The Docks of New York (1928), directed by Joseph von Sternberg

Criterion Collection film starring George Bancroft, Betty Compson

A “pre-code” silent of sorts. Betty Compson plays a drowning hooker rescued by George Bancroft’s hard-living sailor. Marriage, murder and alcohol follow. But the plot is of no importance. This is a Von Sternberg masterpiece. Who else but Marlene’s mentor could make the seedy docks of New York seem almost romantic in a silent film.

This film was made prior to Dietrich’s scandalous¬†collaborations with the director beginning with Morocco in 1930. But the rich sensuality is all there. Von Sternberg’s mastery of lighting and scene is already apparent, despite only starting directing two years earlier.