31 May 2011

Rory MacLean Remembers Marlene Dietrich

At the Goethe-Institut's "Meet the Germans" blog, Rory MacLean reminisced about his work on the film Just a Gigolo, naturally focusing on Marlene Dietrich. Although MacLean's name was expunged from the film's credits, he revealed that he had assisted the film's director, David Hemmings, and posted a photo of Dietrich with the production crew, pointing himself out in the back row. Read MacLean's memories of Dietrich:


If you know of other blogs, sites, etc. with people's memories of Dietrich, please share them.

30 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich News Bytes

  • The late Pam Gems' play, Marlene, is running now until June 18 and then August 24 through September 3 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. See this site and this site for more details.
  • The Criterion Collection has made Knight Without Armour available to Hulu Plus subscribers. I consider this an auspicious sign that Criterion will package this film for DVD release. So far, Criterion has released The Scarlet Empress and a Josef von Sternberg silent film collection in DVD format. If you get a "blocked" message on the Hulu site, please let me know. I want to know whether the site is less restricted; I never had direct access to it when I lived in Bulgaria.
  • The Women Men Yearn For (a.k.a. The Woman One Longs For; Die Frau, nach der man sich sehnt) will screen at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Saturday, July 16 at 8:30pm. Buy tickets here.
  •  Any other news at the moment? Tell us in the comments section.

29 May 2011

Maria Riva's Blind Items Pt. 2

After I posted two blind items from Maria Riva's Marlene Dietrich biography, a reader named Paul mentioned two more in the comments section.

First, he mentioned a "cavalier." Could someone tell me when this person appears in Dietrich's life? The similarly-named Maurice Chevalier was Dietrich's lover and longtime friend, but I'm certain Paul didn't mean him:

Marlene Dietrich Maurice Chevalier

Additionally, Paul concluded that Edinburgh Festival director Peter Diamand was the person whom Dietrich dubbed "P.D." (hopefully, there wasn't a French joke behind those initials) and described as "that sentimental old Jew I had in Edinburgh," where Dietrich took her cabaret show in August 1965. Diamand passed away in 1998.

Now, for another blind item. Riva recalled that two sycophants entered Dietrich's life before the production of Song of Songs in 1933. Riva characterized them as "homosexual cons" who attended to Dietrich's every need in order to serve their own agenda. Riva also quoted Clifton Webb as saying that they were "Dietrich's private Rosencrantz and Guildenstern." Riva then told one of the most gossipy morsels of her book--the one that always makes me cackle--about Greta Garbo abandoning Mercedes de Acosta for Rouben Mamoulian and catching gonorrhea. Garbo's alleged health problems didn't crack me up; rather, the indiscretion of the nurse who supposedly told Dietrich about another patient's confidential issue hit my funny bone. In Donald Spoto's Dietrich bio, Martin Kosleck and Hans von Twardowski, a gay couple, became part of Dietrich's posse around the filming of The Scarlet Empress. If these two were "the boys" of Riva's bio, Spoto had a better opinion of them, calling them "amusing and talented companions" of Dietrich. Frankly, I know little to nothing about these men as actors, having read in Steven Bach's bio that Kosleck was typecast in Nazi roles and that Twardowski played Empress Elizabeth's lover, Ivan Shuvolov, in The Scarlet Empress. I have, however, seen some fine oil paintings by Kosleck of Dietrich, which are held by the Schwules Museum in Berlin:

Marlene Dietrich by Martin Kosleck, Gay Museum Berlin.

Marlene Dietrich by Martin Kosleck, Gay Museum Berlin.

Who do you think "the boys" were?

To read my guesses about Maria Riva's other blind items, click here

25 May 2011

Joshua Sinclair, the knight in shining Charmin

Joshua Sinclair, the Just a Gigolo writer who told Charlotte Chandler the toilet paper typewriter (T.P.writer?) tale in her biography, Marlene: Marlene Dietrich, A Personal Biography, has apparently lavished Chandler with praise on Well, his story is the best part of that book, which I mentioned in my reluctant spiel.

