Lionel Atwill

The Devil is a Woman 1935

The Devil is a Woman (1935)

When Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero) arrives in Spain during Carnival week, he sees Concha Perez (Marlene Dietrich) passing by in a parade and is instantly captivated by her beauty. They make plans to meet later that night, but before their date, Antonio meets with his friend, Don Pasqual (Lionel Atwill). Antonio eagerly tells Pasqual all about the new woman in his life, but Pasqual warns Antonio to stay far, far away from the notorious Concha.

Pasqual was once in love with Concha himself and it ruined his life. When he first met her, she was working in a cigarette factory and he gave her the money she needed to quit her job. But after he proposed to her, she sent him a letter telling him she never wanted to see him again. But it isn’t long before she’s back, swearing that she loves him and looking for more money, but she still won’t marry him. Some time later, Pasqual finds her again while she’s working as a singer in a nightclub. He still loves her, but she’s been seeing a bullfighter, a fact that angers Pasqual to the point that he beats her up for it. Despite that, he buys her out of her contract at the night club so she can be with him, but once again, she leaves him.

Although Antonio promises to stay away from Concha, he goes to see her for the sake of getting revenge, but can’t resist her charms. Pasqual arrives and finds them together, and challenges him to a duel.

The Devil is a Woman is the last movie Marlene Dietrich made with director Josef von Sternberg and it was Dietrich’s personal favorite of her own films.   It’s not my favorite of the Dietrich/von Sternberg movies, but I can easily see why Dietrich was so fond of it; von Sternberg pulled out all the stops for it. The Devil is a Woman is a decadent feast for the eyes, full of lively and rich sets, stunning cinematography, fabulous costumes, and Dietrich being absurdly glamorous. Dietrich spent virtually her entire career being the epitome of Hollywood glamour and The Devil is a Woman is easily one of her most glamorous films. The general plot is nothing remarkable, but purely worth watching for von Sternberg’s direction and Dietrich’s commanding presence. Even though Dietrich’s performance had moments of being pure, unadulterated camp, there’s no denying she could command attention.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

In 1921, Ivan Igor (Lionel Atwill) is an exceptionally gifted wax sculptor living in London.  He runs his own wax museum, but it isn’t particularly successful.  The public wants to see figures of people like Jack the Ripper, not Marie Antoinette, which he considers to be his masterpiece.  Eventually, Ivan’s business partner Joe (Edwin Maxwell) gets fed up with losing money on the museum and burns it down for the insurance money, with Ivan inside at the time.

Ivan survives the fire and twelve years later, he sets up shop in New York to open a new wax museum.  The fire left his hands and legs badly damaged and Ivan has to direct others on how to make the figures. Just before the museum’s grand opening, all of New York is abuzz with news of the suicide of model Joan Gale. At first it looks like a pretty cut and dry suicide case, but when newspaper reporter Florence Dempsey (Glenda Farrell) starts doing a little investigating, she discovers that there’s more to the story.

When Joan’s body disappears from the morgue, officials begin to suspect foul play and the top suspect is George Winton (Gavin Gordon), Joan’s ex-boyfriend. Florence quickly realizes that George is innocent and is determined to find the truth. Florence’s roommate is Charlotte Duncan (Fay Wray), who is engaged to Ralph Burton (Allen Vincent), one of Ivan’s employees. While meeting Charlotte for lunch one day in front of the new wax museum, Florence sneaks inside and notices the new Joan of Arc sculpture bears an uncanny resemblance to Joan Gale. At the same time, Ivan meets Charlotte and is taken by just how much she looks like his beloved Marie Antoinette sculpture. He asks her to pose for him and she agrees.

Florence continues her investigation, and eventually she discovers there is a badly disfigured person working for the museum stealing bodies to be covered with wax and placed in the museum. Of course, the police write her off, but she keeps looking. Meanwhile, Charlotte arrives at the wax museum to meet with Ivan, and things immediately start getting scary. Ivan has no intention of having Charlotte simply pose for him; he plans to kill her and dip her in wax, just like the others. Luckily, Florence shows up just in time to save her friend.

For a long time, Mystery of the Wax Museum was thought to be a lost film.  It finally resurfaced in the late 1960s and it’s a good thing it was found because it’s a darn good movie. It’s an excellent blend of horror and mystery with lots of witty lines. I have so much love for Glenda Farrell in it, but Fay Wray felt a little underutilized. And I’ve really got to acknowledge Ray Romero and Perc Westwood who did some really amazing make-up work here and they weren’t even given on-screen credit for it. All in all, a pretty great movie.