Lída Baarová (1914-2000) is a well-known Czech actress who starred in many German movies during the 1930’s and 40’s. She was the mistress of Joseph Gobles’s - the minister of Nazi propaganda at the time - which meant that a promising career and a life-time chance of becoming a Hollywood legend like Marlene Dietrich had to be ditched.
Her tragic biography is portrayed in the movie: The Devil’s Mistress (2016) by Czech director Filip Renć. The movie focuses on her rise to stardom that was followed by a hard fall which affected both her and her family between the end of the Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia and the start of Communism in 1946.
The movie starts in 1935 with the young Lída Baarová (played by Czech actress Tatiana Pauhofová) wining her first role in a German movie called Baracarole in front of Gustav Fröhlich (depicted by his compatriot Gedeon Burkhard).
But it wasn’t easy for the Slavonic brunet as according to the director her German was flawed and had to be improved through accent coaching - even though she was playing the role of an Italian in the movie.
Later, She and Fröhlich became the golden couple and starred together in other movies. Around that time, she met Joseph Gobbles (played by Austrian actor Karl Markovics) and had a two years affair that doomed her career forever as Hitler had to intervene to end the affair after Gobble’s wife Magda sought his help.
To German media, Gobles, his wife and three children were the model Arian family and the presence of Baarová threatened that perfect image, being a mistress from an inferior race whose country would be invaded by Germany.
The scene where Hitler asks Gobles to leave Baarová is emotionally intense, you can’t help but feel sorry for love-struck Gobles who almost begs and suggest different ways out that are all rejected by the Führer.
The Führer even takes a step further by banning Baarová’s recent movie A Prussian Love Story from all theatres and prohibiting her from performing in German movies. Against her better judgement, she manages to escape the Gestapo’s watch and flees to Prague, where things get too complicated due to her former link with the Nazis. The director uses flashback technique to move between the older Baarová - stuck in her estate in Salzburg and being interviewed by a young reporter - and the younger one being pushed by her ambitious mother to become a superstar.
Her close relationship with her family and later with Fröhlich and Gobles is well presented in the movie besides her encounter with Hitler and Magda - Gobles’ wife - which sees the start of her fall from stardom.
The movie is a war-time piece that’s very well paced and executed, yet the older Baarová scenes were at times a bit overdramatic. All in all, Tatiana Pauhofová does a good job impersonating Lída Baarová and is only surpassed by Karl Markovics’s performance as Gobles. The costume and set designs are remarkable and create the right historical atmosphere for the movie.
The struggle that Baarová goes through from the time of her ban in Germany to her return to the Communist Prague is tragic, although not fully depicted in the movie. Interestingly, the real Baarová made a comeback in the 90’s by publishing her autobiography and later starring in a short Czech movie called: Lida Baarová’s Bittersweet Memories (1996) that won an award in Slovakia’s Film Festival. She suffered from Parkinson disease and died alone in 2000. The Devil’s Mistress is the first Czech movie streaming on Netflix and is worth watching. Recommended for European Cinema fans.
(The writer is a certified skills trainer and an author)