Slightly Used, Second-Hand

A lot of Dietrich-related memorabilia has come on the auction market recently. We reported about the Juliens auction of a cache of Dietrich letters earlier this month.

On June 18th, Profiles in History will auction off the dress Marlene wore while singing "The Boys in the Back Room" in Destry Rides Again.

It is offered as part of the Debbie Reynolds collection; the over 500 lots span film history from the teens up to the recent past. Highlights of the auction include a pair of test "Arabian" ruby slippers made for (but not used in) The Wizard of Oz, Marilyn Monroe's subway dress from The Seven Year Itch and the Cecil Beaton-designed Ascot dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. This auction is the first of several that Profiles in History are planning of items from the Reynolds collection.

The Dietrich costume on offer was previously sold by Sotheby's in 2002 when it sold for $ 19 120 (buyer's premium included).

Destry Rides Again, Dietrich's 1939 comeback vehicle after having been declared "box-office poison", was included in the National Film Registry in 1996. On its original release, Frank S Nugent remarked in his New York Times review that "[i]t's difficult to reconcile Miss Dietrich's Frenchy, the cabaret girl of the Bloody Gulch Saloon, with the posed and posturing Dietrich we last saw in Mr. Lubitsch's Angel."

Scarlett Johansson Should Have Done Jean-Louis Barrault

Some little starlet named Scarlett Johansson posed as Marlene Dietrich, Giulietta Masina, Buster Keaton, and Sarah Bernhardt in W magazine. See the photos, taken by Tim Walker, here. Color me amused to see Dietrich's mid-'30s eyebrows arched blithely among a cast of buffoons. I am guessing Johansson and Walker were going for that flat Edward Steichen 1935 Vogue shoot?

20 May 2011

Marlene, Anna May, and Leni

Many of you have seen this Alfred Eisenstaedt-attributed photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl rubbing shoulders. Life identified this iconic occasion as the January 1, 1928 Pierre Ball in Berlin (or simply as a Berlin ball). Steven Bach wrote that the photo was taken in January 1930 at the Berlin [Foreign?] Press Ball and claimed that--despite her smiles for the camera--Dietrich threatened to commit suicide after Josef von Sternberg had invited Riefenstahl. In Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories, Maria Riva eschewed details regarding date, captioning a portrait of Dietrich in the same polka dot pattern and hat (seen below) as a shot from a Berlin "pirate" costume ball. So many stories for one image! Knowing the dates of Wong's visit(s?) to Germany might help, but I don't have the Graham Hodges bio or any other sources to check. All I know is that artist Patty Chang created an installation about Wong's 1928 interview with Walter Benjamin. [JULY 19, 2012 UPDATE: I found a Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin (MDCB) newsletter that dates the photo 1930, so I'll go with them.]

Anyway, here are alternate shots of Dietrich, Wong, and Riefenstahl:

This photo's metadata is scant, but I am certain the actor above is--correct me if I'm wrong--Willi Forst.

19 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich: Hollywood Canteen photos

Marlene Dietrich sitting in 1st row 3rd from right, Hollywood Canteen 4th of July Picnic, 1944

Some more:

Marlene and Jean Gabin register as volunters. Hall of Honor Marlene Dietrich makes a GIs night.

And many more Hollywood Canteen and USO images here and here.

EDIT: For those who clicked "dislike," please let me know why. My guess is that you disliked the low image quality, which also displeases me, but I at least appreciate that someone has compiled these shots and made them readily accessible. Please be aware that you may post anonymous comments and that I only delete spam. I welcome your feedback and wish for more conversation here.

18 May 2011

Maria Riva's Blind Items Pt. 1

In her Marlene Dietrich biography, Maria Riva employed a literary device that strongly paralleled a blind item. Some readers may have preferred that Riva identify the conspicuously unnamed people in her anecdotes. I find the evasiveness engaging, especially because many of these people may have still been alive when the bio was first published.

