'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

10 March 2011

The Divine Marlene Dietrich.

1901  -  1992 
The woman knew how to smoke a cigarette.
Unfortunately I was never able to see Dietrich on stage. The day of my first trip to Europe in 1975  I  found out too late that she was about to appear in Australia. I was devastated, but on arriving in Paris I purchased a newspaper and discovered that she had suffered a fall during rehearsals and broken a leg so I guess I was sorry for her, but also selfishly relieved that I would have missed her anyway. Perhaps not a good emotion but true. Infortunately she never performed again.
Dietrich had more glamour than any person alive and she also astounded people by her sensuality and wearing men's clothing.
It was not until I had seen the 27 of her films that I have managed to find, that I realised that the stills were never posed publicity shots, but images lifted directly from the movies. She managed to move gracefully into the most exotic and erotic poses and make it look natural (for her anyway)

Dietrich and the War
Marlene Dietrich spent a considerable time from 1943 visiting and entertaining the troops close to the front line and the liberated peoples of North Africa, Europe and even Iceland. She worked for the war effort and the troops sang her songs. Dietrich  marched at the Liberation of Paris ceremony and she was decorated with the Legion d’Honneur and many awards from other countries throughout the world. One of my favourite stories is from the thirties, when Hitler had sent a personal ambassador to London to beg for her return to Germany as head of the German film industry, He promised an unlimited supply of money and a re-entry into Berlin that would rival Cleopatra’s entry into Rome; She showed him the door. Still remembering the war she put emotion into songs like 'Where Have all The Flowers gone' seen on this site.

The first great film "The Blue Angel'
At least the only one that almost everyone now remembers. Ignoring the 17 silent films she made before moving to Hollywood, sound, international fame and legendary status. It was based on the book ‘Professor Unrath’ by Heinrich Mann, elder brother of Thomas Mann.

The last great film 'Just a Gigolo'
As someone said - an old woman of 77 walked unnoticed into the studio in Paris, disappeared into a room, applied her own make-up and two hours later Marlene Dietrich walked out. The film made in 1978 by David Hemmings (himself a star of iconic cinema and boy soprano for Benjaim Britten) starred David Bowie as the said gigolo. Although they appeared in scenes together she was filmed in Paris and he in Berlin 

On my last and most significant tour of the capitals of European civilisation back in 1993 I made a pilgrimage to the grave of Marlene Dietrich in Berlin. Ben and I made our way to the small cemetery and stood a little lost I guess, because a man standing a few rows away looked at us and simply called out 'She's over there.". Buried there by her daughter, although she vowed that she would never return to the place of her birth. This act was perhaps the most sobering experience I have undergone in all my travels throughout the world. The marker of such a legendary woman was small, simple and said much. I have never felt such a closeness to a person dead, even though she was not known to me personally. The impact was unlike that of standing at the grave of Elizabeth 1st, the Popes or anyone, including my family. I have stood beside the tombs of many a great or powerful person, but the closeness of the remains of someone so proud, so beautiful, so arrogant, reduced to a simple plot of earth beneath my feet, became suddenly personal and humbling. Can we learn from the dead and the past? Is what we see too subjective? Do we interpret, misrepresent, and create a world that defines and then excuses ourselves? Is there a voice from beyond the grave, from the depths of time that speaks to all of us through our combined experiences? Does each generation add to the collective experience of mankind, so that history is within us, by nature?
When they discovered Dietrich had run out of money in her old age but wanted to continue living in France, the city government of Paris passed a special law: “Marlene Dietrich is not allowed to pay any rent in the City of Paris.” The city covered her rent quietly.
The following books are from my collection of Marlene Dietrich Memorabilia.
Dietrich - The Story of a Star by Leslie Frewin 1967
The Films of Marlene Dietrich by Homer Dickens 1968
Four Fabulous Faces - by Larry Carr 1970
Marlene - The life of Marlene Dietrich by Charles Higham 1977
Sublime Marlene - by Thierry de Navacelle 1982
Marlene Dietrich - My Life.  Her autobiography 1989
Marlene Dietrich - by her daughter Maria Riva 1992

I have three CD’s, twelve movies, three documentaries and one concert on DVD.
‘If she had nothing more than her voice, she could break your heart.’  Ernest Hemingway.

