28 April 2012

Marlene Dietrich Makeup Tutorials

Getting dolled up on the Destry Rides Again set
You may move like Jagger, but are you getting dolled up like Dietrich? We've seen Marlene primping in several of her movies--The Blue Angel, Dishonored, Blonde Venus, Destry Rides Again, and Manpower coming to mind. Maria Riva shares lots of Dietrich's cosmetic tricks in her book as well.

Nowadays, YouTube makeup gurus are teaching their acolytes how to look like Our Lady of the False Eyelashes, but these YouTubers never refer to Dietrich's movies or Maria. Instead of following Marlene's techniques, they devise their own ways to emulate her, which makes perfect sense. No longer must you spit in your mascara pot, and if you do, please stop! With updated methods, these gurus ought to do Dietrich justice, but that's no easy feat without her lighting and genes.

Among these videos, I see some false prophets and some messiahs, but I prefer to ask what you think. Which of these videos get Marlene Dietrich's look right? Which go horribly awry?

27 April 2012

Lady Gaga, Marlene Dietrich, and...Anna Swanson?

EDITED MAY 7, 2012 TO ADD: Looks like the video has been made private. What a pity!

when you wish upon a star from Cams Compsers on Vimeo.

While ritually Googling "marlene dietrich," I spotted a Carleton College Cinema & Media Studies (a.k.a. film school) events page, which literally highlighted Anna Swanson's presentation about herself, Lady Gaga, and Marlene Dietrich. I immediately thought, "Well, I want to watch it," and easily found it online, as you see above. It's more than a presentation, as the events page describes it. Swanson identifies it as "an experimental, historically re-interpretive, non-narrative, quasi-documentary piece on gender performativity and the construction of the female star." To me, it's a short film that cleverly splices audio and video of its subjects to address gender performativity and performance. Oh, and Swanson sounds a lot like My So-Called Life's Angela Chase, too!

When Swanson epiphanizes, "Marlene Dietrich may not be what I want her to be the way Lady Gaga is," and then cuts to Dietrich (as Mrs. Bertholt in Judgment of Nuremberg, a detail that I perhaps shouldn't bother to mention because it isn't relevant to Swanson's narrative) stating, "That's why it's so ironic," I can't help but wish that all the folks who ever professed that Dietrich was their feminist icon would watch Swanson's piece! Indeed, it is ironic because Dietrich's gendered performances have been so much more visibly striking overall than Lady Gaga's, whose only stand-out act was as Jo Calderone, yet we only know of Dietrich's vehemently anti-feminist ideology in Maximilian Schell's documentary Marlene, whereas Gaga has publicly spoken about feminist causes such as rising rates of HIV infection among women and self-identifies as a feminist.

There is, however, one caveat to this. As Swanson said, she is exploring Gaga and Dietrich's embodied self-expressions. Well, Dietrich's rant about women's lib was disembodied and perhaps intoxicated self-expression. What do we make of that? I feel as ambivalent--and possibly as naked--as Swanson does at the end of her short film. I don't feel uncomfortable, though! If Noel Coward could compare Dietrich to Helen of Troy, I have no qualms about comparing Dietrich to Lady Gaga and whoever else hits the scene years from now. I encourage the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.

26 April 2012

New Layout

My apologies to anyone who has viewed this blog within the past 8 hours or so. I've been fiddling with the layout, and it looks fine if not a little slow-loading in my preferred browsers (Firefox & Chrome) and even in my non-preferred browser, Internet Explorer (despite a lack of rounded edges, shadowing, and slightly different positioning of the blog title and background image).

If you view this site with Safari, let me know how it displays.

Oh, and sorry for the froufrou pinks, too. If it makes any of you butch readers (male or female) squeamish, just pretend you're looking up Sophia Fredericka's skirt.

21 April 2012

Marlene's first visit to Warsaw, 16th January 1964.

Hello! My name is Ewa and I want to bring you to all materials connected to Dietrich which were written in Polish, as few people worldwide know it and therefore it's hard for them to get more information about Marlene.

Lots of facts here are based on wonderful book Marlene by Angelika Kuźniak. If it's ever published in English, you should read it!

She took a trip via plane, arrived with 35 pieces of luggage. Kuźniak has found a list of what one of the suitcases contained: there were furs, night gowns, scarfs, hats, shoes and much more. She had lots of clothes prepared for really low temperatures, which aren't typical for weather in Poland. Later she said that at Dior they had made her buy a fur as they had been so convinced winter in this part of Europe is severe.