So who were these mystery folks?

During 1937, Riva recovered from an illness and returned to the Swiss boarding school Brillantmont, where a “thin, dark-haired girl, with strange light-gray eyes” became her roommate. This girl audaciously asked in English whether Riva had her mother's gams. Riva remembered this moment as the first of many times that people would raise this question. Was "Gray-Eyed" the stunning Gene Tierney, who also attended Brillantmont in the '30s?

Gene Tierney

During the 1947 filming of Golden Earrings, Riva recalled that Dietrich wooed a well-built, up-and-coming movie star who had made a splash on the Paramount lot after debuting in a gangster film. Dietrich had Riva change sex-soiled Irish linens and charge a record player to Mitchell Leisen's account for this married gold digger. Was the boy toy Burt Lancaster, who got top billing in two 1947 flicks--Universal's Brute Force and Paramount's Desery Fury?

Burt Lancaster, March 1938

Your guesses?

To read my guesses about Maria Riva's other blind items, click here

Jim Brochu Remembers Marlene Dietrich

Circle Star Theater, 1973 (Courtesy Jim Brochu)
The extraordinarily talented Jim Brochu has kindly granted me permission to reprint a photograph he took of Marlene Dietrich at San Mateo, California's Circle Star Theater in 1973. Additionally, Brochu has allowed me to reprint this text, in which he shares his charming and amusing memories of joining Dietrich and her entourage for a post-show supper. A friend of Dietrich's then-composer and wock of Gibwaltaw, Stan Freeman, Brochu had an insider's perspective that should be included in any Dietrich biography.

Before I copy-and-paste Brochu's account, I would like you all to know that you can order tickets here for his highly-acclaimed, Drama Desk Award-winning show, Zero Hour, at Pittsfield, Massachusetts' Barrington Stage Company from May 18-June 5, 2011. Brochu's show pays tribute to Zero Mostel, an illustrious actor who played Tevye in the original Broadway production AND first Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. You may read more about Zero Hour here.

And now for Brochu's encounter with Dietrich:

Sometimes I just like looking at photos

This 1943 photo of Marlene Dietrich at the Hollywood Canteen comes from Film Noir Photos.

If you want to see all the Marlene Dietrich photos at Film Noir Photos, try this.

If that doesn't work, follow these instructions:

--Go to
--Put this in the search box:

  "marlene dietrich"  
--Press the "Search" button.

--You're done! Enjoy!

17 May 2011

Lola-Lola Blackface Drag Tribute?!

Here is a scene from 1980's La Cage aux Folles II, in which Albin (played by Michel Serrault) performs as Marlene Dietrich's Lola-Lola--but in blackface! Carolyn A. Durham wrote this article about the film, which you may wish to read after watching the clip. I will make one observation about all this: the blackface bit appears prominently in the Francophone trailer but not at all in the Anglophone one.

Buzz About Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist

Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist made a lot of noise at Cannes Film Festival this Sunday because it's a 21st-century silent film. Read more about it here. It's telling that the movie's lead actress, Bérénice Béjo, researched Marlene Dietrich's films to enhance her performance because many of Dietrich's talkie-era scenes--such as the wedding in The Scarlet Empress--evoked an atmosphere with only visuals and music. I will, however, have to see The Artist to determine whether Béjo studied hard enough. Based on the trailer, I'd give her an F for emulating Dietrich's winks and eye movements. In fact, it looks like Béjo visited a proptosis clinic or watched a Bette Davis film for inspiration.

15 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich: The eBook Issue

If you read this blog, I want you to take action and tell me how to take action. Here's why:

I can only find 2 Marlene Dietrich biographies available in eBook format--Charlotte Chandler's and one by a David Stuart Ryan.


