Marlene Dietrich (1901 - 1992)
Marlene Dietrich was one of the legendary actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age and the first German movie actress to become a major Hollywood star. She changed career direction several times, starting as a cabaret artist and chorus girl, then film actress in Berlin of the 1920's.
She made the transition to Holywood to become an international movie star for two decades, interrupted by the Second World War during which she became a forces entertainer on the frontline. Her final self-invention was as an top line international stage performer from the 1950's to her retirement in the 1970's.
Her fame grew steadily and remorselessly and she became one of the greatest entertainment icons of the century. She is ranked at number 9 in the AFI's list of All Time Greatest Female Stars.Search Amazon for Marlene Dietrich
She was born on December 1927, 1901 in Berlin-Schoneberg. Her birth name was Marie Magdalene Dietrich and in her teens she used the contracted form of her first two names to form the then uncommon name 'Marlene'. She was a talented musician but became attracted to the stage after a hand injury precluded any chance of a concert violinist's career. In 1921 she began working in theaters as a chorus girl and with walk on acting parts. She appeared in films for the first time in 1922 and in her second film, 'Tragödie der Liebe' in 1923, she met her future husband, Rudolf Sieber. They married in May, 1924 and their only child, Maria, was born 7 months later. The marriage lasted only 5 years but the couple never felt the need to divorce and remained on friendly terms until Rudolph's death in 1976.
She continued both movie and stage acting in roles of varying degrees of importance until 1929 when she was cast by Hollywood film director, Josef von Sternberg in the role of sleazy cabaret singer Lola-Lola in 'The Blue Angel'. She sang "Falling in Love Again" which was to become her signature song and she was a sensation.
She followed von Sternberg to Hollywood and, on the strength of the international success of 'The Blue Angel' she was offered a movie with Paramount Pictures who saw her as their European answer to the successful emergence of MGM's Greta Garbo. Her first Hollywood movie was 'Morocco' which earned her her only Academy Award nomination. The movie also starred Gary Cooper and it made her a top Hollywood star. She signed a long term contract with Paramount and the studio began an unprecedentedly large five milliion dollar marketing campaign.
A period of great success followed with five more superbly crafted films directed by von Sternberg including 'Shanghai Express' in 1932, 'The Scarlet Empress' in 1934 and 'The Devil is a Woman' in 1935. After this last, Dietrich and Paramount broke with von Sternberg and many critics feel she never reached such artistic heights again. In 1937 her film, 'Knight Without Armour' was a box-office and critical failure. Nevertheless she became one of the top Hollywood stars of the 1930's and had a spectacular hit playing the saloon girl Frenchie in 'Destry Rides Again' in 1939, a Western satire co-starring James Stewart.
Through the years of World War II Dietrich, who was a confirmed anti-Nazi, was conspicuous in her support for the Allied war effort, appearing at concerts for the troops on the front line and helping to raise war bonds. After the war she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the US government for her war work. She was also made a Chevalier (later commandeur) of the Légion d'honneur by the French government.
All through the 1940s, she continued to appeared in movies which, although well-produced and well-directed, seemed to lack the sparkle necesssary to make them major hits such as 'Manpower', 'The Lady Is Willing' and 'Pittsburgh', all in 1942 and 'Follow the Boys' in 1944, 'Kismet' in 1944 and 'A Foreigh Affair' in 1948 . She made fewer and fewer movies in the 1950's, with 'Stage Fright', in 1950, 'Witness for the Prosecution, in 1957 and Orson Welles's 'Touch of Evil' in 1958, and her last film of any real note was 'Judgment at Nuremberg' in 1961.
Whilst her movie career was slowing down Marlene was able to re-invent herself as a new career beckoned as a singer and entertainer. She began after the war, appearing in clubs in Las Vegas in a brief show featuring her famous songs. She was a marked success and her daring, body-hugging costumes attracted as much attention as her performance. When she extended her repertoire to a full, one woman show in the mid fifties, and engaged Burt Baccarach as her arranger, she became as famous as an international onstage performer as she had been as a movie actress. She twice had successful shows on Broadway and for two decades sang to full houses in cities internationally.
Her entertainment career ended in 1975 after she broke her leg in a fall during a stage show in Australia apparently after over indulging in alcohol. She made a brief appearance in the film 'Just a Gigolo' with David Bowie in 1979 and thereafter secluded herself in her Paris apartment. She finished her memoirs during this time. They are in in 3 volumes entitled: "Marlene Dietrich's ABC" in 1961, "My Life Story" in 1979 and "Marlene" in 1987.
For the last 12 years of her life she was bed-ridden and she avoided being seen in public. She kept in personal contact only with family and employees although she constantly wrote to friends and spoke with them on the telephone.
Marlene Dietrich died in Paris on May 6, 1992, of kidney failure. She was 90. After a service at La Madeleine in Paris before thousands of mourners, her body was flown to Berlin where she was buried in Friedenau Cemetery, close to the house where she was born.
Marlene Dietrich Academy AwardsNo Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Actress ... Morocco (1930)
Marlene Dietrich Filmography
Im Schatten des Glücks (unconfirmed)
The Little Napoleon
Man by the Wayside
The Monk from Santarem
Leap Into Life
Madame Doesn't Want Children
A Modern Dubarry
The Imaginary Baron
Heads Up, Charley
His Biggest Bluff
Art of Love
Dangers of the Engagement Period
I Kiss Your Hand Madame
The Woman One Longs for
Grischa the Cook
The Blue Angel
The Song of Songs
The Scarlet Empress
The Devil Is a Woman
I Loved a Soldier
The Garden of Allah
Knight Without Armour
The Flame of New Orleans
The Lady Is Willing
The Room Upstairs
A Foreign Affair
Around the World in Eighty Days
Witness for the Prosecution
Touch of Evil
Judgment at Nuremberg
Just a Gigolo