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Angel

"The Lubitsch Touch" barely fondles this sophisticated melodrama which profiles Dietrich as the bored wife of a British nobleman, Marshall, who has neglected if not ignored her for quite some time. She angrily goes off to Paris, without informing her husband, to see an old friend, Crews, an expatriate Russian duchess running a posh bordello. Douglas, an American visiting Paris, meets Dietrich and plies her with attention to which she happily responds, agreeing to have dinner with him. The two then make the rounds of Paris sites and monuments, but when Dietrich thinks Douglas is getting serious, she disappears, returning to England and Marshall, who has hardly noticed her absence. When the couple goes to the races, Dietrich spots Douglas in the crowd and flees. Douglas, however, recognizes Marshall as an old WW I comrade and he is invited to dinner. Finally Douglas comes face-to-face with his "angel," realizing at dinner that she is married. The undercurrent of this scene is powerful, but neither Dietrich nor Douglas betray their feelings. When Dietrich again vanishes from home, Marshall follows her and sees her meeting secretly with Douglas. He realizes his error in taking his beautiful wife for granted; Marshall asks Dietrich to return home with him, but it looks as if she will depart with Douglas. At the last minute she goes to Marshall and sails to England. Not one of Dietrich's better outings, due no doubt to a stilted script that is too often saved by Lubitsch's adroit direction, Hollander's moving score, and Dreier's majestic sets. Ultimately, the story line is too hard to swallow despite all the gloss, like a dumpling turned to stone. At the end of this film the great Lubitsch marked his 25th anniversary as a director; Dietrich had an enormous cake delivered to the set decorated with the words "Congratulations, Ernst . . . Marlene." She personally cut a piece and fed it to Lubitsch while he was still smoking one of his famous long cigars. That probably went down better than the rushes of this near miss. Song: "Angel" (Frederick Hollander, Leo Robin).