Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Blonde Venus (1932)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Blonde Venus (1932)

In director Josef von Sternberg's melodramatic camp classic - the most outlandish of the Dietrich/von Sternberg pictures - about mother love.

  • the opening sequence (a flashback) in which Helen Faraday (Marlene Dietrich) and her friends were frolicking and skinny-dipping in a German pond (in the Black Forest), but their nudity was teasingly obscured by tree branches when spied upon by a group of nearby tourist hikers
  • she came to the attention of young American scientist-chemist Edward "Ned" Faraday (Herbert Marshall) hiking nearby. Edward was struck with Helen's beauty - love at first sight - and invited her to dinner that evening
  • after a dissolve back to the present, Edward and Helen were married with a 4 year-old son named Johnny (Dickie Moore) - living in a small NY apartment and struggling to make a living
  • her husband, who believed he was dying of radium poisoning, offered his body to the cause of scientific research, but was told there was a cure if he could afford a $1,500 dollar medical cancer treatment-cure in Germany with a reknowned Dresden physician
  • to pay her husband's expensive medical bills, Helen was hired by a nightclub manager-owner, took the name Helen Jones, and entered into a glamorous career as a cabaret singer on the stage - billed as the "Blonde Venus" - for $50 dollars/week.
  • the memorable entrance sequence in a jazzy nightclub (to the beat of an African drum) in which singer Helen opened the cabaret show by first appearing in a full-body gorilla suit as a chained ape, led into the audience by chorus girls (carrying shields and spears) adorned with war paint on their faces and wearing large black afro wigs
Chained Gorilla's Memorable Striptease: "Hot Voodoo"
Revealing Nightclub Singer Helen
  • the revelation of Helen via a striptease - at first she removed one glove to show off her human hand with bracelets, and then the second glove, followed by the removal of the gorilla head-piece; she placed a blonde Afro wig on her head before singing "Hot Voodoo" in a throaty voice - as she stood with hands on her hips before the chorus line of archetypal 'native' dancers --
    the lyrics:

    "Did you ever happen to hear of voodoo? Hear it and you won't give a damn what you do Tom-tom's put me under a sort of voodoo And the whole night long I dont know the right from wrong
    Hot voodoo, black as mud Hot voodoo, in my blood That African tempo has made a slave Hot voodoo, dance of sin Hot voodoo, worse than gin I'd follow a cave man right into his cave..."
  • as a result of her on-stage success, she drew the attention of wealthy playboy and frequent club patron Nick Townsend (Cary Grant), who offered her $300 dollars as part payment for her husband's treatment
  • during Edward's absence in Germany, Nick wined and dined Helen, bought out her contract so she didn't have to work, set her up in a beautiful apartment, and financially supported her. As the Hays Code required, she would have to suffer the consequences as a 'fallen woman' who had prostituted herself and become unfaithful
  • upon her husband's return after a quick cure, he soon discovered her illicit liaison with Townsend, and how she had financed his treatments. Edward threatened to file for divorce and custody of their five year-old son Johnny. Helen fled with Johnny to Baltimore to avoid surrending her son to authorities, where she became employed as a cabaret singer, during a nationwide search being conducted for 'The Blonde Venus'
  • on the run, she was pursued by a private detective (Sidney Toler) for much of the picture; she soon realized that she would have to continue to evade her husband and the police, an unhealthy condition for Johnny, so she turned herself in to a detective in Texas, and gave up custody of Johnny to Edward
  • Helen ended up as an impoverished and destitute prostitute in a French quarter bordello
  • she pursued further singing opportunities in some of Paris' best nightclubs, where she again rekindled her romance with Nick - as his fiancee. She was encouraged by Nick to return to the US to see Johnny one last time before getting married to him. Back home, she consented to marry Nick if she could be allowed by her estranged husband to see her son for a few minutes at her old apartment. Nick offered to pay Edward for an opportunity to see Johnny - even up to $1,000 dollars a minute
  • in the concluding turn-around, a sequence of great hope and optimism for their future, Edward realized that Johnny really loved and was attached to his mother, and that her sacrifice was for his cure - and they were reconciled as a family

Helen (Marlene Dietrich) Skinny-Dipping

Hot Voodoo: Gorilla and Chorus Girls

Helen Faraday (Marlene Dietrich) with Young Son Johnny


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