Like my fellow reviewers have noted, BLONDE VENUS is a melodrama that really shouldn't work as well as it does. The recipe for it's success lies solely with Marlene Dietrich. Teamed with her greatest director, Josef von Sternberg, BLONDE VENUS comes alive with lots of pathos and drama chiefly because of Dietrich and her dedicated performance.
When her husband (Herbert Marshall) is struck down with a potentially-fatal illness, housewife and mother Helen Faraday (Dietrich) reluctantly returns to the music-hall stage in order to fund his medical journey to Europe. Separated from her husband, Helen finds comfort in the arms of a kind millionaire (Cary Grant).
Although we never quite buy the extremely tawdry nature of Dietrich's character, in BLONDE VENUS she got to play a devoted mother--her scenes with child star Dickie Moore are a joy--and we can recognise the immense humanity and charm which she exuded naturally in real life. BLONDE VENUS displays Dietrich as the glamorous sex goddess (she sings the classic "Hot Voodoo" while dressed in a gorilla costume), but she also manages to connect on a motherly, maternal level with her character, who is very much a woman trapped between two worlds, never really sure of how to connect them in order to reconcile her past with her present.
If you enjoy Marlene Dietrich (plus the early roles of Cary Grant), BLONDE VENUS is for you!