Film Forum's Paramount Before the Code series wraps up tonight and tomorrow, fittingly, with films starring two of the ultimate boundary-pushing icons of the era, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West.
Frank Borzage does a decent adaptation of A Farewell to Arms, but the gem of tonight's double feature is Morocco (1930), Dietrich's second collaboration with Josef Von Sternberg and her first Hollywood film. Dietrich plays Amy Jolly, a typically Dietrichian "woman with a past", hiding out in a Moroccan cabaret until the existential heat blows over. Gary Cooper is Tom Brown, a Legionaire who's sworn off emotional attachment - until his first attempt to go to bed with Amy reduces him to an awkward little boy. Amy's smitten, too, but Adolphe Menjou is giving her jewelry and offering her a respectable life. That might not even be a problem, if she and Tom could actually get it up to talk about their feelings; instead, they crash into and bounce away from a series of tragic misunderstandings, until they very literally manage to turn the question of whether or not they even like each other into a matter of life or death.