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Monday, September 21, 2015

Professor Unrat/ The Blue Ange(1905)l by Heinrich Mann

Marlene Dietrich starred in the film version of Professor Unrat, which was called The Blue Angel- the name of the cabaret in the book.

Professor Unrat/ The Blue Angel(1905)
by Heinrich Mann

  I was reading other books from 1905- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, anyone; in November of 2013.   As it turns out, in America, Professor Raat/Unrat is known as The Blue Angel, after the movie, based on the book, starring Marlene Dietrich in her first starring role.   The version I got ahold of actual had photographs and a screen play of the movie and the novel is introduced as the inspiration for the, "Joseph Sternberg film, starring Marlene Dietrich."

  The word "Unrat" translates as mud or filth, and that is the nickname given Unrat by his unruly Fifth Form students at the school where he is teaching in a smallish German town.   Professor Unrat has a fraught relationship with his students, all male, and is obsessed with catching them misbehaving, which leads him to The Blue Angel, what we would call a burlesque club, in pursuit of three particularly precocious youths who have been consorting with the dancer/singer Rose (LuLu in the movie.)

  His purported interest in the welfare of his students quickly becomes an unhealthy obsessions.  For a while, he balances his scholarly duties while falling further into dissipation.  He ends up unemployed and married to Rosa, serving as her husband and a pimp of a sort, beholden to her ability to extort gifts from her many admirers and her career as a performer.  You get the sense that she is also a prostitute, but I guess that would have been beyond the pale for literature in early 20th century Germany.

  The atmosphere anticipates the decadence of the Weimar period, though set (presumably at the turn of the century) 20-30 years before that period.  Based on the photographs of the movie, it seems like there Unrat is further degraded by being forced to himself perform at the night club.

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