Today: June 19, 2024

Marlene Dietrich at Universal 1940-1942

In 1999, Marlene Dietrich was named the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema, and her reputation has only grown in the last 20 years. One of the most iconic and recognisable stars in film history, her influence and legacy are enormous. Following last year’s stunning boxset from Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator slate, the British Film Institute have also gifted film fans with a selection of her iconic works in this beautiful Marlene Dietrich at Universal 1940-1942 set.

Limited to just 4,000 copies, this wonderful release combines four timeless films that showcase Dietrich’s alluring and enduring persona: Seven Sinners (Tay Garnett, 1940), The Flame of New Orleans (René Clair, 1941), The Spoilers (Ray Enright, 1942) and Pittsburgh (Lewis Seiler, 1942). 

With co-stars including Randolph Scott, John Wayne and Mischa Auer, the eclectic set covers many genres – drama, romance, comedy and Western – but Dietrich’s captivating style and endless charisma shine through in each of the four titles. This is a wonderfully passionate set that celebrates a timeless legacy, with commentary tracks on each of the films and 60-page book of newly commissioned essays deepening our understanding and appreciation of the beloved star. 

While none of the films included are exactly Citizen Kane-standard masterpieces, they are charming and endearing slices of a bygone era of Hollywood that are wonderfully enjoyable – The Flame of New Orleans being a particular hoot (despite a critical panning back in ’41), showcasing Dietrich’s flair for comedy as she subtly spoofs her old self. The remaining films in the set showcase the winning chemistry between Dietrich and the legendary John Wayne, which saw them work together three times. Fans of the Western superstar will be delighted to see these films finally given a Blu-ray release here in the UK.

The films each look wonderful, and the set is beautifully presented with a glamour that Dietrich herself would surely be pleased with. BFI have been on fire with their releases recently, and this stunning boxset is another jewel in their home entertainment crown. 

Marlene Dietrich at Universal 1940-1942 is a wonderful set for fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood, combining four enjoyable films fronted by one of cinema’s most iconic stars.

Samuel Love

Freelance writer. Email:

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