The  Dietrich Movies

Der Kleine Napoleon
1923 -
Dietrich had twelfth billing as a maid in her first film.
Tragodie der Liebe
1923 -
Her favourite early role and first role with Emil Jannings.
Der Mensch am Wege
1923 -
Dietrich first appears as a peasant girl.
Der Sprung ins Leben
1924 -
A tragedy with Dietrich playing a small role of a girl in love.
Die Freudlose Gasse
1926 -
Starred Garbo in her establishing role. Marlene unbilled.
Manon Lescaut
1926 -
She is raised to second most important female role.
Eine Du Barry von Heute 

1928 -
Directed by Alexander Korda. Released in the USA. Dietrich billed as Marlaine.
Madame Wunscht Keine Kinder
1927 -

Another Korda film. Dietrich plays an extra USA release

Kopf Hoch,Charly!
1926 -
Her first film for the Richter-Film Company
Der Juxbaron
1927 -
She plays farce for Willi Wolff
Sein Grosster Bluff
1927 -
Dietrich dresses up.
Cafe Electric

1927 –

Filmed in Vienna. Dietrich was appearing in stage production of Broadway. Much use of the famous legs.
Prinzessin Olala
1929 -
UK release Glamour is creeping in.
Ich Kusse Ihre Hand,Madame
1929 -
Dietrich stars Fred Zimmerman - assistant photographer.
DieFrau,Nach der Man Sich Sehnt   
1929 -
Her first femme fatale role. The first time Dietrich gets shot on screen.

Das Schiff der Verlorenen Menschen
1929 -
Dietrich appears in male clothes.
Gefahren der Brautzeit
1929 -
This film has five different titles.
Der Blaue Engel

1930 -

Von Sternberg directs, Dietrich sings, Far from a book by Heinrich Mann (Thomas’s brother).Filmed simultaneously in English and German.

1930 -

With Gary Cooper. Dietrich in Tails, then in stilettos- cocktail frock as she tracks across the desert. Kisses a woman.
1931 -
Dietrich gets tough
Shanghau Express
1932 -
The best of the von Sternberg films
Blonde Venus
1932 -
Dietrich in ape suit and diamonds as well as white tails.
Song of Songs
1933 -
First American film not directed by von Sternberg
The Scarlet Empress 

1934 -
As Catherine she rides into the palace on Horseback- all in matching white. Horse included.
The Devil is a woman
1935 -
Censored and not released until the late sixties
1936 -
With Gary Cooper again
I Loved a Soldier
1936 -
with Charles Boyer
The Garden of Allah
1936 -
Early and stunning Technicolor with Charles Boyer again.
Knight Without Armour 

1937 –

Alexander Korda. Dietrich becomes the most highly paid working woman in the world
1937 -
Her worst picture of the thirties.
Destry Rides Again
1939 -
James Stewart Rowdy Western, great songs and real fights.
Seven Sinners
1940 -
John Wayne. Continuing the action packed Dietrich image.
The Flame of New Orleans
1941 -
Much lost by the censors.
1941 -
Edward G Robinson. She is the sexy babe.
The Lady is Willing
1942 -
Fred Mc Murray. She plays a musical comedy star.
The Spoilers
1942 -
Randolph Scott and John Wayne but she got top billing.
1942 -
Same cast in War Effort film.
Follow the Boys
1944 - 
Many guest in this servicemen entertainment film.
1944 -
Dietrich dances in gold paint
Martin Roumagnac  
1946 -
Filmed in France where she had been entertaining the troops.
Golden Earrings
1947 -
The gypsy with lots of dark make-up
A Foreign Affair
1948 -
Dr. by Billie Wilder. She returns to glamour.
1949 -
A Hitchcock film, dressed by Dior, Cole Porter wrote some music
No Highway
1951 -
A subordinate role but you wouldn’t know it.
Rancho Notorious
1952 -
A poor mans Destry.
Around the World in 80 Days
1956 -
Cameo role.
The Monte Carlo Story
1957 -
Italian film with Vittorio De Sica
Witness for the Prosecution
1958 -
Tyrone power and Charles Laughton, Dr. by Billie Wilder.
Touch of Evil
1958 -
Directed by and starred Orson Welles.
Judgement at Nuremberg 

1961 -
Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster. Powerful and stylish film.
Black Fox
1962 -
Documentary of Hitler narrated by Dietrich
Paris when it Sizzles
1964 -
Audry Hepburn film. Brief but beautiful appearance.
Just a Gigolo             
Small role but a legendary last film appearance. With David Bowie.

1982 -

The documentary narrated irritably by herself with the very patient Maximilian Schell. She would not and could not appear on camera.
Way way back in the early 70's some friends and I held a Marlene Dietrich birthday party between Christmas and New Year (27th Dec). We contemplated asking her to come, but never quite got around to that. We did order a 4 foot square cake to be made and decorated at a bakery and then didn't pick it up. It didn't seem as irresponsible at that age. With all those failures we did have a great time and had around 400 guests turn up. I had overly large parties for 2-3 decades before I became less gregarious.
Finally is a poster that  I had framed and hung in pride of place on my walls wherever I lived for over three decades until it dried out and disintegrated.
Check out the Official site of the Dietrich collection from the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. http://www.marlene.com/
Dietrich and Edith Piaf were close.
The Funeral
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