JOSEF VON STERNBERG

Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969) was a director whose career stretched from the silent era well into talkies.  Though he made many memorable films, he’s primarily remembered for his collaboration with Marlene Dietrich while the actress was at the top of her game.  Among the features they made together are Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932) and The Scarlett Empress (1934).  Each displays an amazing array of B&W cinematography by such ASC legends as Lee Garmes, James Wong Howe and Bert Glennon.

            But once again, it’s interesting that it’s a director who waxes most poetic about the realm in which we work.  And von Sternberg’s words are by no means a hollow tribute.  He shot training films as a member of the Army Signal Corps during WW I and served as his own cinematographer in the final entry of his Dietrich cycle, The Devil Is a Woman (1935).  Unlike so many of the pretenders of recent times, he knew what he was talking about.

            An interesting side note: von Sternberg’s son, Nicholas, is an acclaimed cinematographer in his own right.

            “Every light has a point where it is the brightest and a point toward which it wanders to love itself completely.  The journey of rays from that central core to the outposts of blackness is the adventure of cinema and light.”

7.19.2022

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