Steven Bach's biography, Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend, was reprinted this year, perhaps to ride on Chandler's coattails. Why wasn't it released in eBook format? Would the cost of making it compatible with the kit and caboodle of eBook readers (e.g., iPads, Nooks, Kindles) currently outweigh its potential eBook sales? This little article that mentions the publisher responsible for reprinting Bach's book, The University of Minnesota Press, makes me wonder. Naturally, I'm aware that university publishers struggle to compete with commercial publishers such as Chandler's Simon & Schuster.

Why, then, isn't Maria Riva's Marlene Dietrich already in eBook format? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe she's in publisher's no-man land because Random House still has a page about her book. By the way, why didn't William Morrow--the publisher of Bach's 1st ed. bio--reprint his paperback? How did University of Minn. Press acquire permission to reprint it (for that matter, why did Da Capo reprint it in 2000)? And when? Bach's been dead since 2009.

You may have noticed that Amazon has a simple link allowing viewers to request books in Kindle format, but that stupid thing appears on EVERY page (as if you can convince THIS publisher to format Pierre Louys' book for a Kindle--imbeciles!).

How, then, can we push for the release of Bach and Riva's books in eBook format? Chandler's book should not be the most accessible work on Dietrich's life and career, and people who prefer eBooks should not have to resort to Chandler's bio in the absence of other Dietrich bios. They are already attracted to Chandler's book because it's prominently displayed and discounted in traditional print format at chain bookshops such as Barnes & Noble. Also, it's generating positive buzz online. I reviewed it, too, but I certainly didn't praise it. While I wouldn't tell people NOT to read it, I would enthusiastically recommend Bach and Riva's books. As long as Marlene Dietrich bios can generate blogger buzz and prime shelf space in bookstores, Bach and Riva's books should be alongside them.

14 May 2011

British Pathé's Marlene Dietrich Collection

Pathé has amassed an extensive collection of footage featuring many subjects, including Marlene Dietrich. The French branch of the company keeps a closely guarded hoard, but British Pathé shares many free preview clips.

I've never heard or read about Dietrich's 1955 philanthropic efforts for the curiously named


And at the end of this 1962 clip, Dietrich almost trips on the stairs:


Marlene Dietrich: A Baudrillardian View

Marlene Dietrich fan and collector, Terry Sanderson, has kindly allowed me to share this photo of his Marlene Dietrich doll, a Clark Hanford masterpiece. Let me remind you that Sanderson will be presenting his show, "Marlene Dietrich - An Affectionate Tribute," on May 26 at The Cinema Museum in London at 7:30pm. The aforementioned link perfectly summarizes the content of Sanderson's show, and I would only add that Sanderson has revised this popular tribute many times over the years, before British and American audiences alike, making it worth watching for the first or the umpteenth time. Please be aware that Sanderson expends his efforts to put on this show as a hobby, not as a commercial enterprise. In fact, Dietrich inspires in many fans this same proclivity.

Incidentally, I noted Sanderson's activism as a secularist while I was glancing at the doll photo and perusing sites about him and Clark Hanford, subsequently unearthing my undergraduate memories of Baudrillard's simulacra and simulation concepts (translated by Sheila Faria Glaser). If you take this blog's name seriously and prefer to deify Dietrich, refrain from reading beyond this point. Otherwise . . .

13 May 2011

"Marlene on the Wall" - Suzanne Vega (1985)

I heard Suzanne Vega's 1985 single, "Marlene on the Wall," ages ago but saw its video for the first time today. Perhaps I'll help pop your video cherry, too. The butterfly lighting, leg shots, smoke, and dissolves all evoke Josef von Sternberg's vision of Marlene Dietrich. Vega's lyrical syncretism of two internationally renown German icons (Dietrich and the Berlin Wall) reminds me that Dietrich's 1948 A Foreign Affair song, "The Ruins of Berlin," presaged Berlin's division through multilingual lyrics representing the Germans and the post-WWII powers that occupied their land. Where do you all think "Marlene on the Wall" stands among other '80s songs that referenced Dietrich's peers? I know of two--Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" and Mylène Farmer's "Greta."

