30 January 2012

Is 2012 the Year of the Costume?

On the FIDM Museum blog, there's an announcement about the 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition, which will run from February 14 through April 28, 2012. Naturally, at least one costume worn by Dietrich will be on display. Which one(s)? I don't know. Previously, the FIDM Museum blog has featured two items worn by Dietrich, one designed by Travis Banton and the other by Irene. If I understand this interview correctly, FIDM Museum has many items worn by Dietrich (the second-largest collection, in fact, after the MDCB) on long-term loan from a bureaucratic unit called the Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, Historic Hollywood Collection. Catchy name, no? Another FIDM Museum blog describes a cream dress and cape from Desire that was on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2010. Whatever we get to see, we should be grateful. The exhibition's free!

28 January 2012

Polskie Radio Gold

Terry Sanderson pointed me to a recently-posted Polskie Radio interview that Marlene Dietrich gave during her first Warsaw concert appearance in 1964, which you can hear here. Typically, introductions and commentary are rife with well-known biographical facts, but hosts Anna Piwowarska and Peter Gentle share Poland-related Dietrichiana that make the entire program--not just the 1964 interview--worth hearing.

With anecdotes from Angelika Kuźniak's Polish-language biography on Dietrich, Marlene, the hosts blend the personal with the professional. Gentle calls Dietrich "eccentric" for bringing 35 suitcases, claiming to have thin eyelids, and cleaning her hotel bathroom with chloroform. Piwowarska speculates that Dietrich banned photography at her concert because the flash cameras would have exposed her mythical foundation. Imagine what Dietrich would do if faced with the TSA's full-body scanners!

Piwowarska and Gentle relate many more stories, but I do want to highlight a professional and Poland-related one: Czesław Niemen led Dietrich's warm-up band and performed "Czy mnie jeszcze pamiętasz?"--a song that Dietrich later recorded with self-penned German lyrics as "Mutter, hast Du mir vergeben?" EMI has already had this Dietrich track removed from YouTube, as far as I can tell, but you can purchase or preview it on Amazon.

Regarding the interview, Dietrich mentioned that she enjoyed the vodka and Russian champagne, that she took a trip to the Warsaw ghetto, and that she and Polish audiences shared a mutual love for sad songs--which would explain why she took to Nieman's song. While listening to the program, I also realized that the archived footage audio was used in Schell's documentary. I never knew that Dietrich was speaking to a Warsaw audience in that clip! By the way, Piwowarska stated that Dietrich conducted interviews in French and German, so Polskie Radio's likely got more in their archives worth exploring.

So much is said, so do take a listen! Oh, and if you want to see a photo of Dietrich from her 1964 Warsaw trip, see this Flickr link. For another clip, watch this.

25 January 2012

Taking Shots at Lady Lush

Tallulah Bankhead was an intoxicating character whose words you couldn't properly transcribe without italizing and CAPITALIZING, and--for years--I thought her surname was DARLING. Hopefully, we haven't already posted a clip from her 1950s NBC radio program, The Big Show, because I wouldn't want to commit the sin of repetition. On YouTube, many have already shared an excerpt from the January 7, 1951 show in which Dietrich guest starred, but the entire episode deserves a listen (even more than this lot legend about gold dust deserves a read). Available from Internet Archive, here it is:

When the guest stars introduce themselves, you may recognize some names associated with Dietrich: Fred Allen (whose Texaco Star Theater radio show featured Dietrich, readily available on TallulahDarling's YouTube page), Edward G. Robinson (Dietrich's Manpower co-star), and Danny Thomas (who went on that famous European USO tour with Dietrich).

During the show, Dietrich's appearance is hyped up, with Bankhead playfully demanding equal footing, as you'll hear in her exchange with singer Fran Warren.

WARREN: Oh, I'm very excited, Tallulah, what with Marlene Dietrich on the show. She's so glamorous!
BANKHEAD: Uh, I've heard that said about me, darling.
WARREN: And she's such an international celebrity.
BANKHEAD: I've heard THAT said about me, darling, TOO.
WARREN: I remember she was my ideal when I was a child!
BANKHEAD: And I've heard THAT said abou--UH! [laughs] OH, DARLING!

Once Dietrich makes her "appearance" 45 minutes into the show, it's one punchline after another. Dietrich then sings "Falling in Love Again" but not just the way she sang it--as Bankhead says--"35 years ago." This rendition features some over-the-top yet ethereal "ah-ah-ah"-ing choir, like in Mario Lanza's "Be My Love." Enjoy!

