Professor Unrat; The Blue Angel

Professor Unrat; Small Town Tyrant; The Blue Angel (1905)

The film version, Der Blaue Engel; The Blue Angel (1930) was directed by Josef von Sternberg, and stars Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings. The script was by Carl Zuckmayer.

Professor Raat is an authoritarian college teacher, nicknamed ‘Unrat’ (filth, muck, garbage) by his students. He follows three of the students to a cabaret bar called ‘Der blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel), where he falls in love with a cabaret artiste. She is called Rosa Fröhlich in the novel; later renamed Lola in the film version of 1930. As a result of his affair with Rosa (/Lola), the Professor loses his social status and his job.

The film presents the Professor as a pathetic, even tragi-comic figure. In contrast, the novel emphasises the Professor’s depravity and decadence, as he turns his home into a gambling club, with Rosa as the hostess.

Further Reading

J. E. Allison, ‘An Analysis of the Nietzschean Wille zur Macht as Portrayed in Heinrich Mann’s Professor Unrat’, New German Studies 7 (1979), 189-204

Elisabeth Bronfen, ‘Seductive Departures of Marlene Dietrich: Exile and Stardom in The Blue Angel’, New German Critique 89 (2003), 9-31

Gilbert Carr, ‘“Mit einem kleinen Ruck, wie beim Kinematographen”: From the Unmaking of Professor Unrat to an Unmade Der blaue Engel’, in Processes of Transposition: German Literature and Film, ed. by Christiane Schönfeld and Hermann Rasche (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007), pp. 119-31

Gertrud Koch, ‘Between Two Worlds: Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930)’, trans. by Jan-Christopher Horak, in German Film and Literature: Adaptations and Transformations, ed. by Eric Rentschler (New York: Methuen, 1986), 60-72

Jennifer Williams, ‘Gazes in Conflict: Lola Lola, Spectatorship, and Cabaret in The Blue Angel’, Women in German Yearbook 26 (2010), 54-72