12 July 2012

Dial 'M' for Marlene: One More Ballyhoo

Gussie Berger & Ariane Bellamar
as Marlene Dietrich & Marilyn Monroe
Tell me where this story originated: after Marlene Dietrich had rejected the role of Nazi floozy Erika von Schlütow in A Foreign Affair, Billy Wilder showed her June Havoc's screen test, which presumably convinced Dietrich that only she could handle the part. I can only trace it as far back as Homer Dickens' book, The Films of Marlene Dietrich, first published in 1968.

Whatever this tale's roots may be, it came to mind (as did Barbra Streisand and the multiple hats she wore for the productions of Yentl, The Prince of Tides, and The Mirror Has Two Faces) when I learned of Dial 'M' for Marlene's recent casting change.

Although Gussie Berger has assured me that the play's former Dietrich, Victoria Valentino, left by her own volition, I can't help but credit kismet because Berger herself has now stepped into Dietrich's foundation. This second recasting will undoubtedly augment the play's comedic appeal, and I hope to catch it before it ends its run on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at The Flight Theater. Make your reservations before you miss this incredible revamp! Visit its Facebook page for more info!

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On the subject of recasting, you may have noticed the banner in the sidebar for the blogathon, The Great Recasting, co-hosted by Frankly, My Dear and In The Mood. Click it to learn more. I'll be imagining Marlene Dietrich and Jane Wyman in The Devil Wears Prada. When I first watched this movie, the way that Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) treated Andi Sachs (Anne Hathaway) immediately reminded me of Charlotte Inwood and Eve Gill in Stage Fright. Now, I have an excuse to fashion my fancy into a blog entry! If you have any suggestions for who should play Stanley Tucci and Adrian Grenier's roles, I welcome them.

Aside from that, I look forward to others contributing entries. If you'd like be an author on this blog, let me know! Of course, I've got my own list of entries in mind, but I never manage to get to them as quickly as I intend: a third part in my horse-related series (see the first and second parts; by the way, I've been agonizing about my omission of Blonde Venus, which features a brief horse scene), more Maria Riva blind items, a series comparing Marlene's films with Greta Garbo's, an entry about Dietrich's influence on Marilyn Manson, a look at how Marlene was promoted to Latino audiences in the United States, a transcription of Thom Nickels' profile on Marlene's friend John Banks (which Nickels very kindly mailed me), etc. If you'd like me to get to any of those topics first, tell me what interests you most.

Meanwhile, I'll continue adding locations to Mapping Marlene Dietrich and listing online resources for Dietrich's concert-era photographers, both of which would benefit vastly from your contributions. I would like to especially thank missladiva and Paul for their help in both those endeavors.

EDIT: Thanks to Google Alerts, I saw a somber example of Dietrich's cultural salience--a girl named Marlene Dietrich who was born in 1931 and passed away in 1934. Also, I watched a Russian newsreel of Dietrich's 1964 Moscow appearance on YouTube that seems to categorize Marlene Dietrich's work as art and Marlene as a poet (Russian-speakers, correct me if I'm wrong; I speak Bulgarian, and these words appear to be cognates).


  1. Here's a small contribution. Don't know if I should call this a anecdote that is parody, tribute or imitation, but so far I couldn't find it on this blog and I think the witty way Judy Garland does it, deserves a look. Judy Garland during an interview on Jack Paar in 1964, talking about Marlene,find it spot on and pretty hilarious!
    the marlene dietrich applause record anecdote (starting at 8:30)
    the marlene dietrich applause record anecdote (continueing till 2:04)

    Another audio piece, where Judy imitates Marlene's vocal style, singing "falling in love again" Judy pretending not being able to say the word help. According to the comments it's Stan Freeman at the piano. Telling how Marlene did not want him to cue her on a certain part of "when the world was young" because "people will think I can't find the note if you hit it with me". Afterwards Judy continues with "the boys in the backroom".

    1. I've seen these, but they certainly deserve an entry here--especially because the person who graciously uploaded the Paar interview didn't tag it with Marlene Dietrich's name, which would indicate to me that many Marlene fans aren't stumbling upon it by normal means during YouTube or Google searches. That may be the uploader's intention, though, because some Dietrich fans are rabid and humorless.

  2. Judy mentioned Dietrich on her earlier Paar interview too (think it's also on Youtube) -- about attending a Dietrich premiere in London (probably at the Queen's).

    Of course, one simply doesn't dare to repeat Marlene's quote to Rex Reed about Judy to a Garland fan! :)

    1. I didn't notice whether Judy said anything about Marlene in the 1962 Jack Paar interview on YouTube (granted, it was so long and split into 4 clips, and I was doing other things), but I did hear Jack follow up w/ Judy about the LP story in his 1967 interview with her (2:40-2:46).

      JACK: Did you ever hear from Dietrich after you told that story?
      JUDY (interrupting as the audience begins to laugh): No. You know, I never heard from her. That was my idea. . . .

      The audience didn't catch that last catty comment!

      Long before their mutual acrimony, Marlene followed Judy from afar, as she says in a 1950 letter to her (always so many treasures in the MDCB newsletters that I forget).

  3. Just watched Dietrich on Broadway again on YouTube and near the beginning that appears to be John Banks standing behind Marlene at the stage door.Paul

    1. The only image I know of Banks is that one with the eye patch, but I think you're right, which makes me think of a game. Instead of playing Where's Waldo?, I'll play Where's Banks? whenever I watch/look at these North American concert era candid images. So who was the douche nozzle who disliked that video?