Country girl Lily Czepanek (Marlene Dietrich) moves to Berlin to live with her aunt (Allison Skipworth) after her father's death. While working in her aunt's bookstore, Lily meets sculptor Richard Waldow (Brian Aherne), who asks her to model for him. She overcomes her initial shyness about posing nude, and Richard becomes confident that this will be his best piece yet. During the course of the project, the two fall in love, but Richard breaks off the relationship after his patron, Baron von Merzbach (Lionel Atwill), convinces him to do so by confessing an interest to marry Lily. Hurt after Richard abandons her, Lily unhappily weds the Baron, but she's in for more problems after Richard returns and she discovers the truth about their bargain.
I was at first a little skeptical of Marlene playing an innocent country girl, but she pulled it off so well! She's incredibly sweet and cute even, like a vision of spring out of a fairy tale, in the early parts of the film when Lily is so childlike and modest. And then as her story takes a turn for the worse, she convincingly becomes hardened and disillusioned, culminating when she decides to destroy her own statue, symbol of her past youth and purity.
I think this is actually one of my favorite performances from Marlene, because it really shows off her range and talent. Aside from the lovely early scenes, another important one later on is when she notices Richard while in the midst of her song "Johnny;" her expression just shows so much of her inner feelings of not only surprise, but sorrow and longing for something lost as well.
Brian Aherne is probably the least memorable of the rest of the characters (Atwill is terrific as the conniving Baron, while Allison Skipworth is quite funny as Lily's aunt); he's a little wooden at times, but still looks really good with Marlene, and it certainly doesn't affect one's wanting Lily and Richard to find one another for keeps in the end.
"I sought him. But I found him not."
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