10 May 2011

Anna Skubik & Marlene Dietrich: La femme et le pantin?

I envy all of you who caught the show, "Broken Nails," starring Polish artystka Anna Skubik and her Madame-wannabe Marlene Dietrich puppet. The available clips pitch the concept as a paean to mixed metaphors, don't they? The Dietrich puppet belting "Mein Herr" and "Whatever Lola Wants"--it's like a camp version of the game, "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"! Is Skubik still performing this act?

The Marlene Dietrich puppet bowls a strike as Sally Bowles:

The Marlene Dietrich puppet can even pull off Polish:

Finally, here's Marlene Dietrich puppet in rollers as if she's Mrs. Roker!

08 May 2011

The Marlene Dietrich Cocktail? Bupkis! Глупости!

The Marlene Dietrich Cocktail has been rearing its head in search engines lately. The image of Dietrich swigging a Curaçao-accented beverage at the Hollywood Canteen makes for a nonsensical legend considering that she couldn't even stomach orange juice for breakfast. I at least commend enterprising bartenders for not pouring Jägermeister into this mix. Nevertheless, can someone explain to me how Dietrich's World War II activism led to such a drink because my pea-brain must fail to comprehend the logic of this clip:

How about we invent a Gloria Swanson Cocktail made of chicken broth, too?

After you've watched that clip, cleanse your palate with a charming blog entry by a Marlene Dietrich fan.

A Fan's Fan

On 20 April, Bloomsbury Auctions offered the fan above, said to have been used during the production of The Devil Is A Woman, for sale with an estimate of between 700 and 1000 pounds. The lot did not sell. According to their description, it was originally won by

a reader of Film Pictorial magazine in a fashion competition. Included with the sale is a typed letter of congratulations from Marlene and a clipped image from the magazine.

Julien's Auction Results

Yesterday's auction by Julien's in Beverly Hills of Dietrich-related items from the estate of her husband, Rudolf Sieber, was a success. The items were offered as part of their Hollywood Legends auction. All of the 36 lots on offer sold above their minimum reserves. Approximately two-thirds of the lots went to four individual buyers. A highlight of the sale was a full-length portrait of Dietrich taken by Irving Penn in 1948, which sold for $ 6500 (excluding buyer's premium).

Below is a full list of prices achieved (buyers commission excluded). Full lot descriptions with photos are available in the Julien's auction catalogue.

144. Photographs. $450.

145. Telegrams to Tamara Matul. $375.

146. Contract memo. $200.

147. Photograph. $375.

148. Letters to Rudolf Sieber. $1300.

149. Cables -- Rudolf Sieber, Jean Gabin, Maurice Chevalier. $50.

150. Letters and Photographs. $1300.

151. Snapshots. $400.

152. Letters. $1900.

153. Snapshots. #350.

154. Handwritten letter. $2700.

155. Warner Bros promotional photo. $175.

156. Handwritten letter. $800.

157. Letter on flyer. $1300.

158. Signed portrait. $650.

159. Christmas cards to Rudolf Sieber. $1600.

160. Luxury item receipts. $1000.

161. Handwritten letter. $750.

162. Promotional photographs. $150.

163. Maria Riva photographs. $200.

164. Letter to Maria Riva. $900.

165. Ephemera. $100.

166. Literature. $175.

167. 1969 tour notes. $300.

168. Signed portrait. $275.

169. Snapshots. $1100.

170. Prescriptions and medical report. $150.

171. Prescription bottle. $700.

172. Irving Penn portrait. $6500.

173. Autobiography materials. $250.

174. 1961 tax returns and bank statements. $200.

