire enterprise. The way von Sternberg photographs and captures her makes her appear mysterious, beautiful and yet achingly vulnerable at the same time. You couldn\'t talk about Dietrich in this film without also mentioning von Sternberg in the same breath, since she is so very evidently portrayed in the way he sees her at her best. Some shots of Dietrich, more than others, are breathtaking. Even if her character isn\'t particularly well-fleshed-out and her lines not too great (von Sternberg fed her most of her lines during filming, partly because that\'s how he works and partly because Dietrich apparently knew very little English), Amy/Dietrich--both creations of the same directorial genius--is a fine work of art. Whether it\'s Dietrich creating a furore of gasps when she emerges in her tux, or when she plants a firm kiss on another lady\'s mouth (this film was made in *1930*!), she is a simply captivating screen presence--Cooper seems bland in his role in comparison, and Menjou is adequate but certainly doesn\'t steal the picture. The sound for the whole film isn\'t that great, and Dietrich does have to sing over the noise of the crowd so you really have to struggle to make out what she\'s saying... but just looking at her really is enough in this film.
Watch this film for Dietrich, the meticulously-created Moroccan atmosphere (von Sternberg excels at this, and evidently took great pains to make it as authentic as possible--to the detriment of plot and character), the sweet romance with a nice final twist... but mostly for Dietrich. She makes it all worth it.
* The infamous scene where Marlene Dietrich kisses another woman - which was added to the script at Dietrich\'s suggestion - was saved from being cut by the censors by Dietrich herself: she came up with the idea of taking a flower from the woman before kissing her and then giving the flower to Gary Cooper, explaining that if the censors cut the kiss the appearance of the flower would make no sense.
* This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992.
* Lux Radio Theatre version, retitled \"The Legionnaire and the Lady\", starring Marlene Dietrich and Clark Gable aired 1 June 1936.
* One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since.