On the eve of World War II (1939) English officer Ralph Denistoun is in Nazi Germany on an espionage mission to recover a poison gas formula from Prof. Krosigk. He is helped by Lydia and her band of gypsies. Naturally romance develops along the way.
Ray Milland ... Col. Ralph Denistoun
Marlene Dietrich ... Lydia
Murvyn Vye ... Zoltan
Bruce Lester ... Richard Byrd
Dennis Hoey ... Hoff
Quentin Reynolds ... Himself
Reinhold Schünzel ... Prof. Otto Krosigk
Ivan Triesault ... Maj. Reimann
Hermine Sterler ... Greta Krosigk
I am really surprised that this film only has a rating of 6.4 as of the time I did this review. While not exactly a great film, I do think it's one of the best films Dietrich did and it's a shame it isn't more highly regarded. I think a lot of the reason I liked the film so much is that the usual silly Dietrich persona as the "über-vamp" isn't present and her role required her to actually act. I just hate seeing film after film after film in the early days of her career where she seemed more like a caricature or cliché than a real woman. I don't necessarily blame Dietrich for the silly vampish films she made in the 1930s--audiences loved them and they did make her famous. But here, she showed she really could act. After all, just looking at her in films like MOROCCO, BLONDE VENUS and THE BLUE ANGEL, who would have guessed that she was well-cast to play a Gypsy! I was quite prepared to hate the film because of this casting decision, but it worked--she was pretty believable and a lot of fun to watch as well! The film is, essentially, a vehicle just for Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich--the other supporting characters are very much secondary to the movie. Milland is a wanted spy in pre-WWII Germany and in his efforts to escape, he stumbles upon a rather frisky lone Gypsy (Dietrich) who instantly takes him to be a fulfillment of prophecy--in other words, her new lover! Milland is quite stuffy but reluctantly agrees to travel in her wagon--even putting on body paint and piercing his ears to make him look like a Gypsy (hence the title to the movie). Over time, he slowly starts to realize that underneath her very uncouth exterior is quite a woman and romance slowly blossoms.
The film in a word is "charming". A nice romance with a good dose of comedy and fun--just the sort of picture you wish Hollywood still made. Also, please note the performance of Murvyn Vye as "Zoltan". He was very magnetic in the short time he was on film and I just loved his deep and beautiful voice.
Finally, a sad note to consider. While the film is set in Germany, no mention is made of the upcoming Gypsy Holocaust. During the war, throughout German territory, the Nazis exterminated a huge percentage of Gypsies and so the final nice ending to the film is a tad far-fetched.
Having recently purchased Universal's Marlene Dietrich DVD collection, I was somewhat reluctant to watch "Golden Earrings." The idea of a 40-something Marlene Dietrich as a gypsy in a war-time romance seemed unusual, and implausible. I should not have worried. With all the professional talent that went into these old movies, it's hard to miss, really. The movie was a joy to watch; it's a classic.
The most interesting thing about the film was Dietrich, who pulls off the gypsy role perfectly. The makeup, lighting, photography, and her performance all add up to make a really startling and memorable character. I had never seen Dietrich play a "good" woman convincingly before--but she does here! She played a lot of heartless vamps in those great Sternberg films, so it is refreshing to see her in a more down to earth, relaxed role, playing an exotic but very human character.
Overall, a very nice romance. The love story is believable, optimistic, and the happy ending is extremely satisfying.
Hollywood has made a lot of strange movies over the years, but none stranger than this. WHY this movie got made I will never know, nor how Paramount could have thought it would sell any tickets in 1947. It is the strangest mix of genres I have seen in a long time, a movie that truly does not know whether it is trying to be a serious war drama or a Viennese operetta comedy.
It tells the story of a British spy trying to get a poison gas formula out of Germany in the days just before WW II began. Ray Milland, a fine actor, is stuck playing the part like an escapee from Monty Python, all very exaggerated English prep-school dialogue. In Germany he meets a gypsy, Marlene Dietrich, who helps him to travel under cover as, of course, another gypsy. She plays her part like the typical Viennese operetta gypsy caricature, as do the other "gypsies" in the movie. But there are also Nazis, who are not funny at all. And then Milland finds he is starting to think like a gypsy, and that is not treated as a joke. Sometimes the music is for a light comedy, sometimes for a drama. Every time the Nazis show up, the film score plays Wagner, which is funny by itself.
This movie could have been a comedy, or it could have taken the plight of the gypsies seriously and done a serious job of showing how the Nazis treated them. Both are hinted at in this movie, but neither pursued. What we are left with is a truly strange mish-mash of genres that must have embarrassed everyone (except the director) involved.
Due to a labor dispute, the principal actors had to "live" on the set for a few weeks to avoid crossing picket lines. Marlene Dietrich took the time to learn how to play the zither; it was said she drove the rest of the cast and crew mad with her attempts to perfect her technique. Her efforts paid off, however, as illustrated in the scene where she plays the zither very competently.
In the scene with Lydia and the stew pot, dry ice was used to give the impression of vapors and heat. However, a small fire was lit under it, and when filming resumed, between takes Marlene Dietrich assumed there was no real heat and suffered third-degree burns to her hand. She refused to hold up production and instead kept dipping her hand in the pot that had been refilled with ice water.
In the climax where Lydia is escaping though the wilderness from the Nazis, in some shots she is seen wearing high heels and at other times appears in bare feet. This was because Marlene Dietrich refused to wear high-heeled shoes in spite of the fact that shots had already been filmed with her stunt double wearing heeled shoes.
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.