06 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich: A Brief Note on Scripted Deaths

Marlene Dietrich's grave (taken by Axel Mauruszat)
Death has been a prevalent topic in Marlene Dietrich's films. Feel free to discuss what you wish or correct my inaccuracies.

I will merely state the following about the talkies in which Marlene Dietrich starred:

Marlene Dietrich's character dies at the hands of another in THREE of those films (Dishonored, Destry Rides Again, Rancho Notorious).

Determining how many characters die at the hands of Dietrich's character, however, may be less easy to determine. I count ONE, Witness for the Prosecution, but I will honor the film narrator's request and refrain from revealing any details.

In the SEVEN additional films in which other characters die (The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, Knight Without Armour, Kismet, Stage Fright, Touch of Evil), the role of Dietrich's character sometimes remains subject to debate. In The Blue Angel, Dietrich's character Lola-Lola perhaps cuckolds her husband, Professor Rat (played by Emil Jannings), to death. In The Scarlet Empress and Stage Fright, Dietrich's characters use their feminine wiles to convince others to commit murderous acts. The most meaningful murder, however, almost takes a backseat to the relatively trivial romance between Dietrich and Clive Brook's characters in Shanghai Express--that of Warner Oland's character by Anna May Wong's character, an act of vengeance after Oland's character implicitly rapes Wong's and an act of patriotism to suppress a fomenting Chinese rebellion. Even Hui Fei (Wong's character) understates her heroism.

Finally, ONE film, Judgment at Nuremburg, stands beyond the above parameters because the Holocaust victims were by no means fictitious characters.

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