Von Sternberg, Joseph

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Von Sternberg, Joseph

Joseph Von Sternberg (Jo Sternberg), 1894–1969, Austrian-American film director and screenwriter. Von Sternberg, who worked in the United States from 1925, made films that were noted for their dazzling visual impact and attention to physical detail. His early works include The Salvation Hunters (1925), Underworld (1927), and Docks of New York (1928). His masterpiece was The Blue Angel (1930) with Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich, made in Germany. The film depicts, with a dreadful intimacy and a striking control of contrasting atmospheres, a stuffy professor's desire for a nightclub singer and his subsequent shattering humiliation. Von Sternberg directed Dietrich in several other films (including Morocco, 1930; Shanghai Express, 1932; and The Devil Is a Woman, 1935) and thereby fashioned her enduring screen image. Von Sternberg wrote most of his films' screenplays, relying in later years on romantic formulas. Among his later films are Jet Pilot (1950) and Macao (1951).

See his autobiography (1965); C. Harrington, Josef Von Sternberg (1979); C. Zucker, The Idea of the Image: Josef Von Sternberg's Dietrich Films (1988).

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