Director: Josef von Sternberg.
Starring: Gary Cooper (Légionnaire Tom Brown), Marlene Dietrich (Mademoiselle Amy Jolly), Adolphe Menjou (Monsieur La Bessiere), Ullrich Haupt (Adjutant Caesar), Eve Southern (Madame Caesar), Francis McDonald (A Sergeant), Paul Porcasi (Lo Tinto, Nightclub Owner).
Foreign Legion film (with Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Rather than an historical movie, this film is primarily a love story. I enjoyed the story, but it just doesn't tell the viewer much of anything about Morocco other than that it was occupied by the French. The tale is set in Mogador (present day Essaouira, a tourist city and a windy one in western Morocco on the Atlantic coast).
Marlene Dietrich's character is a smash at one of the night clubs in Mogador. Gary Cooper is a légionnaire who is a real lady's man. And he is very reckless as one of his conquests is the wife of the adjutant. Cooper loves them and leaves them, so to speak, that is until he meets up with Dietrich. They soon start a real relationship. Cooper has some competition from Monsieur La Bessiere who is very wealthy. Things are looking up for Cooper as he really thinks Dietrich is the one woman for him. But this is where the affair with the adjutant's wife costs him. The adjutant takes his unit out on a dangerous assignment and Cooper thinks the adjutant will try to kill him amidst the fighting to come.
Cooper was going to sneak Dietrich and himself on a boat to get out of Morocco, but at the last minute he changes his mind and decides to go with his unit. With Copper gone with the troops, Monsieur La Bessier now has the chance to move in on Dietrich. Because Dietrich feels betrayed, she is responsive to the Monsieur's wooing her with expensive gifts, but anyone can see that Dietrich still loves Cooper.
The adjutant goes out on an assignment with Cooper only and Cooper is very nervous having the man trail behind him as he single-handedly is supposed to wipe out a machine gun nest. Fortunately for Cooper, the machine gunners kill the adjutant before the adjutant can kill Cooper. Cooper sneaks up behind the machine gun nest and kills the machine gunners.
Dietrich and La Bessiere are going to announce their wedding engagement, when the troops start coming home. They march by the mansion where Dietrich is staying and she can not stop herself from rushing out to see if her real love is still alive. Dietrich desperately goes back and forth among the troops trying to find Cooper. Finally, she is told that he that Cooper was left behind with other troops. Dietrich tells her dinner guests that she is leaving and La Bessier volunteers to drive her to find Cooper. Arriving at their destination, they search the local hospital for Cooper.
Dietrich and La Bessiere do not find Cooper in the hospital, but rather in a night club with another woman sitting on his lap. He has carved a heart with an arrow through it and the name of Dietrich's character. Dietrich confronts Cooper, but he acts very distant toward her, upset that she is going to marry La Bessiere. He leaves accompanied by his "girlfriend". Dietrich is very down-hearted at this turn of events, but when she sees her name carved in the heart on the table, she has renewed hope.
The next day Cooper starts marching out with his fellow troops headed back to Mogador. The female camp followers traipse behind the unit. Dietrich desperately wants to stay with Cooper. So she says good-bye and thanks to La Bessiere and starts walking fast to catch up with the camp followers. She throws her useless shoes away and walks barefoot on the sand. She catches up to the women and helps pull along a stubborn goat behind the troops.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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