Golden Earrings (1947)

Article #1637 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-7-2005
Posting Date: 2-4-2006
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Featuring Ray Milland, Marlene Dietrich, Murvyn Vye

A British spy in Nazi Germany before the outbreak of World War II disguises himself as a gypsy in order to get hold of the formula of a poison gas. He meets and falls in love with a gypsy woman named Lydia.

Once again we find ourselves in the realms of marginalia, those movies which on the surface contain no fantastic elements, but which do yield up a little on closer inspection. The poison gas edges the movie ever so slightly into the realm of science fiction. However, of far greater value is the role that gypsy mysticism plays into the story; Lydia believes in various water spirits, and engages in palmistry. The most telling scene in this regard is the one in which the spy, after having spent some time as a gypsy, discovers that he too has picked up the ability to read a man’s fortune in his palm, and this mystic quality is what gives the movie its touches of fantasy.

At heart, though, it’s a love story / spy melodrama, and a fairly entertaining one. The spy story is actually pretty run-of-the-mill, but the middle sequence of the movie in which the spy meets the gypsy woman, disguises himself as a gypsy, and then must adjust not only to their ways but to Lydia’s earthy character is the real high point of the movie. Marlene Dietrich is simply marvelous in her characterization, and her passionate lack of reserve as played against Ray Milland’s sense of propriety provides the movie with some truly hilarious moments. One is almost disappointed when the movie is finally required to return to its spy plot during the final third of the movie.


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