She arrived at Warsaw airport just after 6 p.m. After she was transported into "Europejski" Hotel, she was disgusted. Her room was not warm enough and closets not big enough; so Pagart (Polish Art Agency) transferred her to Hotel Bristol. It was very noisy, but overall acceptable--its Art Deco elegance seemed to be a good choice. After she had disinfected the bathrooms, there was the time for press conferences, which she disliked - as she used to put it, "always the same questions" were asked.

People in hotel had observed that Marlene's day-to-day routine in Warsaw always included eating breakfast (with a sip-or more-of champagne,of course), writing letters and rehearsing at the Buffo Theatre. Her stage preparations included putting on make-up, eyelashes from Anker & Lovbo of Copenhagen, placing the sterile needles to lift up her face, putting on a dress and a coat made of swans' down.

Her first concert took place on 18th January in Sala Kongresowa, one of Poland's captial's most sumptous places. Before Dietrich's, there was a performance of Czesław Niemen with his band Niebiesko-Czarni; they were extremely popular at that time. Dietrich was under charm of his song "Czy mnie jeszcze pamiętasz"("Do you still remember me"); later, she used it's melody, wrote the words and performed it many times under the title "Mutter, hast du mir vergeben". I've found nice video about this:

The concerts were a big success. The effect was admired overall by 18 000 people-within few days. (Apart from performances at Kongresowa, she sang few songs in medical students' club-what a shame I didn't live back there, nowadays these clubs are so bad..!).

During her last concerts, she addressed the audience, thanked them and said she was touched and full of awe for polish courage during war. Marlene wrote down in her notebook that she has never experienced such warmth from any audience as from Polish one. She received many letters from fans, lots of them referred to war times, as Marlene anti-Nazi attitude was (and still is) very appreciated in country that had been invaded by Hitler. Dietrich showed some interest in war history, she visited lots of monuments commemorating what had happened between 1939 and 1945. She said she felt guilty for the German nation and glad that Warsaw was still standing, despite the fact that Hitler had wanted its complete destruction.

A total amount of 150 photos were taken during her performances, but no one has ever seen them, 'cause Dietrich hated them and tore them up, refusing to pay the photographer ;) She left Warsaw on the 22nd of January.

20 April 2012

The Help: Black Maids in Marlene's Movies

Hattie McDaniel in Blonde Venus
Cora (Hattie McDaniel), Blonde Venus
Are you Team Venus in Furs or Team Blonde Venus? Let's pit Wanda von Dunajew against Marlene Dietrich's movie parts to settle the score. Wanda enslaves Severin von Kusiemski. Marlene Dietrich's characters figuratively enslave Immanuel Rath, La Bessiere, Pasqualito Costelar, Antonio Galvan, Tom Bradley, Dan Brent, Hank McHenry, and--well, you get the picture. Wanda has three black women at her service. Dietrich's characters have only one at a time: first Viola (played by Evelyn Preer) and then Cora (played by Hattie McDaniel) in Blonde Venus, Clara (played by Lillian Yarbo) in Destry Rides Again, Clementine (played by Theresa Harris) in The Flame of New Orleans, Mary Lou in The Lady Is Willing and Idabelle in The Spoilers (both played by Marietta Canty), and an unidentified one in Rancho Notorious (actress also unidentified).

Unlike Wanda's black servants, who appear like the Furies whenever their mistress rings her bell, Dietrich's maids make their onscreen appearances primarily to provide buffoonery. Who was laughing then? Who's laughing now? More importantly, are you laughing--and why? Below are portraits of the black maids for you to consider the next time you watch these Dietrich flicks. Because I consider GIFs an antiquated format perfect for showcasing ludicrous gestures, I cobbled together a few as well.

09 April 2012

Mapping Marlene Dietrich

Some of you expressed interest in mapping places related to Marlene Dietrich's life, career, and legacy. Therefore, I created a map that anyone can edit, called Mapping Marlene Dietrich. It appears to me that you can't edit it without logging into a Google account, but if you don't have a Google account by now, get with the 21st century! Here's the baby below, which I will also add to a fixed location on the right side bar:

08 April 2012

1940 U.S. Census--Where's Dietrich?

Recently, the 1940 U.S. Census became available for free online, and I decided to build my research skills by seeking information regarding Dietrich and her household. Currently, the census is available as JPG image files and organized by enumeration district, which was the area covered by a person called an enumerator who went door-to-door to collect and record census data. Thus, scouring data can be tedious, but the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project will hopefully make the task more user-friendly. With indexing software from Family Search, project participants can transcribe data, which will aid others who prefer performing term searches to skimming images or who may not be able to read the handwritten content.

