Legendary actress, Marlene Dietrich, was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich on Dec 27, 1901 in Berlin-Sch?neberg, Germany. Dietrich died at the age of 90 on May 6, 1992 in Paris, France and was laid to rest in Berlin-Sch?neberg (Friedhof Sch?neberg III) Cemetery in Friedenau (Berlin), Berlin, Germany.
THE EARLY YEARS:
Marlene Dietrich was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich just outside of Berlin on December 27th, 1901. Her early childhood was a comfortable one, as her mother's small wealth came from her family's clock-making firm and her father was a commissioned police lieutenant. When she was seven, her father died and she was sent to the Auguste-Viktoria girls school. Although her initial discipline was the violin, she became increasingly interested in theatre and poetry as she matured. And soon after a wrist injury in the early 1920's, it became apparent that her dreams of becoming a concert violinist were not in the stars.
She found work on stage as a chorus girl, touring with Guido Thielscher's Girl-Kabarett, and other vaudeville-style engagements. A testament to her tenacity as a performer, although Dietrich failed her 1922 audition for Max Reinhardts's drama academy, she found her way onto his stage via smaller roles and as a chorus girl. By 1923, she made her film debut in The Little Napoleon. During this time she would also marry her first husband, German casting director Rudolph Sieber. Throughout the 1920's, she found steady work in Berlin and Vienna. Her work on screen also continued to flourish. She had substantial supporting roles in films such as CafÃ© Elektric (1927) and Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen (1929). Despite her success on screen, it would be her work in musicals and revues that garnered the most attention with people flocking to see her perform in engagements such as Broadway, Es Liegt in der Luft and Zwei Krawatten. Legend has it, that one of those people was noted German director Josef von Sternberg.
In 1929, Dietrich paired with director Josef von Sternberg for the film The Blue Angel. It was the first of an important partnership. The film was a massive international success and soon von Sternberg whisked Dietrich off to Hollywood. Already having firm connections in the industry, von Sternberg immediately procured a contract with Paramount Studios for the young starlet and began work on 1930's Morocco in which Dietrich played a tuxedo wearing Cabaret singer who shares a kiss with another woman and seduces Gary Cooper. She earned her only Academy Award nomination for her performance. Dietrich would work with von Sternberg in 5 more films between 1930 and 1935, during which he helped mold her glamorous image. Much of her filmic image came from von Sternberg's use of experimental lighting techniques and filters. The two collaborated on a number of films including Dishonored, Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express and The Devil is a Woman.
BOX OFFICE POISON:
Dietrich's first film without von Sternberg was Frank Borzages's 1936 Desire. The film was successful enough to allow her a hand at Romanic-comedy. Her next film, Loved a Soldier, however, never got off the ground and was abandoned several weeks into production. Her next two films, David O' Selznick's The Garden of Allah and Knight Without Armor both proved to be financial disappoints despite the 250,000 dollar-plus paycheck Dietrich received for each film. She was soon labeled box-office poison and after a lukewarm reception of her Ernst Lubitsch film Angel, Paramount bought out her contract. During this time she took an extended vacation in Europe. She soon began to receive offers from The Third Reich, promising decadent contracts and the chance to become Nazi Germany's foremost star. She declined and instead opted to become a United States' citizen in 1937.
THE COMEBACK / WORLD WAR TWO EFFORTS:
In 1939, Dietrich returned to Hollywood to star opposite James Stewart in the light-hearted Western Destry Rides Again. Her turn as sass-talking Saloon girl Frenchie proved to be the remedy to her box-office poison - the film was a solid hit, as were her next two films, 1940's Seven Sinners and 1942's The Spoilers. During this time, Dietrich began giving more and more of her time and energy to the allied war cause. After the U.S entry into War World II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dietrich was one of the first Hollywood stars to raise war bonds. Between 1944 and 1945, she did two extended tours for the USO, going as far as the frontlines in Algeria, Britain, and France. Her tireless work both as morale booster and fundraiser could not be underestimated and in 1945 she was awarded the 'Medal of Freedom' by the US Government and the ÂLegion of Honour' by the French Government. She claimed these two awards to be her proudest accomplishments.
POST WAR CAREER:
After the war, Dietrich returned to acting. Although her career would never reach the dizzying heights it had before the war, Dietrich continued to act in films of varying quality. Her first film, Follow the Boys (1944), was released to mixed reviews and films that followed, 1944's Kismet, 1946's The Upstairs Room, and 1947's The Golden Earring were met with similar fanfare. In 1948, Dietrich once again proved her worth as a Hollywood star and box office draw with Billy Wilder's Wartime romance A Foreign Affair. She paired with Hitchcock for the 1950 thriller Stage Fright and had a cameo in the Michael Anderson ensemble comedy Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). In 1957 she once again worked with Billy Wilder, starring opposite Tyrone Powers in Witness for the Prosecution. In 1958, Dietrich played a small but pivotal role in Orson Welles' film noir thriller Touch of Evil and in 1961, she played the widow of an executed German general in the courtroom drama, Judgment at Nuremberg.
During the 1950's, Dietrich returned to the stage. In December of 1953, she took to the road, performing her theatrically inspired one-woman engagement in night clubs through out the world. From Los Vegas to London, Dietrich sold out performance after performance, often renewing and extending her contract. She had transformed her image, once again, this time into the essence of sensation and glamour. With the use of body-shaping undergarments, make-up, wigs, and carefully engineered stage lights, Dietrich was able to maintain her glamorous persona well into her golden years.
RETURN TO GERMANY AND THE LATER YEARS:
In 1960, she returned to her homeland of Germany for a concert performance for the first time since becoming an American Citizen. It was a bold move, considering many considered her a traitor for her actions during World War II. Others, however, defended her as a hero for standing up against the Nazi regime and, as expected, the performance was met with mixed audience reviews. Although the engagement was considered an artistic triumph, it was financial failure.
In the late sixties and into the seventies, Dietrich's health began to deteriorate. Her alcoholism grew worse, causing her to injure herself on stage. She took an increasing amount of painkillers to dull the pain of constant performance. In 1975, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spend the last years of her life bed-ridden and physically isolated, allowing only a chosen few to see her, yet maintaining rich relationships through phone and letters. She remained politically active in her later years, granting a television interview via the telephone after the fall of the Berlin Wall. On May 7th, 1992 Dietrich died of renal failure in her Paris Apartment. She was 90 years old.(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Although Dietrich was nominated for one Oscar, she never won a competitive Academy Award.
|1930/31||Best Actress||Morocco (1930)||Amy Jolly||Nominated|
She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. She appears on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
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Concha Perez: But no one speaks ill of me now!
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