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.)

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