After using the powerful tools developed by Steve Morse, I determined that Dietrich--whom I'm certain lived in the Beverly Hills Hotel during 1940--would be listed on the census pages of enumeration district (ED) 19-36. Browsing these pages, I learned that movie actors did participate in the census, spotting the names of William Powell (1113 Tower Rd.), Fred Astaire (1121 Summit Dr.), and Blonde Venus and Angel co-star Herbert Marshall (1707 Tropical Ave.). Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone associated with the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is located at 9641 Sunset Blvd. In fact, the addresses listed for Sunset Blvd. didn't even correspond to the enumeration district as I understood it. For example, Richard Barthelmess, who made one of his last acting appearances in The Spoilers, is listed with a misspelled surname at 501 Sunset Blvd. Nowadays, there's no such address anywhere near Beverly Hills. In fact, I supposed that address on Sunset Blvd. would have been somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, on what's now Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Then, I realized that addresses on Sunset Blvd. must have been different in the past, which led me to check the other Beverly Hills enumeration districts. Do any of you L.A. historians out there have some knowledge about this?

Indeed, Beverly Hills Hotel guest names appeared on the pages of another enumeration district, 19-43, at 1210 Sunset Blvd, but I failed to spot either the last name Dietrich or Sieber. Maybe Dietrich didn't live in the Beverly Hills Hotel during the spring of 1940, maybe she didn't participate, or maybe the enumerator didn't collect her data. Who knows? At this time, we'll have to settle for other Dietrich data--such as her U.S. citizenship application, her FBI file, and her social security number--unless one of you finds her in the 1940 census.

Somewhat related to this topic, I searched for Josef von Sternberg's Neutra-designed home in the San Fernando Valley at 10000 Tampa Ave. and found his name somewhat excised from the page, even though his Japanese staff's data remained. What's the meaning of that?
Josef von Sternberg in the 1940 U.S. Census

You may need to click on this close-up to better read the census page.

Edited to add a map of the locations I mentioned in this blog entry. If you're interested, I can start a collaborative map so that all of us can mark spots related to Dietrich, e.g., her homes, movie sets, concert venues, etc. Let me know!

Mecha-Streisand on Marlene

I just read on one of my favorite gossip blogs, Dlisted, that long-time 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace died. Dlisted eulogized Wallace by showing him hold his own against Mecha-Streisand. In this clip, Barbra also jokes that "in the good old days," Marlene Dietrich and "all those real movie stars" would have a spotlight follow them everywhere.

I expect journalists and presenters to invent and spread celebrity myths because they carry the bardic torch as professional storytellers. A legendary celebrity like Streisand telling tales of a fellow icon surprises me, though, because Streisand would know better than anyone that anecdotes hyperbolize celebrities' qualities, leading to fabrication. Despite superstar insight, the tendency toward minstrelsy (in a medieval sense) can subdue even Streisand. Mythmaking is simply irresistible!

07 April 2012

Venice, 1937

Mother & Daughter Act

With Mr Elizabeth Taylor, 1955 (above).
Radio Broadcast, around 1943 (above and below)

First class (1947), above.
Not sure when this was taken.
At a premiere in 1936.

Little Gloria Meets Marlene, At Last

For Joseph: Marlene Dietrich-Sieber, John Ringling-North and Gloria Vanderbilt-DiCicco-Stokowski-not-yet-Lumet-Cooper at Madison Square Garden (1953). (Original photo currently for sale on ebay). Below, Marlene and unidentified showgals.

06 April 2012

Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?

This question's for you, readers!

Where should we go with this blog, and how do you want to take part? I'm not terribly interested in reporting Dietrich-related news nowadays, such as the upcoming Dior exhibition. If you'd like to join us and write blog entries about such news, please respond to this post or email us at

I'd prefer to write more about Dietrich's movie career, share Dietrich novelties that I find online, and explore all the issues related to preserving Hollywood history. If you're more drawn to Dietrich's cabaret career, please take part in writing about it here as a blogger.

Another topic on my mind, given the number of viewers from countries where English is not the primary language, is translating blog entries or changing how I write my entries so that readers can more easily translate them with tools such as Google Translate. If you have recommendations regarding that matter, let me know.


P.S. If you don't know why I chose this title, I'll let you figure it out by listening to the song below: