04 August 2012

Revisiting Rosenbach's Mercedes de Acosta Trove

The Vampire & The Child (from here)
A few years ago, I briefly mentioned the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, which holds Mercedes de Acosta's papers. Shame on me for not digging deeper than a mere press release! You may recall in the first part of the Thom Nickels piece on John Banks that Marlene Dietrich supposedly gave Acosta a pair of her silk stockings. VP, the force behind Carole & Co. and a reader more astute than I, emphasized this factoid, and Nickels recently told me that his book, Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia, features a photo of the stockings, which are held by the Rosenbach.

Well, with all this in mind, I thought to myself, "Surely, this museum's got an online finding aid that'll tell me more about its other Dietrich relics." I didn't expect all the photographs! Explore the Rosenbach Museum & Library's object catalog because you'll be as impressed as I was. Aside from the stockings, you'll see a silk scarf monogrammed with "marlene" in its polka dots, a sock (which I highly doubt is polyester!), publicity shots, and candid photos (incidentally, did jealousy lead Mercedes to crop her male rivals--such as Fred Perry--out of some photos? See this and compare with this).

Oh, you probably expect me to tell you how to search this catalog. Well, if you insist!

Try this link, type a simple term like "marlene" (retrieves 294 records) or "dietrich" (retrieves 293 records) in the box, and click the "Search" button. I recommend you play with terms like "riva" (to see a few early '30s head shots and also an intriguingly butch studio shot from the same era of Maria Riva) or "garbo" (to see a surprisingly small set of 39 Greta Garbo records) as well.

You may notice the Rosenbach object catalog's request that researchers send any information that can improve their records, so do help them if you spot any errors or omissions. Just click the "Send Feedback" button on the record you're viewing, and fill out the form. You'll be aiding not only the Rosenbach, but also any future Dietrich researchers and fans. I myself have spotted several photos of Marlene with an unidentified Rudi Sieber and sent feedback about this. I haven't yet viewed all the photographed objects, but I'm hoping to see Tami Matul buried among these treasures. EDIT: I just saw two paintings of Marlene (one | two) that are surely by Martin Kosleck. Also, this woman is not Marlene, is she? She looks more like Zarah Leander . . . ?


  1. An amazing treasure trove,thank you for pointing this out.Paul

  2. amazing treasures indeed, thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks, but I can't take any credit for the Rosenbach's impressive work. I wish other collections would follow this trend toward online accessibility in the form of object catalogs. All the way in L.A., I would have never heard of the Rosenbach in Philly had I not seen this de Acosta collection online. The next step would be for its catalog content to get coded so that it appears in Google/Bing/Yahoo searches.

    P.S. Karine, how was the Remarque book?

    1. You mean the Sag mir das du mich liebst or Arch of Triumph? I read them both by now. First I read Sag mir das du mich liebst and then Arch of Triumph. I think it was a good coincidence that I read it in this order, because it gives much more dept and meaning to the characters of Arch of Triumph. I had the feeling I could catch a glimpse of what their relationship must have been like (definitely not an easy one, but full of passion, romance, love, happines, jealousy, drama and lyrical expression). While reading these books my mind was constantly trying to connect all the lines (also with the book of Maria) and trying to fill in gaps. I need to read the whole part of Reamarque in Maria's book again, to get a better picture.

      I thought it was interesting to read Sag mir das du mich liebst and then the novel because Remarque used the name of the protagonist in Arch of Triumph - Ravic - often in his letters to Marlene as it is his own. One of the very few letters availeble of Marlene, marks the point that Ravic became public knowledge (because Arch of Triumph was published and by this time their relationship was long gone and by that time even the one with Jean ended). Later Remarque sends her a letter in which he calls Arch of Triumph “our book”. So I couldn't help to read Arch of Triumph like their book, to picture them while having all the letters in mind and feel a whole story beneath the surface. In Maria Riva's book there is also a letter from Marlene to Rudi, in which she expresses her thoughts about Arch of Triumph. Towards the end of their relationship you can read how Remarque feels about Marlene and Jean Gabin. In the novel Joan (Marlene) also is involved with a Jean and everything that happens there gives a certain perspective on Remarques ideas about him and them.

      I loved Remarques lyrical writing, his way of expressing himself in the German language is beautiful, every emotion becomes very alive. I seriously had a few tears running down while I was reading some of the letters. If you are obsessed with Marlene I can only recommend Sag mir das du mich liebst. It is a gem in reading how she moved this man to the core and and an insight in their relationship. In general if you're not Marlene obsessed, but a romantic, these letters are also recommendable to read. Even there are only a few letters of Marlene herself it does add to the view of it all. The only thing... I do think it is very difficult to read these letters without knowing any German.

      I don't know how I would have enjoyed Arch of Triumph without reading the one above, but I have to say that I felt like tis reading Arch of Triumph - Captivated by a book that I couldn't read fast enough to know how the plot would evolve and on the other hand while reaching the last few chapters, sadly turning the fewer and fewer pages because I knew that the story soon would be over... -
      So I guess it would still have been a pleasure, but for me reading it with all the background info made it more special then Arch of Triumph maybe is... but maybe I'm not doing the novel justice by saying this.

    2. Karine, you should share your thoughts on other sites, too. I don't have anything intelligent to say in response because I haven't read either book, but about doing a novel justice--that depends on the reader. I tend to seek additional materials that help me contextualize whatever I'm reading (hence, the many links in my posts here!). There are times when I read a book in isolation, but when I finally get around to reading Arch of Triumph, I won't be reading it this way because Maria Riva's book already sprouted in me the desire to find Marlene in it. In fact, your words are like potash for this desire, and I'll struggle through any text I can acquire--regardless of how much translation effort I must expend--to enhance my reading of Arch of Triumph.

    3. You will find Marlene for sure also without reading Remarque's letters. But it would be nice if you manage read them... they should just translate the letters in English!

      I'm visiting my friend in Paris at the moment and he found me a Paris Match - 21 May 1992 (image on the cover
      Besides the cover, the magazine dedicates 36 pages to Marlene, including photo's, articles, notes, letters and telegrams:
      - Marlene, Tous Les Secrets D'une Vie
      - Sa Vie Telle Qu'elle Aimait La Regarder
      - Gabin, L'Homme De Son Coeur
      - L'Hymne A L'Amour De Marlene A Gabin
      - Chez La Dame De L'Avenue Montaigne
      (including horrific spread of her dead body in her apartment on her couch covered by the French flag)
      - Ainsi Na Quit A Berlin Le mythe De La Femme Vamp
      - Dans L'Allemagne Ruinee Et Defaite, Elle Se Sent Libre Et Forte

      Unfortunately I have to wait until my friend has time to read it with me and translate since my French is probably as bad as your German ;)

      On what site should I share my thoughts for example?

      PS Is there any nice Marlene related place in Paris at the moment that I should visit, which I might have overlooked?

    4. Karine, you brought up the magazine that has filled me with much bitterness! I "won" that Paris Match issue on Ebay not too long ago, and the stupid seller told me that he couldn't find it. I never paid him, but I was infuriated that I couldn't get my hands on it. I ordered the book of Remarque's letters (hopefully the edition with the lovely nude photo of Marlene, too), and it better not be the parcel that couldn't be found when I went to the post office yesterday.

      As for where you could share your thoughts, I suppose Amazon or another bookseller's website would be a good place.

      Truthfully, I don't know any place in Paris at the moment. Tell me if you visit 12 avenue Montaigne. Someone once wrote here that there isn't even a plaque to indicate that Marlene lived there. The most interesting Marlene-related location that I know of is la place Marlene Dietrich in the 16e arrondissment, which makes me reconsider the notion of plaques (especially one as quotidian as that). If you can leave Paris, you ought to go to the Stars in Dior exhibition in Granville, although the Dietrich materials on display there may be something you have already seen (seems they're on loan from the Deutsche Kinemathek).

    5. Joseph, that's so sad! Yesterday I went to the bookmarket along the Seine, I saw they where selling a lot of old magazines over there including paris match. I have been looking to find this issue for you, but so far I haven't been lucky. I will keep my eyes open!

      So nice you ordered the book, I'm curious if you get through it. I have this edition of the book (, which unfortunately doesn't include the lovely nude photo. At least I think I know which photo you mean, I only once bumped into a nude photo of her. It was definitely a lovely one. Is it the one where she is sitting in the gras holding a hat in her hand which is lying next to her? I think it appeared somewhere on tumblr without any information, I never ran into that or any other nude photo again. So I'm curious to hear if you have more info about that.

      Thank you for the info about Paris, that is what I knew as well. I don't know if I will have time to go to the dior exhibition, but it's been a while that I saw the exihibition in Berlin, so it could be something. If it is not to complicated traveling wise. One of these day I'll go to 12 Avenue Montaigne, i'll let you know if there is something to find. But somehow I wouldn't be surprised if it's not.

    6. Karine, you are too sweet. There's no need to do that!

      Yes, you are a well-versed Dietrich fan because that is the very photo I have in mind. What I understand is that it was in the first edition of "Sag mir, daß Du mich liebst..." and was removed from subsequent printings/editions. I'm sure you can guess why! If I don't get that edition with the photo, I will try reading the French translation of the letters.

      Anyway, I hope you've been enjoying your trip and continue doing so!

    7. Oh it's nothing! Why wouldn't I keep and eye open for you who offers this great blog?! If there is a place to be lucky enough to find the magzine, it must be Paris. And I'm looking for myself anyway, I enjoy treasure hunts on vintage markets way to much :)

      Yesterday I went to Avenue Montaigne. There is nothing to find, no plaque or anything. I listened to her music strolling down the avenue, on the groundfloor of no. 12 there is Prada. I looked up and was thinking of her, but soon enough I left. To be honest I found it quite sad and I can't really point out why, the atmosphere of the street just felt off and was not Marlene worthy. It always sounded like it must be such a glamorous street. I could imagine that it might be a nice avenue in the past, but I think all the big fashion houses that are situated there kinda killed the vibe.
      If I would be her I also would have locked myself in my appartment ;)

    8. Thank you for the info on the photo. I'm even surprised to hear that they printed it in the first edition! Do you know if Remarque took this photo of her?

    9. Do tell us about any treasures that you find for yourself! I buy almost everything on Ebay, but it is more fun to go on the hunt and look in shops and markets.

      It doesn't surprise me that there's still nothing related to Marlene, but if you're really desperate for a Parisian Marlene experience, I suppose you can splurge and stay a night at the Marlene Dietrich suite in the Lancaster. M.D.'s estate has been savvy about licensing her name for "luxury" products, e.g., Veuve Clicquot and Montblanc pens. Maybe that's why they suppress photos of her having a dejeuner sur l'herbe like a Bois de Boulogne whore.

      I don't know whether Remarque took that photo, but when I get the book, I'll see what it says. My guess is that he did because it was from his estate. It gives me the notion that other people's estates may have such nudes of Marlene, e.g. Jo Carstairs.

    10. I'm back from Paris. In the end I didn't spend so much time thrifting, it was simply to hot. I only found one magazine. Point de Vue, Images du Monde numéro 325 du 26 août 1954. Cover

      I didn't know about the lancaster suite, probably because it's waaaay out of my league. I'm sure I could enjoy living there for three years, but a shorter stay would also be fine.

      I do understand about the "luxury", but nothing in this photo screams whore... at least not to me. I even think she looks kind of innocent in this photo of her (not scarlet empress innocent but real innocent) she looks very natural, beautiful and completely at ease.
      Have you recieved the book already? I'm curious if you are lucky enough to have the photo and if so, what it says. I guess you are right, i also think there may be more photos. Whale cay seems to be a perfect place for a dejeuner sur l'herbe.

    11. That's a great find, and you didn't have to pay shipping--even better!

      I'm teasing about Marlene's nude photo. I thought it looked demure. Much to my annoyance, I haven't received the book yet. I am out of town at the moment, though, so I hope that it will be waiting for me in my mailbox when I return home.

    12. hehe I got that, I meant in relation to the luxury products. I could understand if it would have been a whore like photo, but this one is indeed demure (thanks for expanding my vocabulary), so I don't really understand what's the fuss about suppressing that photo.

      fingers crossed on receiving the book!

    13. Today I discovered an awesome small recordsshop which fulfilled more Marlene desires then any other recordshop ever did. I bumped into several records that where already long on my wishlist and since I prefer offline shopping I was just waiting for the moment that they would greet me during one of my hunts. Once the owner saw me going through the german section and sorting out all the Marlene records, he started to play Marlene EP's. It was very amusing to see the eagerness of this passionate owner.
      Out of nowhere he suddenly came up with much more Marlene records then where displayed in the shop. I think he showed me a quite rare record. It was a picture record, where the images are printed straight on the vinyl. I was looking at it like what in the name should I do with this. It had some ugly blue font on it, not the sophisticated Marlene glamour you would expect. And it was totally unlcear which songs where on this record. It didn't have a sleeve, besides a plastic see through cover.
      I asked the owner about it and he said he had no clue what songs where on it, it said something like marlene mix. I was confused because it was the most expensive record (still not too expensive) that they had of her. I think he noticed my confusion and then he said, well it's quite something because it shows her naked. I was like ... ?! So I had another look and indeed at the backside there was a picture of her naked, which I didn't even noticed before. It was very strange, since I didn't expected that a photo of her like that existed it seemed below her perfectly crafted image and I even wondered if it was real. It sure looked like her though and it was definitely not like the demure nude photo, Bois de Boulogne whore suited this one much more then the photo in Remarque's book. (This would be a photo of which I could understand it if M.D.'s estate suppressed it....)
      I can't sharply recal, since I was so confused by the image out there on this record, but It looked very much like her Frenchy look in destry rides again, half stripped down like a tart showing her whole package. Anyway I din't buy it, but this picture got me puzzeled! I tried to find the record and I found something that looks like it, but I'm not 100% sure.
      Anyone a clue about this record and the particular image... this photo is one big questionmark to me!

    14. Helle Karine,

      I owne this picture disc. The nude picture of Marlene is clearly a fake. It's a really bad amateur job (look at her nake, the body doesn't belong to her, it's a scandalous photomontage) and the picture is shoking, very bad taste. "Bois de Boulogne whore" : you're wright, but don't worry, she is not our Marlene. It's not honest from the compagny to try to deceive the people with a incorrect picture of Marlene, a disgusting fake. Marlene would called that "putasserie", a French word she liked. It means more or less "whore attitude".

      I am Fabrice and I don't approve this photomontage.

    15. Hi Fabrice,
      Thanks for your response! My first feeling was also that it was a fake, but I didn't really study the photo or I was just to startled with it to take a good look. I don't know... I just couldn't really believe there would be such a picture out there. So good to hear that it's not our legendary lovely Marlene. What a shame that this photomontage made it onto a record. Which music is actually on the record? Or have you never played it, because of the other pictures on it? Just curiousity.

    16. Hi Karine,

      "Destry" side :

      Lily Marlene (English)
      You do something to me
      Falling in love again
      I've been in love before
      Black market

      Fake side :

      You go to my head
      The boys in the backroom
      Look me over closely
      Mein blondes baby
      You've got that look

      It plays like another usual vynil. The 14 songs are not rareties, it's just another best off.
      Yes, this photomontage is a shame : we have so much wonderful pictures of Marlene, why making an awfull fake ?

    17. Thanks for sharing, at least I know that I'm not missing out on any great music that I didn't have yet. I know you can play the record, but if you listen often enough the pictures will probably fade, no? I don't know why they used this fake, perhaps they thought it would sell... money money money!!

    18. I've enjoyed following the conversation between you two. It makes me happy to see other people have discussions about Marlene here. Also, I have never heard of this record! I would be curious to know the name of it and any possible identification number. Fake nude photos of celebs always give me a laugh because they remind me of how perilous searching online for celeb photos used to be. A decade ago, there were so many . . . well, creative photomontages of Britney Spears and Billie Piper (perhaps even together?).

    19. Hey Joseph,
      Glad you like it. I'm sorry that I haven't yet been able to write an entry. I'm so tangled up with my studies, bad timing since I had quite some time before. The good thing is that I now have actualy found one of the records where I wanted to write about.. Olé! Hope I can make time soon to write a contribution to the blog.

    20. I haven't got much time myself now because of studies and understand that. When you can post, I'll be overjoyed to read it! Especially if it's about records. I haven't talked much if at all about that topic, although I was interested at one time in discussing songs that sample Marlene songs.

  4. Glad I helped inspire this for you -- but the URL you listed for "Carole & Co." was incorrect. Use this...

    1. Sorry! I was lazy and took what appears in your Blogger profile.