175. Telegrams and postcards. $225.

176. Signed portrait. $425.

177. Signed portrait. $1250.

178. Signed portrait. $375.

179. Political-themed letters. $500.

180. Roddy McDowall portrait. $1100.

Marlene Dietrich on Facebook

If you are seeking authoritative perspectives on Marlene Dietrich, visit her official Facebook page. Peter Riva, one of Dietrich's grandsons, is the page's contact, which suggests that he is the individual posting under the name "Marlene Dietrich." If you didn't know, Peter Riva heads International Transactions as a literary agent and also represents his mother Maria. With his professional background, he would be quite Internet-savvy. I have interacted with Peter Riva after I posted a photo that some troublemaker named Lars Tiemann sent me, and Peter kindly answered a question I had about that photo via email. Others have less favorable views of Peter (such as David Bret and Scott Michaels), but I am grateful that Peter remained informative despite taking offense to my post.

Surprisingly, J. Michael Riva may also contribute to the Facebook page. On April 4 at 7:02am "Marlene Dietrich" wrote that Steven Bach misstated his birthday, and I do know that J. Michael Riva's birthday in Steven Bach's book (July 19) contradicts the birthday on his IMDB profile (June 28). The only Bach reference I found to Peter's birthday is that it was a few weeks after the 1950 Academy Awards.

At any rate, visit the Facebook page because you can interact with a Riva to get insider information on Marlene Dietrich!

Marlene Dietrich: The One and Only

07 May 2011

Mutti Phones Heidede

Marlene Dietrich / by Erich Salomon. Hollywood, 1930.
Marlene Dietrich memorabilia can't compete with a Picasso in drawing top spenders, but Dietrich's name sells. I have found yet another item on the auction block, this time at a starting bid of 400 euros! WestLicht Photographica Auction is peddling an Erich Salomon photo of the then-Hollywood neophyte calling her daughter Maria, who had initially remained in Berlin. Search for Lot 1036 because linking to the page eludes me.

Why Erich Salomon was in Dietrich's bedroom at 4AM to capture this moment--I cannot say. Although I question the photo's veracity as I notice the lampshade conspicuously nodding at Maria's kisser, Dietrich--without Sternberg's photo-sculpting--appears sufficiently haggard yet elated to have risen at the crack of dawn and hear her beloved daughter's voice. You can see another photo from this shoot here.

Salomon's life reflected Dietrich's in that both traveled from Germany to America in the 1930s to share their international talent. Unlike Dietrich, however, Salomon stood behind the camera as a photojournalist and eventually returned to Germany. Salomon, a Jew, sadly became a Holocaust victim, reportedly dying at Auschwitz in July 1944. Read more about Salomon here.

06 May 2011

Want To Buy Some Illusions?

Some interesting Dietrich-related auctions are currently on ebay. One seller has many old wirephotos, including the the photo above, taken at the Blue Angel nightclub in 1961.

If you're feeling flush, there are two letters (with optimistic price tags) written to Charles Graves: the first, written in the mid 1950s on Dorchester stationary is a defense of Kenneth Tynan:

“Dear Charles, Isn’t it too sad that almost every time I come here
something happens that makes things uncomfortable between you and me....The idea of quoting London reviews came because of the rare event that critics wrote
about a cabaret act at all - and that the reviews contained so many unusual
comments....Do you think your last remark would smear him in my eyes? He is an
interesting and intelligent critic. That’s all I know and all I care to

In 1959 she writes about stories for a possible TV series,

“Dearest,...First I cannot use stories with a central character of the
Maigret type. The hero must not be Mr. Fix-It. The hero must be in trouble and
the suspense of the story must be: Is he going to get out of it or not. Instead
of: We know he is going to get out of it but how. We are snowed under here with
Perry Mason - type of series....Second, I have a radio show called: M.D. Talks
on Love and Life. It is a lovelorn kind of program but I also do songs they ask
for and talk about my war experiences, read poems...”

The seller also has a copy of the 1962 edition of Marlene Dietrich's ABC, (signed by Marlene in the 80s); another seller has a copy of the limited edition signed reprint.