23 January 2012

No Sky in the Eye's Way

See the real "painted photograph" here
How cruel of magazine and newspaper editors to exclude Marlene Dietrich's trunk from all the fun. In the spirit of trash art, I've remixed an already-edited production still (on the right), dismissing Dietrich's face in favor of her apparently discarded torso, an exquisite physical feature carefully constructed by a solid foundation and almost as deserving of idol worship as her legs, whose beauty required no effort. Oh, you probably wanted to see the authentic edited picture. Well, click here and scroll down, where you'll find the No Highway in the Sky promotional shot that misleadingly blurs Dietrich's middle finger.

If you prefer to view the non-digital rendering of the analog-edited image, visit the Painted Photographs exhibit, which will run until March 18, 2012 at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. On display from photographer Martin Parr's private collection are the so-called "painted photographs" of celebrities such as Dietrich. Museum goers will see how the press used to crop photographs before the preeminence of digital editing tools such as Photoshop. What they'll think, I don't know, but Sean O'Hagan of The Observer aptly called these hand-edited images "a kind of found art."

Although Andre Breton comes to mind at the mention of found art, I wouldn't compare his work to this exhibit. Maybe Parr initially discovered a press-edited image by chance, but these photos eventually became objects that he consciously sought, given that they represent a collection that took years and trips to the United States to assemble. Instead, this exhibit reminds me of Marcel Duchamp's readymade works, such as the "Fountain" that I remember reading about years ago in some introductory art history course. It raises questions about authorship (Is it the work of the photographer, the pencil-wielding editor, Parr, blah, blah, blah?), artistic merits (Are these press images, which were originally produced for commercial purposes, art? The Open Eye Gallery's "About Us" page would have us believe they are.), and also defacement (Did press staff vandalize these images by scribbling on them?).

That Parr could put his flea market finds in a space devoted to displaying art answers the "Is it art?" question in the affirmative, as far as I'm concerned. As for the issue of vandalism, I wouldn't bother considering it. These images were made to be modified by publications; in fact, Phaidon upholds the practice by cropping the Dietrich image for their online article. Now, who's the author? That I can't answer. Dietrich might raise her hand from the grave, as it was, of course, her face that made the photo (and, obviously, that work of art was all the editors wanted from the shot).

20 January 2012

Rapid Round-Up

Yesterday, the 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom that had appeared in Morocco sold for $524,000 at the Scottsdale, Arizona Bonhams auction. See some screen captures of the vehicle from Dietrich's first American movie, which Daily Mail nicked!

The Guardian reported that the Banton-designed Angel gown will glitter at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London much later this year. The museum website, however, mentions Morocco?

Julian Casablancas of The Strokes interviewed Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek of The Doors, and Manzarek discussed being a student at UCLA, where he learned about butterfly lighting from Josef von Sternberg.

Add more in the comments section if I missed something recent.

19 January 2012

The Story of His Life

Marlene Dietrich with Burt Bacharach (centre) and unknow man.
Photo found on MySpace. Click for (not much) more information.
The Associated Press has reported that Burt Bacharach will pen his memoirs, to be published by HarperCollins this November, and--no--it won't be called The Story of My Life. Because it's in the works, I'll post a wish-list of topics that Bacharach and his co-writer Robert Greenfield could address.
  • Did Burt ever compose any songs for Dietrich? If so, did she ever perform or record them? With that in mind, someone remind me whether Dietrich ever performed any Bacharach songs.
Well, that was brief, but it's been on my mind for a while. If Cher and Cilla Black got carte blanche to butcher Burt's tunes, Dietrich could have taken a stab at them as well. Bacharach appeared in that Dietrich hagiography attributed to Charlotte Chandler as well as in J. David Riva's documentary, Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song, but I hope to read some new tidbit in Burt's own book. What would you like to know?

17 January 2012

Rapid Round-Up

Dietrich, Garland, and Taylor all recognized Phil Silvers' appeal.

Who knew Dietrich was the queen of chavs?

Nevertheless, she still inspires scholars.

Oh, and you can still see Weegee!

Maria Riva on the Chinchilla Syndrome ... and a duet with Carol Channing!

