Edward Dmytryk's The Blue Angel (1959) is a typically worthless remake. Josef Von Sternberg's 1930 original is a hoary melodrama bolstered by good direction and Marlene Dietrich's sizzling star turn. Lacking both, Dymtryk's version flops.
Stuffy Professor Rath (Curt Jurgens) teaches biology and bores his students. At the Blue Angel nightclub, he falls for singer Lola Lola (May Britt). The two strike up an unlikely romance, with Rath resigning his post to be with Lola. The two marry, but Rath can't find work, becoming dependent on his mercurial wife. Lola's manager (Theodore Bikel) dragoons Rath into becoming a clown, a degrading affair which drives Rath to despair.
Lavishly mounted, The Blue Angel filmed on location in Germany and features European stars. Yet Dmytryk's pedestrian direction makes it a bore. Heinrich Mann's novel shows an intellectual destroyed by sensual womanhood: in other words, a problematic tale requiring an artist's touch that Dmytryk lacks. Updating the story adds little, even if Rath encounters American servicemen or muses over economic trouble. Angel doesn't play as well in scenic postwar Bavaria as smoky, decadent Weimar.
Nigel Balchin's script crushes the flimsy material. This Lola isn't a carnal force of nature, rather a sweet girl who repeatedly warns Rath theirs isn't an ideal match. Scenes with her ex-lover (Fabrizio Mioni) play too forced to humanize her. Similarly, Rath's understanding principal (John Banner) repeatedly offers an escape back into teaching. This makes Rath seem less tragic than stupid, since respectability's a phone call away. The finale mangles the story's power, ending on a bittersweet note that's completely false.
May Britt is a decent singer but can't really act, offering mere generic prettiness. Curt Jurgens's pinched performance allows little range: he's always mumbling and indignant, muting Rath's character development. Theodore Bikel's unctuous impresario steals the show, providing much needed humor and charisma. John Banner gives a dignified straight performance, far removed from Hogan's Heroes.
Supposedly, The Blue Angel was conceived for Marilyn Monroe, who backed out at the last moment. This explains one failing of Dmytryk's film: it's a star vehicle without a star. But lacking Marilyn or Marlene is merely the most glaring shortcoming of an utterly misguided movie.