Part espionage thriller, part romance, and still Golden Earrings is a dull entry in Marlene Dietrich’s career. The dust had barely settled from WWII when this was unleashed, and this had somehow managed to turn the Nazis into a vague non-threat. It’s also grossly ahistorical in its presentation of the Romani people given that hordes of them were slaughtered during the Holocaust. But hey, Golden Earrings is all about being upbeat, patriotic and patting yourself on the back for being inclusive unlike those damn Nazis.
Somehow shoving a glamorous star personality into brownface and a black wig doesn’t a compelling enough reason for a film make. Dietrich gives the role her all, but everything seems beneath her magnetic spell. Without a strong director, not just Josef von Sternberg but the likes of Billy Wilder or Orson Welles, Dietrich seems like a vessel with nothing to fill her and no one to nurture her post-modern acting style. She looks ridiculous under all that bronzer and those false eyelashes, and she doesn’t generate much heat with Ray Milland as her British spy who meets her, disguises himself as her dead husband, and learns an important lesson about tolerance while slowly falling in love along the way. If Golden Earrings isn’t the nadir of both of their careers, then I shudder to think of what could possibly be worse.