28 November 2013

Dietrich in Vegas: She Glittered And Gleamed So!

Nescafé society” – as Noel Coward dubbed those who frequented Las Vegas – was introduced to “the most glamorous star in the world – the woman and the legend”, Marlene, when Dietrich made her cabaret début at the Sahara Hotel's Congo Room in December 1953.

They worked on me for two years and kept upping the salary until I could no longer refuse,” she explained to the press about her record $ 30 000 per week fee (for a three week season: three shows a night).

I had to come out here to Las Vegas and see the place first. I came here twice before I really decided.

I was really convinced when I came to see Tallulah Bankhead. She did a serious dramatic bit – a Dorothy Parker piece – and you could hear a pin drop. You could never do a thing like that in a New York night club, or in a night club anywhere else.”

On her opening night, Marlene appeared in a flash of sequins and a waft of fur, purred “hello” to an appreciative audience (including Billy Wilder, Van Heflin, Mercedes McCambridge, Louella Parsons, and Jimmy McHugh) and appropriately crooned “Baubles Bangles and Beads” to Buddy Cole's accompaniment.

The “glitter and gleam” promised in the lyric was supplied by designer Jean Louis, who had gathered some sparkle clusters onto a barely-there foundation – a so-called “nude dress”. Marlene insisted that it lived up to its name: “The only thing underneath” the $ 8 000 “revue costume”, she said, was “a gaiter belt to hold the stockings, period.

The Dress caused a press sensation when the opening night's photos made it into newspapers. “It's the most daring gown I've ever seen on a stage,” gushed one longtime newspaper man.

That the photos revealed more than even Dietrich professed to have intended, only added additional sizzle.

These photographs were shot from a low angle, and these rhinestones didn't even register,” Marlene half-heartedly protested, pointing to strategically placed beads at the costume's bust-line. It “wasn't designed to be photographed up close, or to be looked at up close,” she explained. Besides – “this is Las Vegas. If you can't wear it here, you can't wear it anywhere. I have several costumes like this. I will alternate them. I would not want to disappoint any individual audience.”

The show was brief. She sang “The Boys in the Back Room”, “La Vie en Rose”, “You've Got That Look”, “The Laziest Gal in Town”, “Lili Marlene”, “Jonny”, “Lola” and the “inevitable” “Falling in Love Again”.

For the finalé, Marlene changed into her circus ringmaster costume. Max Colpet had written a special lyric for her, “The Beast in Me” (set to “The Entrance of the Gladiators”). With whip in hand, and while show girls in animal costume moved around in and about cages, she sang:

“Lions, tigers, small cats, tall cats
You just name them  – I will tame them …

“There is one beast that was never tamed
And that beast ... that beast is me!

Many men have tried their chance in vain,
One went nuts – two died in France and Spain ...

Do or die, I must discover
My superman, my only lover.
Then I skip my boots and whip
And flip ... and flip ... and flip

Where is that man?”
During the run, Marlene celebrated her (officially, 48th) birthday with a six-tiered, four-hundred pound birthday cake. There were no candles on the cake, jested the staff of the Sahara Hotel, because they “couldn't afford it after paying her that money”. (Not that they had reason to complain – 1,937 people had seen Dietrich perform the previous evening, which had set a Vegas attendance record.)

Working in Las Vegas was “fun” – “and much easier than making films,” but “different than when I sang for the troops during the war. If there'd been servicemen out there when I sang 'Lili Marlene' they would have brought the house down."

I'd like to come back to Las Vegas,” she said near the end of her season. “I don't think any other place can pay the money.

The town was “a funny place”, though: “I always thought that when you're a success, you're held over. Here, the next act is already here, waiting for me to get out. Donald O'Connor has been hanging around for days. I came in here yesterday, and the girls in the line were rehearsing – not for me, but for Donald O'Connor's show.

It gave me a strange feeling.”

24 October 2013

The White Rabbit and Marlene in Kismet, a perfect match!

Hey guys,

I haven't posted in ages.  But since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I'd share a little mash-up of Marlene's BRILLIANT dance in Kismet + the song "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.  They are basically a perfect match!


SOMEHOW it works well with Britney too:


Jeremy B. 

29 September 2013

Things That Irk Me

If you are going to take original content from this site, please cite us as a source. I consider this blog an interactive resource of Marlene Dietrich-related information, and I hope all our readers realize that we do a lot of research. Anyone is free to question, criticize, or correct our findings because I stand firmly against censorship, which isn't the case at others blogs where comment moderation is the norm. If we call you out for taking our content without crediting us, don't suppress our comments on your blog and come here to tell us that you cite your sources when you don't cite us. I will call you out in a blog post, with screen captures and all!

The offending blogger, named Ada, published "Style: Marlene Dietrich in ‘Angel’" at Classiq on January 22, 2013, which directly quoted text from "A Million Grains of Golden Caviar," published here by missladiva almost two years before--on January 31, 2011. Let's review the facts.

Ada wrote (as you can see in the above screen capture that I present as evidence):
"A Million Grains of Golden Caviar": that’s what Diana Vreeland called this beaded gown when she exhibited it at the Metropolitan Museum in 1974 as part of the Costume Institute’s ”Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design” retrospective. The dress, adorned with red and green cabochons, was reportedly inspired by the mastery of Fabergé,
Compare this to missladiva's words: 
A Million Grains of Golden Caviar [title] That's what Diana Vreeland called this breathtaking, beaded gown when she exhibited it at the Metropolitan Museum in 1974 as part their Costume Institute's "Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design" retrospective. The dress, designed by Travis Banton for Marlene to wear in Angel, was reportedly inspired by the mastery of Fabergé.
 Missladiva pointed out the plagiarism to me, and I commented on it at Ada's blog, Classiq. Of course, you don't see my comment because Ada hasn't approved it. Instead, Ada from Classiq visited us to comment, which is quite easy because we censor no one (except blatant spammers). She overlooked the text that she had taken for her article as she scrolled down to our comments section and stated, "If you happened to read some other of my Style in film posts, you might have noticed that I always credit my sources, unlike the majority of the sites and blogs writing about similar subjects." Well, she obviously doesn't cite all her sources because she didn't cite us! Tell me, do you see missladiva or Last Goddess Blog in Ada's references?

 Do you know what else I found? There's text in her article that also appears on the Vogue Italy website. Take a look at the above screen capture and note this sentence: "She would only pose for photographer Rudolph Maté, who contributed to create her sharp yet full of refined sensuality look; every photograph had to be of immaculate taste." Compare it to page 2 of this Vogue Italy article: "The German diva started right away to act in films relized by her trustworthy director, von Sternberg, and would only pose for photographer Rudolph Maté, who contributed to create her sharp image yet full of refined sensuality." Unfortunately, the Vogue Italy article lacks a date, but it's clear that someone here was plagiarizing! Oh, and by the way, that Maté information is inaccurate.

23 September 2013

Lulu or Lola?

      I think most classic films fans are familiar with G.W. Pabst's late 1920s movie, Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box). It immortalized Louise Brooks as an uninhibited, carefree erotic Lulu. But not as many know how close Marlene was to being forever remembered as Lulu, instead of Lola. Discover what I've found in Louise's biography by Barry Paris (which was itself based partly on "Lulu in Hollywood").

source: x

     The search for the actress who would be suitable to play the role of Lulu lasted for a long time. Paul Falkenberg, Pabst's assistant director, remembered that for months he had been presenting the great director with literally every possible candidate for the role, but he turned them all down.

     Eventually, it looked like the choice was made and the girl to play Lulu would be... 27-year-old Marlene. The legend has it that Dietrich was just about to sign a contract when a cable from Paramount (Brook's studio) came; it carried the information that Louise is available to play in Pandora's Box; the dark-haired flapper later realised that if she hadn't acted at once, her opportunity would have been lost.

     Everyone was shocked that Pabst has chosen an American do play Lulu. Many magazines ran it as a first-page story material, among them Film-Illustrierte and Neue Berliner. Some felt insulted that there wasn't even one German girl good enough to get the part. Others were already fascinated by the newcomer. Needless to say, Marlene was sure she would have been a better choice.

source: xx

      Why did it happen? Pabst was afraid that Dietrich would turn the movie into a "burlesque", considering her seductive manner. Louise Brooks later defended that opinion by saying that in the 1928, Marlene wasn't the sleek and sophisticated Hollywood siren, but rather the luscious starlet wrapped in satins, furs and beads... Plus Brooks was about five years younger, which was also of great importance.

     What do you think - was this really possible that Dietrich was considered to play in Pabst's movie?After all, most of film history is a great tale of who was to play/direct/produce what and why it has turned out otherwise... Anyway, could you imagine a different Lulu?

11 August 2013

Maria Riva's Blind Items Pt. 7

¿Quién es esa niña?
Due to my lack of motivation, Maria Riva's blind items have been on the blog's back burner, but some kind words from superliz6 at Tumblr have encouraged me to turn the heat up on them because many mysterious identities remain in Riva's oeuvre about her mother, Marlene Dietrich, including this one that superliz6 has brought to my attention.

During Christmas of 1963, a children's book writer barged in on Massy and the Rivas' festivities to carnally console Dietrich, still in mourning after the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy. By 1964, Marlene was lamenting the plane crash death of this "lady author," who was none other than Nancy Spain. Despite Riva's characterization, Spain wrote much more than juvenile literature, including perhaps this account.

Finding reference to Spain in other Dietrich bios has been quite a chore. In fact, I had to dust off Leslie Frewin's reworked 1967 book, Dietrich: The Story of a Star, to find mention of Spain. According to Frewin, Spain hurled threats at him to keep him from writing his Dietrich bio. Frewin incorrectly locates Dietrich's first meeting with Spain at the Theatre de l'Etoile in 1959, where they realized they shared fashion tastes. Frewin also describes an extensive interview that Spain conducted with Dietrich the following day. In addition to Marlene's revelation that she medicated roses with aspirin, the two "talked of clothes and beauty and men." Obviously, the most unfathomable part of that sentence is that men were a topic of their conversation. Please share this interview if you have it because David Bret wrote that it was "thought to have been [Dietrich's] most explicit ever." Bret may be the only other Anglophone Dietrich biographer to recognize Spain, quoting Marlene as saying that Nancy introduced her to Gilbert Becaud, the composer of "Marie, Marie." Those of you more knowledgeable of Nancy Spain will certainly flesh out the details of this blind item, as I have only just ordered Nancy's cookbook and memoir.

10 August 2013

10 Great Women, As Chosen by Marlene Dietrich

In 1942, as publicity for The Lady is Willing, Marlene shared her selection of the ten greatest women of the time with Hollywood magazine's Jack Dallas. Her choices:


Dorothy Thompson, the distinguished journalist, because she has finally proved that a woman’s opinions concerning the troubled world in which we live can be as searching, profound and constructive as those of male minds; because her soundness has come to be generally recognized and her influence universally felt; and because she has managed to combine a successful career with successful motherhood.


Helen Keller, because, despite the terrifying handicap of being born without sight, speech, or hearing, she has become an international symbol of the triumph of the human will against all-out adversity; because she has turned her handicaps into assets; and because, above all, she is living a rich and useful life.


Queen Elizabeth of England [later Queen Mother], because she is attractive  without intent, charming without effort, impressive without guile, and ladylike without apology, she is the most ultra-feminine woman in the world; and because she has always managed to be effacing enough to highlight the personality of her husband, the King.


Amelia Earhart, that slim, spare figure of a woman, because she set her compass on Life and never changed her course; because she lived for a purpose; and because she died heroically, a falling star plunging into an uncharted ocean and, surely, saluting with a smile and a wave of the hand the sun or the moon as her plane plummeted her to an unknown destiny.


Alice Marble, the tennis champion, because she is the perfect embodiment of athletic femininity, healthy without being horsey; and because, in her capacity of National Director of Physical Training for Women she is using her gifts for the general good.


Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, because she is one of the world’s most brilliant women; because she is aiding her great husband, the Generalissimo, in preserving China in the face of unending peril; and because she is bringing a new freedom to the women of China.


Clare Boothe, because she undeniably is one of the most fascinating conversationalists; and because she knows women and has held up a mirror so we could see ourselves. (Or did you miss The Women?)


Eve Curie, because she is of the bandbox type; because she can travel light and appear to be convoyed by a trailer filled with Schiaparellis; because she does not follow fashion but leads it — gently.


Greta Garbo, because where there’s Garbo there’s tension; and because she has proved that furbelows are foolish and mystery is marvelous.


Nellie Manley, my hair-dresser for eight years, not only because she does her job well but also because she has no apologies for its lack of lustre; because she is neither amused by glamour, deceived by glitter and tinsel, or ravaged by ambition; because she is a true philosopher and can take life as it comes, and be cause, totally free from complexes and frustrations, she is at peace with herself and wouldn't change places with Marlene Dietrich for the Taj Mahal.

31 July 2013

From Marlene Dietrich's Hotplate: Banana Trifle

A onetime chef at one of Marlene's favourite Parisian restaurants wrote a book about dishes the star liked to order (for delivery, naturally), and Dietrich herself shared some dish in her ABCs, but no-one has yet published  "The Way To Cook With Maria Riva's Mutti".

The recipe for Banana Trifle below may or may not be Dietrich's: it was called hers in a 1943 edition of the fan magazine Hollywood, not always a reliable source. Certainly, the lack butter or dill in a Dietrich recipe is suspect, but this may have been the sort of thing John Wayne liked between takes on the set of Pittsburgh.

You will need:

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 heaping tsp cornstarch
1 even tsp sugar
1/2  tsp salt
2 bananas
6 ladyfingers
1/2 pint cream or whipped white of one egg


Slice bananas and lay them in a glass dish in alternate layers with four ladyfingers split in two. Heat milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, salt and the cornstarch which has been diluted in a little cold water. When thick, pour over the bananas, and let stand until cold. Then cover top with whipped cream. Split remaining ladyfingers in two, and place them upright around the edge.


30 July 2013

Marti, Marlene and Mother

In her memoir, singer Eileen Farrell remembers the time she and a friend, Shirley Cowell, were invited by Marti Stevens' mother, Pansy Schenck, to catch Marlene's show in Miami .

[Marti Stevens]
(Pansy's husband was one-time 20th Century-Fox executive, Joe Schenck.):
"Now, I don't think Pansy had much of a clue about what any of her children were up to, but I thought she must have heard the rumours that Marti was having an affair with Marlene Dietrich, because it was fairly common gossip in show business circles.
The show was absolutely fabulous, even though Marlene couldn't sing worth a damn. Afterward, the three went backstage to meet Dietrich. Pansy introduced herself:
'Hello,' she said, 'I'm Mrs Joe Schenck. I think you know my daughter, Marti.'
There was a perfectly timed pause. Then Marlene said with a knowing smile, 'Oh yes. I do.'
Shirley and I wanted to die right then and there. Pansy just kept chattering away, and I don't think she ever figured out  why Shirley and I were so tongue-tied."
 (From: Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell, by Eileen Farrell and Brian Kellow. UPNE, 1999.)

13 July 2013

Shine On! Marlene Dietrich, Interviewed at Grosvenor House. London, 1974.

(Thank you to the Crees Collection for sharing yet another gem: this interview with Marlene, preparing for her performances at London's Grosvenor House in 1974.)

by Roger Falk

The omens were not promising. At midnight she had railed at photographers who ambushed her at London Airport. “Why aren’t you all home in your beds?” she snapped, and then, rather than be photographed in a wheelchair, had endured the painful long walk to the terminal building from the aircraft. The next day a surprised radio reporter was bundled away from her suite at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. His crime: asking silly questions. A national newspaper writer, awaiting audience, was being softened up by her publicity man. “Now you won’t ask her about her age, her family or her leg ?” he implored. “Don’t be so bloody wet,” came the robust retort. “‘If I don’t ask her about her leg, it’ll be like interviewing Nelson and not  mentioning the eye and the arm.”

03 July 2013

Dressed to Kill Must Have Been Marlene Dietrich's Fav Angie Dickinson Flick!

Don't you think?

When I read Burt Bacharach's autobiography, Anyone Who Had a Heart, I realized that lyricists Hal David and Carole Bayer Sager performed a crucial role by putting words to the Gershwin Prize-winning composer's music. Without their poetic nuances and Bacharach's Sybil-esque signature shifts, Burt's story in prose reads more like a raw interview transcript, yet from this candor emerges some amusing accounts.

Overlooking the laudatory excerpt from Marlene Dietrich's own memoirs, I will gloss over the Dietrich-related anecdotes in Burt's book. Like in Josef von Sternberg's Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Marlene is the subject of an entire chapter. Burt entitles his the unimaginative "The Blue Angel" and even repeats almost verbatim his recollections published in A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered and Charlotte Chandler's Dietrich bio. Burt's already-documented memories include meeting Marlene through Peter Matz, sipping on her beef tea after a game of tennis, facing bomb threats during Dietrich's 1960 German tour (in Duesseldorf or Wiesbaden? Burt says the former in the earlier publications), Quincy Jones questioning why a hit songwriter like Bacharach was still going on the road with Dietrich, and Marlene's unrealized plans to record "Any Day Now" with Burt during her seclusion on Avenue Montaigne. Despite Burt's lack of literary prowess, he did manage to capture Marlene's indignation over Frank Sinatra snubbing "Warm and Tender" far better than professional biographer Charlotte Chandler.

Don't let me mislead you into believing that Burt's book will leave you thirsty. Mr. Bacharach has got pitchers of tea to spill! Despite creating such passionate and poignant arrangements for Marlene, Burt admits that he wasn't a fan of her repertoire. Conversely, Marlene didn't like his protege, Stan Freeman. Burt even reveals that--on one drunken night in Vegas--he rejected Marlene's kisses and invitation to her room. Perhaps Burt has a hazy memory, though, because he also informs us that Dietrich could speak Spanish. Then, Burt throws a curve ball of a story about a juggler accidentally dropping a ball on Dietrich's head before her Leningrad show, causing her to suffer temporary lyrical amnesia. Please tell me there is extant footage of this performance!

As I had expected, the sweetest drops of Burt's book are the bile that Marlene spewed over Angie Dickinson. On the Daily Mail website, you can read an excerpt from Burt's book about the tension between the two ladies, which led to Marlene engaging in witchcraft. Be aware, however, that the language was toned down because--according to Burt's book--Marlene did not merely call Angie a slut but also a, um, well, the word that rhymes with "stunt." Forget about that, though. Can you imagine Marlene eating Kentucky Fried Chicken?

22 June 2013

Rudolf Sieber Talks: Eggs, Marriage and Marlene Dietrich

(This interview with Rudolf Sieber was originally published in the The Milwaukee Sentinel, on 13 March 1960.)

By Jean C. Bosquet

On the side of the gate of a chicken ranch in San Fernando, California, not far from Hollywood, is a two-foot –square sign reading: “EGGS” and two cowbells with a cord attached to them.

Pull the cord, and the clatter of cowbells will bring a slight 62-year-old man hurrying from an outbuilding to take your order. He has a lean, pink, sensitive face with twinkling blue eyes, and wisps of sandy hair can be seen under the edge of his blue beret. He wears faded blue denims and rough work shoes. He is Rudolf Sieber, for 35 years the husband of exotic Marlene Dietrich, one of the world’s most glamorous women since she rocked to screen stardom in The Blue Angel.

Rudy Sieber has often been referred to during those years as the “forgotten” man in Marlene’s life, but if he’s been forgotten it hasn’t been by his 55-year-old actress wife. He, himself, has chosen to be the silent partner in the strangest marriage in all the history of show business. The couple has been separated by an ocean or a continent, or both, 90 percent of the time, and Marlene has been linked romantically with one dashing male celebrity after another.

Rudy Sieber has shunned interviewers since 1931, when another man’s ex-wife charged La Dietrich with alienation of affections and Rudy rushed to the defense of his beloved Marlene.

Why has this marriage survived the long separations, the vast difference in modes of living, and countless divorce rumours through the years?

Sieber was breaking a silence of almost 30 years when he answered, simply but intensely: “Because it’s as good a marriage today as it was in 1924, when it was performed. The bond between us is just as strong. Only death will end our marriage.”

What about the years when Marlene was reportedly in love with French actor Jean Gabin, then novelist Erich Remarque, then actor Michael Wilding, and most recently Iva S. V. Patcevitch, New York magazine executive?

“Of course she has been rumoured in love with this one and that one,” says Rudy. “She is a glamorous woman, and a glamorous woman is supposed to be surrounded by romance at all times.

What of the shocking contrast between the faded blue denims, the pink stucco bungalow, the littered ranch yard – and the glittering world that is Marlene’s?

“This is Marlene’s home,” said Rudy. “She has her apartments in New York and in Paris, but when she is in California she lives here. Our daughter, Maria Riva, and our three grandchildren spent last Easter here.
Will Marlene live permanently at the ranch when she retires?

“Why should she retire? She keeps getting better all the time. I went to Las Vegas twice to see her show at the Sahara and was as proud of her as I was 35 years ago, when she was just beginning. Now she’s appearing in Paris again, and how they love her there! Am I still in love with her? More than ever.”

And despite the fact that Marlene seldom speaks of her husband to any of her intimates of business associates, the devotion in this fabulous marriage doesn’t seem one-sided. When Rudy had a heart attack in 1956 Marlene sped from Paris to Los Angeles to be at his side until he was out of danger. In 1944, before he bought the chicken ranch, Marlene nursed him through pneumonia in a Hollywood apartment. And for more than two decades, it was Marlene who made the vehement denials when the divorce rumours recurred.

“You do not consider the possibility that love might have something to do with our marriage!” she cried out to one interviewer. “I consider Mr Sieber the perfect husband and father.”

Marlene was 20 when, in 1924, she was sent from the Max Reinhardt school of dramatic art in Berlin to a film studio for an extra’s job. There she met Rudy, an assistant casting director, who advised her to put up her long blonde hair. She took his advice and won a part. She married him on May 13 of that year and became a hausfrau. Their daughter Maria was born in 1925 and Marlene went back to screen work and the stage.

She was appearing in a satirical stage revue when director Josef von Sternberg saw her and cast her in the role opposite Emil Jannings in The Blue Angel, which was being filmed in Germany. The movie catapulted Marlene to stardom when it was released in 1930, and von Sternberg brought her to Hollywood where Paramount Pictures signed her and, with von Sternberg’s guidance, she went into an orbit in which she’s still spinning.

But only a year later von Sternberg’s wife, Riza, after divorcing him, sued Marlene for “stealing” the director’s love. That’s when Rudy Sieber stoutly declared: “I know that the charge against my wife is utterly unfounded.”

The case never did reach court, and from that day until now, Rudy has never felt it necessary to invade the area spotlighted for his perennially spectacular wife.

“I have never wanted publicity, and I don’t want it now,” he said. “What good would publicity have done me when I was an assistant casting director, or when I worked for Paramount in Paris, or when I dubbed foreign version films at 20th Century-Fox in Hollywood? And what do I want with publicity now? I don’t need it to sell my eggs.”

Rudy began his chicken ranching in 1953 because he was “tired of living in big cities” and wanted seclusion and quiet. Now he has 9 000 chickens and employs several helpers. He’s highly regarded in the San Fernando Valley community and doesn’t want his desire for seclusion to be taken as meaning he’s a recluse.

“How can I be called a recluse? I go to visit my friend in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and they come to visit me and Marlene comes here too, doesn’t she? Is that being a recluse?”

He basks in the radiation of his wife’s glamour as she suns herself in the ranch yard or slinks through the rooms of the bungalow which, for him, is reward enough for being “forgotten”.

17 June 2013

Charles Marawood: Marlene Dietrich's "Boomerang" Baby

Charles Marawood wrote the two songs from “the room of the boomerang” in Marlene’s concert repertoire: her pseudo-rock foray, “Boomerang Baby” and  the haunting anti-war ballad (one of several in Dietrich’s arsenal), “White Grass”.

