26 November 2012

Maria Riva's eBook: The Tea and (no) Sympathy

Maria Riva, Katherine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Marlene Dietrich
All, this will be an uncharacteristically brief post from me. I contacted Random House about the eBook release of Maria Riva's biography, Marlene Dietrich, and received a cordial yet appalling reply:

Thank you for contacting Random House, Inc.  We appreciate your feedback and continued interest in our publications.

Our current production schedule shows the electronic release of Maria Riva's "Marlene Dietrich" is 3/11/2014.  This date can change at any time.

To be notified of when new releases for Ms. Riva are available we invite you to sign up for "author alerts" at the following link:

Thanks so much for your time.

2014??? Please let your interest in Maria's eBook be known! Read this post on how you can contact Random House. If you have more potential contacts, let me know.

19 November 2012

Random House, I Beseech Thee!

Marlene Dietrich Maria Riva
I have been excited about the eBook release of the original manuscript of Maria Riva's book, Marlene Dietrich, ever since I read about it on the "office" Marlene website. Unfortunately, there seems to be a delay.

On November 5, a person asked about the book on the official Marlene Dietrich Facebook page, and "Marlene Dietrich" stated that "Random House is dragging its heels." Well, I would like to express my interest in this release to Random House, and--if you share my sentiments--I urge you to do the same.

Contact Random House on Facebook to let them know that you want to purchase this eBook.

Contact Random House on Twitter to request its release, too. Please use the hashtag #teammariariva so that we can make our campaign trend.

Contact Random House on its website as well. If you have any specific, influential contacts at Random House, share them in the comments section. Better yet, ask on the official Marlene Dietrich Facebook page whom to contact at Random House. If you use my link, please feel free to copy-and-paste the following text in the Question/Comment box (or share what you have sent in the comments section):


I am an avid reader who is looking forward to the eBook release of Maria Riva's biography about her mother, Marlene Dietrich. It appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for several weeks in 1993 and will certainly find renewed success in electronic format.

Please let me know whom I should contact to express my interest in its release because I was hoping to purchase it during the upcoming holidays for myself as well as to buy more copies as gifts for all my friends and family members. I certainly don't want to resort to buying the Charlotte Chandler biography published by Simon & Schuster, which would be like putting coal in my loved ones' stockings.

[Your name]

14 November 2012

Marlene Dietrich's "Confidential" File

 Hot off the scanner, I present to you what is--to the best of my knowledge--the first English-language exposé on Marlene Dietrich's lesbian affairs, "The Untold Story of Marlene Dietrich" by Kenneth G. McLain, from the July 1955 issue of Confidential magazine.

Within that Mondrian abortion of a cover, McLain name-drops Claire Waldoff, Mercedes de Acosta, Frederique "Frede" Baule, and Jo Carstairs. Long before The National Enquirer and Perez Hilton, Confidential's Lavender Scare-era gossip threatened to tarnish the careers of "closeted" celebs, but not Marlene's! Those silly McCarthyists must not have known that Dietrich looked good in any color and that men's clothes were especially becoming on her. Nevertheless, it is dreadfully discomforting to recognize that the homophobic sport of outing is something of an American pastime.

If you were to tell me that another Mc--Diana McLellan--listed this article in the references of The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood with ten pages of "Ibid." after it, I would have believed you. I have to give McLellan some credit, though. It appears that she only cited this rag a few times.

Below I have transcribed the article (not the photo captions, though--sorry!) for you as well as uploaded image files of the article. As you'll see, there are no photos of Marlene with any of these alleged lovers, but the Confidential staff more than made up for it with shots of the most burly babes in Marlene's harem and of lovers Gabin and Remarque making perplexed faces. Also, notice that only Frede squawked. Who are the unnamed others who sold out Marlene? Any guesses?

12 November 2012

Dietrich Apocrypha: Eryk Hanut's I Wish You Love

The second blog entry in a series about Marlene Dietrich biographies that have not joined Maria Riva and Steven Bach's books in the Dietrich canon.

When I began writing this entry, my opening line was, "Like any genre, biographies tend to be cannibalistic." What hogwash! Those who have written biographical accounts about Marlene Dietrich may have often referenced each other, but I can't deny that they presented untapped sources that always stop me from throwing out their biographical babies with the bathwater. For example, Donald Spoto impressively managed to quote the then-unpublished memoirs of Marlene's acting school pal, Grete Mosheim, in his book, whereas the great Steven Bach merely cited Charles Higham's brief account about the two Berthold Held neophytes.

Rather than generalize all biographies, I should have only called Eryk Hanut's I Wish You Love: Conversations With Marlene Dietrich cannibalistic. It's as if he inverted the narrative of Goya's Saturn by devouring every available biographical account on Dietrich, regurgitating his readings to her, and eventually compiling her reactions in his own biographical account. Pardon me if that sounds unkind because I do in fact appreciate this book as a series of somewhat Socratic dialogues between Dietrich and Hanut. The questions that Hanut poses aren't the insipid fare. There's no "What was Hollywood like?" Well, almost nothing like that. Hanut does admit to asking, "What was it like, the war?" To which Marlene responds, "You are being really stupid" (p. 84). Usually, though, Hanut asks questions such as, "Who are your favorite painters, Marlene?" (p. 70). If you were the least bit cynical, you would probably suspect that Marlene's answer--Cézanne--came from her memoirs rather than any conversation that Hanut had with Dietrich. Who really knows?

I will be unambiguously skeptical about a few details, though, after reading a comment recently made by the inimitable Sauli Miettinen. Hanut recalls seeing Marlene perform in Paris when he was 8 years old. We later learn that Hanut was born in 1967. Let's do the math. 1967 plus 8 makes 1975. I, however, see no indication that Marlene performed in Paris during that year. We could give Hanut the benefit of the doubt because remembering one's childhood in terms of places and dates can be hazy. Perhaps he saw her when he was even younger or somewhere else altogether. I at least found evidence indicating that Hanut contributed to an exhibition of Marlene Dietrich photos, but in Charleroi rather than Brussels.

04 November 2012

Marlene Dietrich's Perfumes

 On my last trip to Berlin I visited numerous places that are in some way connected with Marlene Dietrich; my biggest hope was to see enormous collection of Marlene's property that the Filmmuseum (Deutsche Kinemathek) owns, but to my great disappointment, there were "only" few rooms of Dietrich's things on display. ;)

I was disappointed because one of the things I wanted to see were the flacons of Marlene's perfumes. I'm passionate about fragrances myself, so that interested me in particular-but, oh well, all the vintage bottles are lying in some Filmmuseum archive, temporarily hidden from the fan's curious eye. ;)

Even thought I didn't inspect what I wanted to, I'll try to answer the question: how did the Goddess smell?

In her 20s, she probably would wear No. 37 Veilchen (Pure Violet) perfume by Frau Tonis. The brand was just resurrected by the owner's granddaughter in 2009; they write on their website:
"Now to our final question: You also offer scents that once enthralled the legendary Marlene Dietrich?
Yes, that is correct. Dietrich’s favourite perfume was a scent as intense and eccentric as her she herself: pure violet. A scent that is dominated by the sweet, intense almost stubborn top note. This perfume may not capture the spirit of the time today, however, one can easily imagine how Berlin’s grande-dame of the roaring 20s once used this scent to cause quite the stir."
So I had to visit them.

I've bought the smallest version of this scent--it really is violet in all its glory--if you've ever drunk Creme de Violette from Monin, then the smell is exactly the same. I myself can imagine Marlene wearing this perfume in the 1920s Berlin; it's a bit sweet, intoxicating and very extravagant, but not as sophisticated as Dietrich's later olfactory choices.

So how did she smell like in the 1930s?

Various sources (like this, or this, or that one) mention Creed's Angelique Encens and Guerlain's Vol de Nuit, both from 1933.

These are the only two of Diva's scent that I haven't laid my hands on (at least not yet. ;) ) Creed dips in tuberose, which Marlene used to love, in jasmine,  and it's based on amber and incense--sounds very Dietrich, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the perfume is now discontinued and really hard to get.
Guerlain's Vol de Nuit is another interesting creation, my dream to get; absolute classic with its citrus head, floral-aldehyde body and warm, sandalwood and musk base. Perfect!

Tabac Blond from Caron (1919) is a fragrance that could be associated with Marlene even by its name. Leathery, full of tobacco, but softened by vanilla, it sounds possible that Dietrich would like it.

There's also a notice of Lelong's Indiscret from 1936, floral-woody perfume with galbanium- the same you can find in Vol de Nuit.

In the 1940s and 1950s, there was Piguet's Bandit from 1944-fragrance associated with Edith Piaf but, oh my, it screams Marlene. It's so feminine on one hand, but harsh and full of masculine tobacco on the other. I've found the info that Dietrich loved it repeated on various websites, especially those with Bandit's reviews.

Another Piguet's creation, Fracas from 1948, is also mentioned in one of the sources I've posted. The scent is very feminine, very sweet, it doesn't have the nerve as the above mentioned ones have. However, it's full of tuberose, so maybe that's why it appealed to Marlene?

Here you can find photo of Guerlain's Shalimar perfume that Marlene reputedly owned (it's a woody, oriental classic from 1925) and here a notice about the Young Dew scent (by Estee Lauder, 1953), another tuberose scent, this time spicy one, with cinnamon and earthy patchouli.

While smelling various scents that Dietrich was supposed to wear, remember one thing--most of them are now reformulated and don't always resemble their vintage versions. With this in mind, you can now go and check Marlene's taste in fragrances. ;-)