No Angels – Mae West, Rosalind Russell and Carole Lombard
11 Feb 21–21 Feb 21
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Retrospective of the 71th Berlin International Film Festival
The Retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival 2021 will showcase the comedic oeuvre of American actresses Mae West, Rosalind Russell, and Carole Lombard. The spotlight will be on some 30 films that bear the unmistakeable signature of each of the actresses in a classic Hollywood comedy.
About the actresses
Mae West began her film career at the age of 39. Already successful in theater and variety shows, her screen debut was in Archie Mayo’s ‘Night After Night’ (USA, 1932). She shortly rose to become the best-paid actress of the 1930s. In contrast to the era’s ideal of beauty, her trademark became her stylization of her own figure. Almost all of the 12 films she made will be screened in the Retrospective, including Wesley Ruggles’ ‘I’m No Angel’ (USA, 1933) and Raoul Walsh’s ‘Klondike Annie’ (USA, 1936), in which West played her perhaps most controversial role, as the disreputable Frisco Doll, who flees to Alaska and, along the way, assumes the identity of the pious missionary Sister Annie. Mae West wrote most of the stories and scripts for her own films; her aggressive use of her sex appeal often brought her in conflict with the Hollywood censors.
Rosalind Russell’s breakthrough as a comedienne came in George Cukor’s ‘The Women’ (USA, 1939). In the long career that followed, she would play both dramatic and comedy roles. In the comedies, Russell’s characters are often successful businesswomen who must choose between love and a career. She holds her own in a male-dominated world as a quick-witted journalist (‘Four’s a Crowd’, USA, 1938, directed by Michael Curtiz) or a worldly-wise judge (‘Design for Scandal’, USA, 1941, directed by Norman Taurog). With her impeccable timing and utter command of physical comedy, Russell was a master – indeed, a mistress – of slapstick. This Retrospective will give us a chance to rediscover her thespian skills.
Carole Lombard acted in silent films before advancing – like Mae West – to become a star at Paramount Pictures in the 1930s. Before dying young in a plane accident in 1942, she acted in more than 40 films, most of them comedies. Her interpretations carried a sense of the feminine and ranged from the naïf to the elegant woman of the world. She was brilliant as the carefree rich socialite in ‘My Man Godfrey’ (USA, 1936, directed by Gregory La Cava), as a spirited actress in ‘Twentieth Century’ (USA, 1934, directed by Howard Hawks), and in ‘No Man of Her Own’ (USA, 1932, directed by Wesley Ruggles) as the small-town girl who yearns for the big, wide world and even bigger love. Her acting style was a blend of lightness, charm, and wit, which she displayed in a multitude of variations.