MoroccoPosterMorocco.  Released 1930.  English.   91 minutes.  Directed by Josef von Sternberg; Cast: Gary Cooper (Légionnaire Tom Brown), Marlene Dietrich (Amy Jolly), Adolphe Menjou (Kennington La Bessière), Ullrich Haupt (Adjudant Caesar), Francis McDonald as Caporal Tatoche, Eve Southern as Madame Caesar, Paul Porcasi as Lo Tinto. nightclub owner.

Morocco is one of the all time classic Marlene Dietrich movies, her Hollywood debut in fact, that also starred a young Gary Cooper (nine years before his staring role in the 1939 Beau Geste).  The plot is an early boiler plate Foreign Legion romance.  Think of the story as two intersected romantic triangles and you will get the picture–there is Tom, Ceasar, and Madame Caesar and then there is Tom, Amy and Kennington La Bessière.  Perhaps not a great movie for Foreign Legion battle scenes though there is an odd ambush on a Legion column towards the latter part of the movie, it is great

Morocco originates from a 1927 novel that was written by French-German author Benno Vigny (28 October 1889 – 31 October 1965) entitled “Amy Jolly, the Woman from Marrakesh”.  In this novel, Dietrich’s character, Amy Jolly (pretty friend) was not only a cabaret singer but also a part time prostitute, cocaine and ether addict.  She fails at love in Morocco and travels to her demise in Buenos Aires.

There are several interesting side-bars about Dietrich’s connection to Vigny, his novel and this movie.  She had met Vigny during a vacation in Berlin and read his book when it was released.  She likely passed the book on to the director Sternberg.  The movie rights to the book were sold by Vigny to a German company but later resold to Paramount in order for them to make Morocco.  It is believed that Vigny wrote about a love affair he had had with the real life Amy Jolly in Morocco during his service there in the Foreign Legion.  After Morocco became a big hit Madame Jolly, of Agadir, Morocco, wrote letters to Marlene Dietrich asking for money that was promised to her by Vigny.  There was some further correspondence with Jolly thanking Dietrich for an anonymous donation and a request from her for an autographed photograph.

Marlene sent a friend, Charles Graves, to find out more about the family owned pension at Agadir that Jolly invested her money in.  In a short note he says “At her bordelle she hires out small girls of 8 + 9 years old to soldiers of the Foreign Legion, Maroccan Tirailleurs and Spahis–which makes me feel rather sick.  But I had drinks at the café where Amie Jolie danced + gave her key to her boy friend.  It is the Grand Café de France.”

Screenshots below.


Also some ad pages from Hollywood film magazines of 1930.

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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2 Responses to Morocco

  1. Ernest Hendrickson. MD says:

    Good story of French low life’s in the legion. Dietrich shines. Cooper too. At the end I find it funny to see her toss her shoes and join as a hanger on. But such is life amongst the untermensch…


    • Jack Wagner says:

      Well, every army, since before Alexander, had it’s “camp followers”. It should be a good time for those lucky legionnaires when they reach the oasis and then before you know it they will be back in town tearing up the bars.


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