(Maria's comments on the "chinchilla syndrome" start at 2:47)

Maria's duet with Carol Channing on the Buick Berle Show is posted at the Internet Archive. (Her duet with Carol Channing is at 44:00)

See her cooking frankfurters at this link.

15 January 2012

The Bump

Steven Bach and Maria Riva described Marlene Dietrich's upturned nose as a flaw, but I never shared that view. If you want to see Dietrich in both her stylized and natural states, take a gander at A Certain Cinema, one of my favorite online collections of Dietrich photos. Among these images, I observe no duck, pug, pig or other animal nose. If Dietrich had any facial blemish, it would be the one that has become the object of my obsession whenever I watch her films on DVD, the one that I never notice in studio portraits--likely thanks to judicious retouching. By no means would I regard it as a blot, but I've fixated on it ever since I saw The Scarlet Empress at the Egyptian Theater, where--in the silver screen's magnified proportions--it first became apparent to me. I'm talking about the bump near her lower lip. Has anyone else ever pointed it out? Was it a wart, a scar, a concealed mole? I've never read anything of it. For those of you who may be rolling your eyes or scratching your heads, I've compiled a gallery of screenshots featuring THE BUMP.

EXHIBIT A: I'm ready for my close-up, Herr Lang.
What? You don't see it? How about now?

14 January 2012

Mark Your Calendars!

Dietrich looking godless in her final
Judgment at Nuremberg scene
On Tuesday, February 28th at 7:30pm, Terry Sanderson will once again present his Marlene Dietrich tribute, which will take place at Conway Hall in London. Tickets cost £10. At that reasonable price, not only will you see a popular show previously mentioned on this blog, you will also help fund Britain's National Secular Society. Read more about Sanderson's tribute here. Coincidentally, missladiva's recent post about Dietrich's phone conversations with Dick Cavett ties into this theme because Cavett noted that war had killed Dietrich's Protestant faith, and he cited her disillusionment with politicized clergymen who had vied for divine favor.

Aside from this announcement, I'd also like to express my appreciation to all of you who read this blog and comment on its posts. It appears that we've had a flurry of visitors today--496 page views as of this posting. Wherever all of you are finding us, I hope you take a moment to share your opinions. I started this blog to discuss Dietrich with others and am always happy to engage in conversations with you. In fact, a missladiva post that quoted Maria Riva has been this blog's top entry with over 150 page views today (1,253 overall), and--surprisingly--only two people have commented on it--missladiva and yours truly.

Schiaparelli for the Boys.

Generating heat in the European winter, November 1944.

Streets of Paris

Dietrich filming her cameo for "Paris When It Sizzles" (1962)

In Paris c. 1973, around the time of her performances at Espace Cardin.

Dick Cavett, Phone Flirt

Dick Cavett writes an interesting column over at the New York Times about his telephonic friendship with Marlene during the 80s.

12 January 2012

Banton. Dietrich. Angel.

The MDCB reported in their latest newsletter about the sale (by Christie's) of a collection of Travis Banton costume designs for Marlene.

The sketch for Marlene's famous "million grains of golden caviar" dress from Angel fetched $ 10 000. The other sketches offered in the auction included Banton's design for the "Hot Voodoo" number from Blonde Venus.

In 2011 we reported about an earlier sale, which included Banton's designs for The Scarlet Empress. One of these is now housed in the AMPAS' Margaret Herrick Library Production Art collection.

At their website, they have an interesting interview with Adele Balkan, from their Oral History Program. Balkan worked as sketch artist for Paramount in the 30s; it was she who designed the beading pattern for Marlene's Angel gown.

The Academy is currently presenting an exhibition (which will run until 5 February) celebrating Paramount Pictures' centenary . Further information is available at their website.

07 January 2012

Standing in the Corner

Last year, a relatively unknown December 1948 portrait (below), of Marlene by Irving Penn, surfaced -- probably taken in Vogue's New York studios, it is one of his "corner studies".

Other subjects photographed in this fashion included the Duchess of Windsor, Noel Coward, Truman Capote and Spencer Tracy (the Tracy shot is used on the cover of James Curtis' new biography on the actor).

To Penn, this set-up was "a means of closing people in. Some people felt secure in this spot, some felt trapped. Their reaction made them quickly available to the camera," according to

Whatever Penn's motivations may have been, Dietrich was not pleased with the result and refused the release of photos from this session -- although "Mutti" privately gave a print to her husband as a Christmas gift that year.

