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.)