10 June 2011

On Dietrich's Generosity

In a 1987 interview with Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show, Bette Davis praised Marlene Dietrich's generosity, recalling that Dietrich came from the set of The Garden of Allah to the Hollywood Canteen, "covered in gold paint" and making the men go mad. In fact, Davis was referring to Kismet, but set aside that inaccuracy to hear one legend praise another:

As for Joan Rivers, I Googled her and Dietrich's names together on a whim and found an amusing anecdote by a Preston Neal Jones (the same Preston Neal Jones who wrote a book on The Night of the Hunter?) about Dietrich ignoring Joan on an airplane.


  1. I love that one of my very favorite screen legends ("there's Bette Davis and there's everyone else" - James Woods in a TCM tribute to BD) and perhaps the greatest screen actress ever respected another of my favorites - the ultimate screen goddess, Marlene Dietrich. Many have commented on Dietrich's generosity - and I've blogged about it at length. There are some who would paint MD as not very much more than a beautiful but utterly self-centered and 'romantically' degenerate celebrity. Not true. Gorgeous, talented, lusty, generous. Who could ask for anything more?

  2. Although I don't trust bette davis' opinions on other stars that often (nothing against her, but its always had to praise someone who you battled at the box office for years with, me thinks joan crawford) but her and so many other stars opinions of dietrich were all wonderful. She even got the thumbs up from the wonderful tallulah bankhead! And thats had to do, ask bette. I love them all, but agree that deitrich is forever a goddess.

  3. The generosity of Marlene was great. This facet of the actress is not known or it has not been valued enough: from her total surrender in the war alongside soldiers to the generosity with friends and exiles from Germany. Marlene was always more...

  4. First, I should credit Bette Davis for citing the correct film in her book, This 'N' That.

    Second, you all have made points that even I fail to realize or duly acknowledge regarding Dietrich. Not too long ago, missladiva posted about Dietrich's little-known efforts to fund a housing project in Berlin (here). Of course, Lady Eve wrote on her blog about Dietrich's underrated maternal outreach to John Gilbert's daughter, Leatrice (here). I welcome readers to scrutinize any celebrity's philanthropic/charitable/generous work with a skeptical eye, reminding us that these actions can improve the celeb's image, earn them tax deductions, etc. On the other hand, stories of Dietrich's generosity suggest that her benevolence exceeded expectations of her beneficiaries. Dietrich could have done just enough to satisfy people, but her giving impressed her recipients.

  5. I vaguely remember reading about that plane trip,and i am sure Joan said Marlene ate all the food she could lay her hands on.No wonder she slept,what with those airline miniatures as well.Paul

  6. Preston Neal Jones18 March, 2016 14:56

    Yep, I'm the same Preston Neal Jones who met Joan Rivers on the location shoot of THE SWIMMER, wrote a book about THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, and more recently another book, "RETURN TO TOMORROW - The Filming of STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE."