27 December 2012

Leni, wenn du Geburtstag hast?

Happy birthday to Marlene Dietrich, whose sultry birthday song, "Johnny," should have replaced the insipid American one. In honor of this day, I'll post my favorite cover of her song. Please share your favorite versions--by Marlene or by others--in the comments section.

26 December 2012

Dietrich vs Garbo: Dishonored & Mata Hari

Pitting Marlene Dietrich against Greta Garbo may be an unfair battle on a blog devoted to La Dietrich, but I've always wanted to compare the movies they made during the Great Depression, when their rivalry roared. Thus, I give you my thoughts on Dishonored and Mata Hari, two films that feature World War I women spies whose feminine foibles ultimately lead to their executions.

According to John Baxter, Josef von Sternberg whipped up Dishonored as an answer to Garbo's Mata Hari. When I read this, I thought, "Sternberg was a visionary, but I never realized that he was also a prophet!" Garbo Forever indicates that Mata Hari was in production during the fall of 1931, a year after Marlene made Dishonored, but let this not mislead us because Garbo Forever also quotes text from the November 9, 1930 issue of The New York Times, which suggests that the Mata Hari story had been a Garbo vehicle for quite some time.

In a later NYT article (March 15, 1931), movie critic Mordaunt Hall took a more diplomatic stance and wrote that "it was reported simultaneously through the offices of Paramount Publix and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo were going to play the role of Mata Hari." Regardless of which screen siren had first dibs on the spy role, Dishonored premiered on March 5, 1931, giving everyone working on Mata Hari ample time to steer the film in a different direction, and I shall explore whether they did. . . .