12 December 2014

Maria Riva at 90

Happy birthday to Maria Riva, who turns 90 on Saturday!

Last year, at an OSS dinner in Washington, Riva eloquently recalled her evacuation from Europe on the eve of War in 1939:

Here are excerpts from the Queen Mary's passenger list for her final pre-war transatlantic crossing.  (Marlene and Sternberg were already in California):

Maria, by then an American citizen, was travelling under her US passport (click to enlarge):

Remarque, stripped of his German citizenship, had obtained a Nansen passport from a Panamanian consulate:

 Rudi said he was a  Dutch film actor:

And Tami: stateless; profession, "none":

The FBI made it their business to find out whether the new arrivals were Nazi sympathizers. They concluded none were: Dietrich told agents that Hitler was not a normal human being mentally, but he had a tic for her. 

Their sources provided gossip of questionable value or use:  Dietrich was promiscuous in a bland, glamorous sort of way and, despite her marriage to Sieber, with whom she [had] not lived for many years and her affairs, Marlene had never been able to 'hold a man'. Remarque was more or less a foil against which she prowled the night clubs looking for other men.

Rudi, who had received a paltry $50 a week working for Paramount in Paris, was redeployed to the New York foreign language department of Marlene's new studio, Universal. In Manhattan, he and Tami lived in interconnected apartments: he called her his ward; she called herself his secretary.  Tami tended to stay in her apartment for most of the day, and staff were instructed not to put calls through in the afternoons, when she took her nap. 

Back in LA, on one occasion, an informant tried to overhear Dietrich and Maria's chit-chat with Remarque at Schwab's Pharmacy, but he was so obvious that they all switched to German. (Marlene was so pro-German, according to this misinformant, that she had even forbidden her daughter to go horse-riding in an English saddle!)

[Photos of Marlene and Maria courtesy of  Marlene Dietrich Collection]


  1. My slightly belated happy birthday wishes for Maria join yours. Thanks for sharing the excellent video clip - how sharp, eloquent and lovely Maria was at nearly 89 last year.

    1. Lady Eve, according to Maria's family, she's still very vital! By the way, I love your series on the Dietrich / Sternberg collaborations, and recommend that our readers take a look at: