American chemist Ned Faraday marries a German entertainer and starts a family. However, he becomes poisoned with Radium and needs an expensive treatment in Germany to have any chance at being cured. Wife Helen returns to night club work to attempt to raise the money and becomes popular as the Blonde Venus. In an effort to get enough money sooner, she prostitutes herself to millionaire Nick Townsend.
It's mesmerizing to watch von Sternberg and Dietrich at work in this melodrama, and fun to watch both her and Cary Grant in early roles before they became household names and cinematic legends. One can't help but sense the parallel between this story (Helen giving up her family to be a star) and her real life, as von Sternberg told her to give up her family and life in Germany as he would take her to America and make her a star.
Definitely one of Marlene Dietrich's more sensitive and powerful - though not sentimental - performances as a wife and mother whose husband (Herbert Marshall) becomes ill with Radium poisoning. Faced with mounting bills for his expensive treatment in Germany, she returns to her previous work as a cabaret singer and is soon involved with millionaire "Nick Townsend" (Cary Grant). Marshall is heartbroken to discover her infidelity and there ensues a sort of cat-and-mouse game as she and her son flee and try to stay one step ahead of her chasing husband and authorities. The three principals deliver strong performances and who will ever forget "Hot Voodoo" performed in the gorilla costume? The son (Dickie Moore) is quite cute and albeit briefly, contributes to the tensions later in the film quite convincingly. Allegedly, the censors had a field day with this but what is left still flows well under Von Sternberg's able, if not exactly flamboyant, direction.