Born in Sydney in the 1920s, Marawood spent World War II as a member of the AIF; after the war he enrolled at the Sydney Conservatorium to study composition and harmony. He wrote a musical play in the early 1950s but was unable to secure a London production of it. Back in Australia, he continued to write and perform his own songs, also writing for other singers.

He briefly gained recognition in 1965 – around the time of Marlene’s first Australian concert tour – when he supplied all the music for an Aussie music TV series, Boomeride  (which featured both “Boomerang Baby” and White Grass”; a young Olivia Newton-John was one of the performers on the show).

["Boomeride" soundtrack performances of "White Grass" (vocals by Doug Kennedy, above) and "Boomerang Baby" (vocals by Tony Cole, below)]

While Marlene was performing  in Melbourne that year, Marawood auditioned her some of his songs.

Among them was “White Grass” which she thought a “very, very tragic song against war”, finding its theme of a returning soldier “quite a new angle”:   “I was fascinated with the song when he brought it to me because I’m always trying to look for songs that have a meaning, and since “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I have never found anything quite like it.”

[Marlene sings "White Grass" ...]

Its antithesis was “Boomerang Baby” -- “a very gay song”.

[... and "Boomerang Baby"]

She decided to include both in her programme. Marawood accompanied Marlene to Sydney, her next stop on the tour, to polish the lyrics. She planned to record both songs in London; this seems not to have happened, although her interpretations are preserved on both her 1968 and 1972 TV specials.

According to Dietrich, they kept in touch. Other Marawood  songs popped up in some  Australian movies and TV series during the 1970s. One producer who worked with him during this time called him “a real eccentric ... he wore way-out clothes, capes and things like that, and his house was crammed full of amazing stuff” and found his music “great. He was very talented, but I don’t think he ever got the recognition he deserved.”

[Composer Charles Marawood sings his own song, "Aussie" (1965)]

When New Zealand singer Jennifer Ward-Lealand included “White Grass” in a 2007 tribute to Dietrich, she had to track down Marawood’s widow to obtain the necessary permissions to record the song.

[More information about Charles Marrawood and the "Boomeride" TV show is available here and here; a needledrop of its  LP soundtrack has been posted here; the photo of Charles Marawood is from this 1965 article in "The Age".]

25 May 2013

Marlene Dietrich Shows Her Hand

We've previously reported a grapholgist's interpretation of Marlene's scrawl, but what would a palm reader have predicted?

This palm print of Marlene was made in Berlin in 1930:

A German, Marianne Raschig, collected over thousand such hand prints of the famous (and less so) between the 1870s to the 1930s. She must have spent some time at UFA: other prints include those of  Josef von Sternberg, Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre, Lilian Harvey, Brigitte Helm, Louise Brooks and Leni Riefenstahl.

They are all being auctioned by Sotheby's in June.

22 May 2013

She's in the Air

There's been some talk about Marlene on the airwaves recently:

  • Peter Riva recalled Marlene's death  for the BBC's programme, Witness (and shared other memories of his glamorous granny, too).
  • Burt Bacharach, whose autobiography will be released soon, remembers working with Marlene early in his career.
  • Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin's Werner Sudendorf talks about the collection in this German interview.

14 May 2013

Marlene Dietrich Interview: It's the Money I Work For! (1965)

(Thanks to the Crees Collection for sharing this interview with Marlene! The article likely dates from August 1965, when Marlene was doing a British concert tour.)

By Clive Hirschhorn

THE atmosphere round the theatre was thick with reverence. Though there were still two hours to go before Marlene Dietrich would emerge from the stage door after her performance that night, already a crowd of admirers had gathered. The doorman remarked to me that he couldn't remember when business had been so good — and his sentiments and awe were echoed by a young girl, who, with a rubber stamp bearing a facsimile of Miss Dietrich’s autograph, banged out the star’s name on dozens of photographs which would later be distributed to the audience. I was duly beckoned and, to the envy of her adoring fans, was escorted to the Number One dressing room where Marlene was waiting for me. She had just finished a matinee and was clad in a dressing-gown. She was tired — and not even the heavy make-up she was wearing could. disguise this fact; or hide the lines on her face or the fatigue in her eyes. La Dietrich, I discovered, was human after all.


Why, at 61, I asked her, did she continue to work so hard? (Her engagement book is full for the next two years.)

“For  the money.” she said flatly.

I looked at her somewhat surprised. “Yes. For the money.” She repeated. “What else for ? ”

She leaned forward and picked up a publicity hand-out which advertised the dates of her future concerts — in Golders Green,  Edinburgh,  Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol.  She had just finished engagements in Brighton and Birmingham.

“Do you think this is glamorous? That this is a great life,  and that I do it for my health?  Well, it isn’t. It's hard work. And who would work if they didn't have to? 

08 May 2013

Marlene (2000), movie review

Marlene (2000) movie trailer:

      Marlene is a movie made in 2000, shot in Germany and Italy. Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, starring Katja Flint as Dietrich, Herbert Knaup as Rudi and Heino Ferch as Carl Seidlitz. It was made with Maria & Peter Riva's help. Apparently, it's one of the most expensive German movies in second half of 20th century, costing 17,800,000 marks. The film focuses on Dietrich's life from the roaring 20s to the 70s, but the story is told here only in brief episodes.

Movie version of 1920s Marlene. (source)

     There are some very good sides of this movie. One of them is the usage of Marlene's original recordings/fragments of motion pictures (The Blue Angel, to be exact) and photos. Unfortunatelly, some of the photos are used in wrong contexts (ex. there's Marlene Kismet promo photograph shown in a "1930s" newspaper).

     The make-up departement did quite a good job on characterization. Katja Flint's brows and cheekbones are very convincing, especially when you compare her Dietrich-look to her day-to-day one. However, there are two things that bother me: first one is that the make-up hardly changes during the scenes that represent 1920s, 1930s, 1940s. Dietrich make-up and therefore, the look of her face, changed a lot, especially during the 1930s. Another dissonance is that Katja's eyes are left brown. I constantly felt there's something wrong, brown-eyed Marlene just didn't seem right!

On The Blue Angel set (source)

     However, I have to give credit to Flint's acting. She was good, maybe not terribly convincing, but surely she did well in portraying Marlene's face expressions, looks and gestures. And the way she says "But Pappi..." is just wonderfull!

     People working on costumed also did neat job, HOWEVER, there were some mistakes (nothing's ever too good ;) ). For example, Marlene's famous velvet-and-mink costume from The Scarlet Empress is made of red velvet in this movie; in Maria Riva's book, it was described as green. The lingerie she's wearing isn't period-perfect ( bras used in the movie seem to have too modern, underwired, rounded shape).

      Emil Jannings (Armin Rohde) was pictured just the way as I've imagined him; his big star behaviour, on the set and off, was shown to perfection. The portrayal of von Sternberg (by Hans Werner Meyer) was not bad either, but I think they made him a bit too temperamental.

      Last but not Least, I really like the job that the scriptwriter did. There are many details from Marlene's life that are nicely put here and there throughout the movie; her superstitions, her dolls, the nicknames used in Marlene's family...

Loneliness. (source)

      Not surprisingly, there are also some flaws. Lots of facts are out of their contexts (Mae West meeting Marlene during her garden party-we all know the ladies didn't get together outside the Paramount studio; Marlene being called in the press the box office poison in 1944; that actually happened in 1938. Moreover, in the movie Marlene is happy to let the newspaper reporter interview Maria; we know that just wouldn't happen in real life).

     Many interesting facts and events are skipped-like the romances with Gilbert, Remarque, or at least with Gabin; he was a big part of her life. But this is easy to understand, if someone wanted to include all of the interesting episodes from Dietrich's life, the film would be one of the longest ever made.

     Another point on the drawbacks list is that Marlene character is portrayed not perfectly true to what we have read about, for example in Maria's book; in the 1920s, we see Marlene, who is a very loud party girl, kissing girls in front of many, many people, in a cheap, tacky way. I know Marlene never was a saint, but I don't think that she would behave is such "straight-in-your-face" manner. In 1930s, we see Marlene in Hollywood-she is quite weak, cries a lot, drinks a lot - and her main problem is that she wants carrier so much that she decides to devote all her life to become famous; she resigns from happiness on account of ambition. Her life overwhelms her. Was it really so? I always felt that Marlene wasn't someone who would starve for movie star fame so much that it would made all her life fell apart.

      Rudi and his relations with Dietrich are also portrayed strangely. They seem to be furious with jealousy about each other and Rudi appears to be a man with lots of insecurities, driven by emotions; not really the advocate of good taste and manners, perfect down-to-earth helping hand that was described in Maria's book.

      At the end of the movie, it is stated that Marlene wanted to be buried next to her mother in Berlin. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't she want to rest in Paris?

      There is one last thing that bothers me. The motif that ties the movie together is Marlene's love for a man known as Carl Siedlitz. He is shown as the love of her life, the only man in the world that really understands her; he follows her in her train journey after The Blue Angel premiere; he follows her also in late 1930s in Austria and then during the war. In that particular scene, Marlene shows complete insubordination, leaving the soldiers to go and meet her love, somewhere near the front... Surprisingly, no one ever heard or read about Carl, so either I'm not educated enough in Marlene's biography, or this "biggest love story" was just a trick to enliven the plot.

The movie states that the love story is true, but was a very well-kept secret.

Singing for the soldiers (source)

     In general, I would give this movie 5-6 out of 10 points. It is entertaining to watch, but for sure it is not the best source of knowledge. It's a pity that so many tiny mistakes could have been eliminated with ease--and that would make this movie much, much better.

