19 September 2012

Is Dietrich Through? (2/2)

In their January 1933 edition the fan magazine, Photoplay, published an exclusive interview with Marlene by Ruth Biery. Dietrich's "startling statements" promised to answer the questions that "kept the public and studios agog". (We presented Part One of the interview on Monday.)


Her American life has not been happy. Her first year -- Mrs Von Sternberg's suit for alienation of affections. The suit was understandable from an wholly American viewpoint -- it was completely a puzzle from Marlene's European one. She had a husband. He understood. Why should not Mr Von Sternberg's wife do the same? she reasoned. Incidentally, I have known both Marlene and Von Sternberg since she first came and I have always said both in print and in person that Marlene's devotion has always been as she now explains it.

A mental and, to her, common sense one. Then -- the fight on "Blonde Venus". Von Sternberg did not want to direct it. The studio wished to make the story saccharine. He bolted. Richard Wallace was assigned as director. She bolted. You now know why. Von Sternberg really went back and directed that picture for the sake of Marlene. He hated it then -- he hates it now. And no man can do a truly great picture with a story which he hates.

And then -- the kidnapping threats for her baby. Any description of her suffering would sound like an exaggeration. That Marlene Dietrich has a mother complex, no American would question. To her, the extend of her love is is only as natural as her refusal to be directed by any man other than the one who bridged the screen chasm for her. The letters she received were made up of words clipped from newspapers to avoid trace of handwriting. People said it was a joke.

They continued for six weeks. Each new letter showed a new knowledge of her movements. Why had she hired detectives? Why had she taken her child to such and such a place the day before? Marlene Dietrich was close to a mad woman. Neither she nor her child even now stir in the open today without armed guards.

The bars on the windows of her home are inches thick.

During the thick of the daily threats, she received word from the department of immigration that the two German maids should return home. She wrote back that she was employing eleven Americans -- nine of whom were made necessary by the dangers of this country.

Must she send away the two Germans, the only ones whom she could trust with her child? -- The American government let them remain.

Then -- the Chevalier gossip. Marlene and Maurice are friends. But -- she laughs . "They forget that I am married and I am not divorcing my husband. He is coming for Christmas and then we shall be really happy and gay."

Her husband has had many clothes made for Marlene at her tailors in Paris. He sent these clothes back to Marlene with Maurice Chevalier! Again, perhaps only Europeans could fully understand friendships like these.

I do not believe Marlene will cry when she sails to sing in the theatres of Paris and Berlin.

"My child will be safe over there --" A throb in her voice when she says it. "Not no more troubles. We all have them. But less troubles and not so much silly talk.

"But I am happy to be able to give so many Americans work in protecting me from these strange customs. Some good has come --"

Her eyes twinkle.

I think they will twinkle when she waves goodbye to the Statue of Liberty which has not meant liberty at all for her.

Impossible, perhaps, for an American to vision happiness at waving goodbye to thestatue!

Impossible, perhaps also, for a European like Marlene, to vision happiness at waving it a second welcome! 


  1. Thanks again for sharing this! By the way, everyone, you can find scans of this issue of Photoplay at Internet Archive.

    1. great! enjoyed the article very much also nice to see where it came from. Thanks!!

  2. Afterthought: the lesbian "scandal" in the Confidential magazine (vol. 3, no. 3, July 1955) article, "The Untold Story of Marlene Dietrich," would be a great piece to share here and on Tumblr. My research has led me to the conclusion that the issue (and its content) are now in the public domain because its copyright wasn't renewed in 1983.* I'd like others to help research that, though. Anyway, I'd be more than happy to transcribe the article if someone could make some good scans of it.

    *On that note, was the copyright of any Confidential issues renewed? I gather that the first issue was published in 1952, and that the magazine and its founder, Robert Harrison, croaked in 1978, two years before that first issue would have been due for copyright renewal.

  3. Joseph, the Internet Archive is a great resource! I don't have that copy of "Confidential", but it would make a great read. Was the copyright of Marlene's 1953 article for "Ladies Home Journal" renewed?

    Regarding this interview, I think it's fascinating that Dietrich was downplaying her early career, even then. And the explanation of her private life: those europeans! The article seems part contract renegation ploy (leaving to sing in Europe) and part damage control (Mrs von Sternberg / Mrs Chevalier).

    1. missladiva, I'm not sure. The copyright of that issue (it was Vol. 71, no. 1, Jan. 1954, right? With the "How To Be Loved" piece?) was renewed in 1981 (I checked this catalog, searched "ladies home journal" as the title, resorted the records by date, and found it in 1953). Steven Bach, however, wrote that the piece was copyrighted to Marlene. If that's true, I can't find any indication that anything by Marlene from around that time had its copyright renewed.

  4. By the way, I question the completeness of that copyright database. It doesn't appear that Marlene's original ABC had its copyright renewed, which shocks me. The revised edition published by Ungar Pub. Co. was registered in 1984, but only the revisions (the "new matter") are covered by that copyright claim, not the material originally published in the Doubleday first edition in 1962. If that 1962 edition were renewed, that would have taken place in 1990.