Christie's also auctioned some alternate shots from this shoot in April 2011 (right).

Shots from an previous shoot by Penn (also in 1948), have been widely published:

06 January 2012

Leo Lerman Redux

Some Leo Lerman journal entries about Marlene Dietrich have filled the pages of a new book, New York Diaries: 1609-2009. Its editor, Teresa Carpenter, included Dietrich-related highlights from Lerman's writings that had been published in 2007 under the title, The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman. Instead of sighing at the accounts of Dietrich's love-sickness, financial woes, and alcoholism that pervaded the Lerman book, you'll laugh again about Greta Garbo's unsanitary austerity, Dietrich's animated wig, Prince Philip's flirtations, and Andy Warhol's inability to distinguish Dietrich from Josephine Baker. Below are both books for you to compare:

New York Diaries: 1609-2009

The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman

05 January 2012

Eve Arnold: Dietrich's "White-Haired Girl"

Dietrich photographed by Arnold
during a 1952 Columbia recording session
I just read that Eve Arnold died on Wednesday. As you may know, Arnold photographed Dietrich at a Columbia recording session in 1952, the New York City Museum of Modern Art's (MOMA's) "An Evening with Marlene Dietrich" retrospective in 1959, and rehearsals at the Paris Olympia in 1962. My favorite Arnold photos were the high-contrast ones in which a grimacing and sometimes almost gurning Dietrich unintentionally mimicked the Cheshire Cat, so thoroughly absorbed in her work that her body parts vanished into the background--be it stage or studio.

In 2007, Jer wrote a post about Arnold's Dietrich portfolio at Magnum Photos, which I have deleted because he used a photo featuring the site's watermarks. Jer, if you're reading this, my apologies! For those of you interested in seeing what the site has to offer, try this link. If that fails, follow these instructions:
  1. Go to
  2. Click "Advanced Search"
  3.  Type "Marlene Dietrich" in the "Include Keywords" box
  4. Select "Arnold, Eve" from the "Include Photographer" dropbox.
  5. Click "Search"
Be aware that Magnum Photos has other Dietrich photos, which you can view by skipping step 4. As you may notice, the Arnold photo of Dietrich in this post will not appear in your search results, and I have seen several other Dietrich photos taken by Arnold not on that site (outtakes?), which you can find provided that you're willing to scour Google. If you want to know about Arnold's experiences working with Dietrich, read a chapter from her autobiographical work, Film Journal:

04 January 2012

Marlene Dietrich, The Love Doctor

Dietrich recording her Monitor segments
(Note: The earliest date stamp is Oct. 24, 1958--
NOT May 1964 as stated on the Wikipedia page)
Happy New Year, all! For my own amusement, I'm going to change the tone of my blog entries from time to time. If that rubs you the wrong way, go read Proust with Maximilian Schell. Or--better yet--join us in blogging about Dietrich! In particular, I'd like to see a woman blogger in our crew. If you're interested, email us at or comment on this post. Now, I'll return you to our irregularly scheduled entry. . . .

Back in the 1950s, Marlene Dietrich dispensed relationship advice on the NBC radio program, Monitor. Then, the public didn't know that they were tuning in to the wisdom of a grandmother who pined for the married Yul Brynner, but Dietrich's private adolescent woes could have made her public views all the more insightful. It's like having a shrink who plays with the dolls before she doles them out.

Of course, I jest. It just so happened that folks had been soliciting Dear Dietrich's guidance since World War II, and Dietrich aptly employed her approachability when less movie roles were coming her way.

Many of you may be asking where you can find recordings of Dietrich's segments. Well, I have the same question! All that Steven Bach told us was that Dietrich "purred," but he may have been at a loss for words because that's how he described most of Dietrich's radio contributions. If you know where we can hear Dietrich's love doctor routine, don't keep them to yourself! In the meantime, I'll just have to settle for the notion that Dietrich responded to every query by purring the words: "Use Heinz vinegar."

At the very least, I can direct you to audio on The Monitor Tribute Pages. Click here and listen to the clip called "John Bartholomew Tucker hosts Monitor '75 -- Saturday, January 25, 10-11 a.m. ET," which features a brief interview with Dietrich at about 11:15. What do you think about Dietrich's views regarding television? I respectfully disagree because I could never imagine anything as ethereal as the creatures that I've recently seen on T.V.: