28 February 2013

Gay Icon Status, Generation Gaps, & Other Differences

Marlene Dietrich with Dorothy Arzner's pussycat. Appropriate for this post, no?
Two surprises recently came my way. First, I learned that it is the U.K.'s LGBT History Month. If you didn't know, LGBT History Month in the U.S. is in October. How typical that we couldn't even agree on that! Second, I learned that a podcast about Marlene Dietrich's status as a gay icon, which originally aired in December, is now available for download and streaming. Please listen: "Marlene Dietrich: Beyond Top Hat and Tails." Even though you only have a limited time to access the podcast, I hope to read your reactions, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender.

Aside from its focus on Marlene's gay appeal, the podcast provides an extensive overview of her life and career that will be of general interest to those unfamiliar with Dietrich or those looking to brush up on their knowledge of her. Whoever researched the biographical content did an admirably thorough job by including quotes from the likes of Maria Riva, Steven Bach, Noel Coward, and Marlene herself. Much to my delight, Miss Dietrich is voiced by a man--David Benson. There are also sound bites of Dietrich's songs that give this podcast buoyancy and clever transitions--such as the last strains of "Black Market"'s strings that segue into Clayton Littlewood's narration about Marlene's early career as a violinist. I only caught one historical inaccuracy--that the Hayes Codes was introduced in 1934. In fact, it was introduced in 1930 but wasn't effectively enforced until 1934. The Hays Office did, however, influence the the script revisions of Blonde Venus in 1932.

Despite the accurate disclaimer that Marlene hated to be identified with her movie roles, Littlewood daringly draws parallels between Dietrich's life and her characters. I find the globe-trotting link between Dietrich and Diane LaVolta compelling enough but consider the connections between Marlene and Amy Jolly a bit of a stretch. Can we really call Amy Jolly bisexual because she kisses a woman and a Francophile because she sings a French song? I regard the Morocco kiss more as a sort of prototype for Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"--lezploitation that chiefly titillates heterosexual men.

24 February 2013

Marlene Dietrich in "The Child" (BBC, 1965)

Marlene's 1965 BBC radio play, The Child (written by Shirley Jenkins) makes its internet debut on Youtube:

11 February 2013

BOAC: Cartoonists' (Air) Field Day

1965: British airline BOAC used the leggiest blonde in town to promote extra legroom on it's VC-10 aircraft.

Jerry Plucer-Sarna photographed Dietrich reclining with a good book (Rebecca) on one of the airline's seats -- but the ad campaign was grounded in Germany when a focus group there "associated Marlene Dietrich with a hatred of Germany", according to BOAC's German reps. Besides, they said, it was thought uncouth for a granny (glam or non) to show so much leg. Bemused bowler hats in London thought the "idea of Miss Dietrich's legs becoming an international incident is ridiculous. They are above politics."

04 February 2013

Maria Riva In Action

Ever been curious to see Maria Riva, the daughter of Marlene Dietrich, act? Watch her below in a 1952 episode of Suspense entitled "Death Drum" (NOTE: Maria appears starting at about 6:00):

Thoughts? Aside from finding her beautiful--dark wig (?) and all--I admire Maria's cool disdain--a counterbalance to Herbert Berghof & Co., most of whom are hams. Not that I would want them to act in any other way. Their histrionics are exactly what I would expect and enjoy with such a foreboding organ soundtrack. My favorite moment is in clip two at around 2:20, when Berghof's character is cornered by a ghost from his past, a gunman, and a harrowing maraca player.

Truthfully, I'm interested in locating DVDs of  '50s T.V. programs that feature Maria, so please share your wisdom in the comments section.

01 February 2013

John Lebold's Costume Collection: Relics or Ruses?

Before all else, I'd like to remind you about Terry Sanderson's upcoming Marlene Dietrich tribute show at Conway Hall on February 16. Read his site for more information. Next, I'd like to bring to your attention that Daughters of Vienna, a novel "freely adapted" by Josef von Sternberg (as Jo Sternberg) from the German, has been in the public domain and is available in electronic form at no cost. I should also make you aware of the Tumblr blog that I have been tinkering with (not to be mistaken for the superb and superior Diva Dietrich) because I just got in my first fight! Some people are not mature enough to have their mistakes pointed out to them [aww . . . some people don't stand by their shade either, but it's still on my Tumblr], but please point out mine because I can only learn from you.

Now, watch this at about 1:15 in case I didn't cue it properly because it's a clip that makes me want to kick myself: