18 April 2011

Marlene Dietrich's FBI File

Take a gander at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) file on Marlene Dietrich here.* You've heard and read it all before from many other sources, but this is over 150 pages of declassified information. I'd venture to guess J. Edgar Hoover went into a tizzy after he couldn't squeeze himself into Dietrich's Blonde Venus hot pants and concocted this cockamamie X-27 drama. Actually, it seems that most of WWII-era investigation stems from anonymous letters from xenophobic Americans. Other inquiries address Dietrich as a victim of extortion attempts.

*Note: If the link doesn't take you directly to the page, it should at least show you some Dietrich-related page links. Click on one of those, preferably the one with the file icon. The webmaster should consider using underscores in URLs!

In summary:
  • During 1942, the FBI investigated whether Dietrich was a spy because of her relationship with Jean Gabin, a French actor associated with Vichy France. In fact, these records indicate that Dietrich was on the FBI censorship watch-list for some time, despite her pro-American involvement in Midwestern war bond tours.
  • The report confirms that Dietrich expressed interest in assassinating Hitler.
  • Dietrich claimed that Hitler made French diplomats watch 4-hour marathons of her films in silence.
  • The report verges on TMZ-quality investigation with details of Dietrich's lesbian affairs, naming Kay Francis as a lover. Sources also chronicle Dietrich's heterosexual romances with Josef von Sternberg and Erich Maria Remarque and corroborate biographical accounts that Dietrich considered divorcing Rudolf Sieber to marry Gabin. Oh, and Ginger Rogers almost stole Gabin from Dietrich. Even more! The report details Dietrich's affair with John Wayne, who left his agent for hers.
  • Jews in Hollywood allegedly blacklisted Dietrich for one-and-a-half years because of rumors that she was a Nazi sympathizer (N.B. I'm guessing this was the period between Angel and Destry Rides Again?).
  • 1904 is recorded as Dietrich's birth year.
  • One informant called Dietrich "bitchy," "too stupid to be a spy," and "effeminately cruel."
  • Lots of residential addresses. As a denizen of San Fernando Valley, it never ceases to shock me that Von Sternberg lived at 10000 Tampa Avenue--just north of today's Northridge Fashion Center! Dietrich's most notable homes were and still are associated with silent film actresses, such as Marion Davies' Santa Monica beach house and Colleen Moore's Bel Air mansion.
  • Dietrich considered calling FDR because Rudi's citizenship petition was delayed.
  • A source said that Dietrich was "jealous" when Maria Riva went into acting.
  • Dietrich admitted to investigators that she had a sister in 1944 when someone claiming to be Dietrich's cousin wrote letters to her--allegedly from a camp..
  • Reports indicate that Dietrich was cooperative with the FBI over the years.
  • An informant claimed that Dietrich and Remarque toasted the German bombing of England in 1942.
  • Special agent E.E. Conroy wrote a letter to Hoover in January 1945 to report rumors of Dietrich's capture by German troops in France.
  • Someone from Vancouver, Canada sent Dietrich extortion letters in 1948, demanding $100,000 from her.
  • Finally, the documents relay newspaper reports that claim Dietrich was victim to kidnapping threats in 1935.

1 comment:

  1. I skimmed through these pages and learned that MD DID have an affair with John Wayne prior to Oct 1941, when the Morrison Agency sued Wayne for breach of contract. Morrison had Wayne and MD under surveillance and Wayne was seen leaving her Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow several times at 5 or 6 in the morning. That's convincing evidence. And disappointing, for I liked the idea that Wayne was the one man in a thousand who resisted the siren. How long did their affair last? 6 months, as stated by an informant. But since Jean Gabin arrived in Hollywood soon after the Nazi invasion of France in May 1940, I assume MD's affair with Gabin put an end to her affair with Wayne. Because Riva had her parent’s diaries, letters etal, her book is the best source of reliable info, but for whatever reason, MD lied to her (and failed to make diary entries?) and Wayne supported MD's lie years later in a dinner date with Riva.

    Another informant, commenting on Rudi's quiet conduct while living in a hotel apartment in NYC with Tami in the early 40s, had a scathing opinion of Rudi - he was a "weak and timid man" a "leech" being supported by his wife. Reluctantly, I felt a bit of sympathy for Rudi who was a war refugee, had a $100/week job with Universal Studio's NY office only because MD demanded it in her studio contract, had no friends or social life and, the informant said, spoke very little English (Really?). It's clear that Tami's timid tyrant was NOT a survivor and over-achiever like his wife.
    By: Judy from Colorado