04 May 2013

Marlene Dietrich's New York Double Trouble (1939)

New York, 6 June 1939: Her heart belongs to Sammy! Arriving with an Afghan hound, one of the glamour boys of the dog world, is glamorous Marlene Dietrich, to whom we used to allude to as the "famous German movie star." Now Marlene, having been duly accepted as an American citizen, belongs to the US -- famous legs and all. In left rear behind Miss Dietrich is her husband, Rudolf Sieber, who will  sail with his wife for a visit to Europe on the Normandie this week.

13 June 1939: Absolutely quivering with indignation, Marlene Dietrich, svelte siren of the screen swept from the fashionable Monte Carlo Night Club in the wee hours of the morning today, June 13th -- a lady with a dress just like hers had turned the night sour for the film star.

It seems that Marlene was out on a farewell party prior to sailing for Paris. Flanked by Josef von Sternberg (director), Rudolf Sieber (husband) and Erich Maria Remarque (novelist), she made an almost regal entrance into the Monte Carlo in the shimmering white evening gown -- with hood, and sparkling wide belt. What should she spy there but Mrs Dudley Roberts Jr, New York socialite, gowned in an identical dress -- with hood and sparkling wide belt -- the coincidence was just too much for Marlene.

14 June 1939:There's a sad story behind Marlene Dietrich's gown which created such a furore in New York recently. It came to light in Hollywood today. That gown was created and styled right here in the film capital and was made especially to show off to better advantage the glamorous star's valuable collection of rubies.

But Miss Dietrich can neither wear the garment or rubies, for Uncle Sam seized both just the day before she sailed from New York for Europe as collateral pending settlement of a $ 284 000 income tax dispute. The story came from Howard Greer and Travis Banton, motion picture fashion designers, who created it for her before she departed from the film capital. There is only one copy of the gown and Marlene Dietrich owns it, said Greer today, which would tend to substantiate Miss Dietrich's statement  that she walked out of a New York cafe for a reason other than the fact that a society woman was supposed to be wearing a dress identically the same as her own. 

Above: Marlene Dietrich is talking with Federal men on the Normandie just before sailing. She was permitted to sail for Europe after surrendering $ 100 000 in jewels to guarantee $ 284 000 in her 1936-7 income taxes. The Normandie was delayed 44 minutes while  Federal men ordered her luggage to be taken off for inspection and then taken on the ship again.

Government agents appeared suddenly and, brushing aside autograph seekers had all her vacation finery -- except the modish clothes she wore -- removed to the pier. There were 34 pieces of luggage and they were shuttled from her suite to the pier so often they had the porters dizzy.

The actress' lawyer appeared in the crowd during the excitement and protested. John T Cahill, US attorney, showed up with four assistants and 20 federal agents went up the gangplank and then down   again.

Least perturbed in the little drama was Miss Dietrich herself. The German-born actress, who recently became an American citizen, said "It's all a riddle to me." She said the first she heard of it was this morning at her suite in the Sherry Netherland, where she had been staying since Monday, when she arrived from the West Coast.

She was dressed in a gray travel suit and a red fox fur cape. "This is the first time I am sailing as an American citizen," she said. "So far as I know I have paid my income tax in full each year, and it has been about the same amount, $ 105 000. As an alien, I had to show that my income tax was paid in order to get a sailing permit."

J B McNamara, deputy collector of internal revenue, explained that the government's claim was based on Miss Dietrich's earnings in England ... and that the government had no accounting of her British earnings. "We do not think Miss Dietrich is to blame," he added, "but her agent certainly has been lax."

(Compiled from photos and newspapers of the period.)

25 April 2013

Marlene Dietrich Live In Amsterdam: Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte

Previously unissued live recording of Marlene singing Friedrich Hollaender's great song, "Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte" live at the Tuschinsky Theatre in Amsterdam, as broadcast on Dutch radio in 1960:

19 April 2013

What Marlene Dietrich's Handwriting Reveals!

(This article was originally published in the May 1932 edition of Movie Classic magazine as 
Marlene Dietrich will have only one great love, her handwriting shows)

Who knows what Marlene is really like? Louise Rice, who is world famous for her studies of character from handwriting —and tells you here what she finds in Marlene s signature. The German star, herself, could hardly tell you more!

MARLENE DIETRICH’s signature — reproduced herewith — gives  the graphologist an enormous surprise. For what have all the publicity men featured in their blurbs about the German sensation? You all know as well as I do — LEGS, and not much of anything else. But ask her director and her business manager, and I am sure that they will tell you that they have found her to have a head for business and a good understanding as well.

No, I didn't mean that last characteristic as a joke, although you may think that I was guilty of a pun, which is a serious crime in this country. I mean that she has the ability to think quickly and to the point on any subject that seems to her worthwhile. Also, that she has a sudden feeling or intuition that is often of great assistance to her in outguessing the “other fellow,”  when trying to carry out her plans. See if your handwriting shows the little breaks in the connecting strokes of the small letters that Marlene has in her words. If so, you also have  intuition and should use it to the best advantage.