20 May 2011

Marlene, Anna May, and Leni

Many of you have seen this Alfred Eisenstaedt-attributed photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl rubbing shoulders. Life identified this iconic occasion as the January 1, 1928 Pierre Ball in Berlin (or simply as a Berlin ball). Steven Bach wrote that the photo was taken in January 1930 at the Berlin [Foreign?] Press Ball and claimed that--despite her smiles for the camera--Dietrich threatened to commit suicide after Josef von Sternberg had invited Riefenstahl. In Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories, Maria Riva eschewed details regarding date, captioning a portrait of Dietrich in the same polka dot pattern and hat (seen below) as a shot from a Berlin "pirate" costume ball. So many stories for one image! Knowing the dates of Wong's visit(s?) to Germany might help, but I don't have the Graham Hodges bio or any other sources to check. All I know is that artist Patty Chang created an installation about Wong's 1928 interview with Walter Benjamin. [JULY 19, 2012 UPDATE: I found a Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin (MDCB) newsletter that dates the photo 1930, so I'll go with them.]

Anyway, here are alternate shots of Dietrich, Wong, and Riefenstahl:

This photo's metadata is scant, but I am certain the actor above is--correct me if I'm wrong--Willi Forst.


  1. No, it's Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur, he was in "Gefahren der Brautzeit", as well as Marlene Dietrich.

    1. Thanks for the correction! Now that I've seen Cafe Elektric, I feel silly even guessing that this was Willi Forst, who certainly didn't look this old. Is this movie on DVD? Some print must exist because I remember Schell discussing it, referring to its variant title, Liebesnächte.