The Making of 'Mary Poppins
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“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”.
The Devil's Mistress (2016)
Lida Baarova was a Czech-born actress whose talents propelled her to the forefront of 1930’s German cinema. Hollywood took notice and offered her a contract which she declined, for she was in love with two married men. The first was Gustav Frohlich, her handsome frequent co-star. The other was a short, limping Nazi by the name of Joseph Goebbels.
“I have loved a criminal” an aged Baarova dramatically announces, “but that is not a crime.” Whilst being interviewed in Salzburg in the year 2000, Baarova recalls her time before the outbreak of WWII. There is an ambiguous quality to these later scenes, enhanced by Zdenka Procházková’s sly performance, which is sadly lacking in the flashback scenes that make up the bulk of the film. We know, for instance, that Baarova’s mother is living out her dreams through her daughter because we are explicitly told so.
It is a frustrating lack of understatement that permeates the entire film. A handsome production of an intriguing story is repeatedly thwarted by dialogue and a musical score that has all the subtlety of one of Goebbel’s propaganda films. Indicative of this is when the actress and the Nazi consummate their love. As Baarova wraps her legs around Goebbels’ antiquated leg brace shielding his deformed foot (cloven hoof?) she stares into the fireplace to see their images burning in hell.
Which shouldn't be surprising, given every other character in the film tells Baarova she is playing with fire.
as Lída Baarová
as Gustav Fröhlich
as Zorka Janů
as Ljuba Hermannová
Though Gustav Fröhlich was married when he began his relationship with Baarova, the marriage had been dissolved because his wife was Jewish. The film states that she was still married at the time of the break-up with Baarova.
Baarova did not accept the BMW from Goebbels, and continued to drive her Praga-baby.
Discredited historian and author David Irving interviewed Lida Baarova for his book 'Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich' and concluded that the actress and the Nazi did not sleep together during their two-year affair. Baarova’s biographer, Stanislav Motl, also believes the relationship was platonic.
Apart from some behind-the-scenes manoeuvring during the filming of Die Fledermaus and The Gambler, the only scene recreations are very brief snippets of Baarova’s German film debut, Barcarole.