“Golden Earrings” (1947) is a wartime romantic film starring Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich. Milland plays a British Lt. Colonel Ralph Denistoun, who just days before the start of WWII, finds himself on a secret mission to retrieve a chemical formula from German Professor Krosigk (Reinhold Schunzel). Denistoun was captured by the Germans and is being held prisoner, but he manages to escape and make one last attempt at reaching Krosigk before the war begins and the Nazi’s take the formula from Krosigk.
While hiding in the forest, Denistoun meets a traveling gypsy he lovingly calls Lydia (Dietrich). Convinced Denistoun has been sent to be her true love, Lydia disguises Denistoun to look like a gypsy and together they make their way through the German countryside unsuspected.
What outwardly appears to be an adventure film ends up lacking thrills and excitement. Instead, “Golden Earrings” achieves a simple yet warm romantic story that somewhat surprisingly boasts an unlikely chemistry between its stars. Dietrich and Milland make a wonderfully sweet pair that shows off each actor’s individual talents. So many of Dietrich roles relied so heavily on her sexuality, but “Golden Earrings” forces Lydia to work hard in order to get the attention of Denistoun, and she pulls it off easily. It is the kind of role you don’t expect from Dietrich. Before you even see her character, you hear her humming while Milland hides in the bushes. He slowly creeps closer towards her voice and pulls away the branches to reveal Dietrich. Typically this would be the point where a director would use his reveal shot to showcase Dietrich sitting by the water with the moonlight shining down on her face, but in this film, Dietrich is shown dressed in multiple layers for warmth, huddled over a fire, almost completely hidden from onlookers. It may be one of the only times in her career that Dietrich was trying not to get everyone’s attention.
Ray Milland plays the role of Denistoun, with a comfortable combination of drama and comedy. (Something he has always done well anyway.) Although his character is constantly in danger, Milland finds a way to keep a lighthearted breeze throughout the film, and many of the comedic moments belong to him and his quick wit.
The secret to the beauty of this film lies in the simplicity with which it is made. Director Mitchell Leisen made a career out of not overdoing his films. Each movie he makes seems to go more smoothly than the last. Films like “Hands Across The Table” (1934), “Easy Living” (1937), “Midnight” (1939) and “Remember The Night” (1940) all share an easygoing quality that can be hard to achieve on a regular basis. The difference between all those films and “Golden Earrings” is that this film is not a comedy. Leisen was able to take a serious story and still keep things relaxed and calm, while focusing on the romance between his two main characters.
I was surprised by “Golden Earrings” because all of my expectations were wrong. I was expecting a second rate adventure film, but was pleasantly surprised to get a romantic drama full of wonderfully portrayed characters and a sentimentality that is hard to find.Back to Home for More Reviews