Desire (1936): Frank Borzage’s Romantic Adventure, Starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper, in their Second Teaming

Frank Borzage directed the romantic dramedy Desire, a remake of the 1933 German film Happy Days in Aranjuez, starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper, in their second teaming; the first was in the 1930 Morocco.

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Theatrical French Poster

Written by Samuel Hoffenstein, Edwin Justus Mayer and Waldemar Young, the script is based on the play Die Schönen Tage von Aranjuez by Hans Székely and Robert A. Stemmle.

The music score was composed by Frederick Hollander and the cinematography was shot by Charles Lang and Victor Milner. Marlene Dietrich’s wardrobe was designed by Travis Banton.

The supporting cast features John Halliday, William Frawley, Akim Tamiroff, and Alan Mowbray.

In Paris, Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) cons jeweler Aristide Duvalle (Ernest Cossart) and psychiatrist Maurice Pauquet (Alan Mowbray) by telling each man that she is married to the other.

Duvalle delivers a string of pearls worth millions of francs to Pauquet’s office, expecting to be paid, but Pauquet thinks he is  new patient with delusions of needing to collect debts. Then Madeleine departs with the pearls before they figure out what she has done.

While driving to the Spanish border, Madeleine splashes mud onto Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper), an American automotive engineer vacationing in Europe, and a series of adventures and misadventures follow.

In the final scene, Tom and Madeleine get married; her parole document is accidentally shown, proving that she has done so. Pauquet and Duvalle, who now is his patient, attend the wedding as witnesses.

John Gilbert was initially cast as Carlos Margoli as his comeback role. When he had heart attack in his dressing, he was replaced by John Halliday. A few days later, Gilbert died of alcohol-induced heart failure.

Some of the scenes were directed by Ernst Lubitsch whilst Frank Borzage was fulfilling a prior commitment at Warner Bros.

The film was shot at Paramount Studios and at the Iverson Movie Ranch, Chatsworth, California and, unusual for its time, on location in France and Spain.

Dietrich later said: “The only film I need not be ashamed of is Desire, directed by Frank Borzage and based on a script by Ernst Lubitsch. I found Gary Cooper a little less monosyllabic than before. He was finally rid of Lupe Vélez, who had been at his heels constantly throughout the shooting of Morocco.”

Marlene Dietrich as Madeleine de Beaupre
Gary Cooper as Tom Bradley
John Halliday as Carlos Margoli
William Frawley as Mr. Gibson
Ernest Cossart as Aristide Duvalle
Akim Tamiroff as Avilia, Police Official
Alan Mowbray as Dr. Maurice Pauquet
Zeffie Tilbury as Aunt Olga


Directed by Frank Borzage
Screenplay: Edwin Justus Mayer, Waldemar Young Samuel Hoffenstein, story by Hans Székely, Robert A. Stemmle
Produced by Borzage, Ernst Lubitsch
Cinematography Charles Lang
Victor Milner
Edited by William Shea
Music by Frederick Hollander
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Release date: April 11, 1936 (U.S.)

Running time: 95 minutes