Marlene Dietrich: A Brief Note on Scripted Deaths

Marlene Dietrich's grave (taken by Axel Mauruszat)
Death has been a prevalent topic in Marlene Dietrich's films. Feel free to discuss what you wish or correct my inaccuracies.

I will merely state the following about the talkies in which Marlene Dietrich starred:

Marlene Dietrich's character dies at the hands of another in THREE of those films (Dishonored, Destry Rides Again, Rancho Notorious).

Determining how many characters die at the hands of Dietrich's character, however, may be less easy to determine. I count ONE, Witness for the Prosecution, but I will honor the film narrator's request and refrain from revealing any details.

In the SEVEN additional films in which other characters die (The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, Knight Without Armour, Kismet, Stage Fright, Touch of Evil), the role of Dietrich's character sometimes remains subject to debate. In The Blue Angel, Dietrich's character Lola-Lola perhaps cuckolds her husband, Professor Rat (played by Emil Jannings), to death. In The Scarlet Empress and Stage Fright, Dietrich's characters use their feminine wiles to convince others to commit murderous acts. The most meaningful murder, however, almost takes a backseat to the relatively trivial romance between Dietrich and Clive Brook's characters in Shanghai Express--that of Warner Oland's character by Anna May Wong's character, an act of vengeance after Oland's character implicitly rapes Wong's and an act of patriotism to suppress a fomenting Chinese rebellion. Even Hui Fei (Wong's character) understates her heroism.

Finally, ONE film, Judgment at Nuremburg, stands beyond the above parameters because the Holocaust victims were by no means fictitious characters.

Marlene Dietrich: Time After Time

I always forget to post this but the 19th anniversary of Marlene Dietrich's demise today seems an appropriate moment. Watch Cyndi Lauper mouth Dietrich and Charles Boyer's lines from the 1936 film, The Garden of Allah, in her 1984 video, "Time After Time."

04 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich: Like a Rodin Sculpture?

Rodin's La belle heaulmière 

In Boston Latin School Register Literary Magazine (Spring 1961), Gunar Viksnins composed a written portrait of Marlene Dietrich, comparing her "delicate form" to a Rodin sculpture. Dietrich's admirers have frequently demonstrated a penchant for associating her with and alongside perplexing academic references, especially during the 1960s, when--in the seminal essay, Notes on Camp--Susan Sontag sandwiched Dietrich and Sternberg's "outrageous astheticism" between Carlo Crivelli's trompe l'oeil techniques and Gaudi's "lurid and beautiful" architectural style. Although Sternberg's films barred viewers from entering the frame by barricading Dietrich behind smoke and veils, the grotesque sculptures of The Scarlet Empress could be mounted on the Sagrada Familia to keep company with its gargoyles without attracting the slightest suspicion. Thus, these collegiate connections to Dietrich may not be wholly apparent, but they are visible. In fact, Viksnins' comparison could hold true if we only compared her to Rodin's male sculptures because Rodin's often withered (e.g., image on left) or contorted female figures embodied indelicate agony.

Enough of this prater. Read Viksnins' portrait and interview and read the photographer Andrew Davidhazy's backstory.*

*Note: Refresh the page if the link shows a "404 Error." It's fibbing!

02 May 2011

Marlene Dietrich Dior Gown In Moscow Museum

Journalists are reporting that a gown worn by Marlene Dietrich is on display at the Pushkin Museum's Inspiration Dior exhibit in Moscow. See it until the exhibit ends on July 24 2011. Better yet, take a photo of it and share it with us if you can.

Ticket and location information may be found here and as follows:

100 roubles for Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) adult citizens
300 roubles for non-Russian and non-CIS adult visitors
Open daily 10am-7pm (but get your tickets before 6pm!); closed Mondays
12 Volkhonka   |   +7(495)609-95-20   |   +7(495)697-95-78

Related to this news is the the 1959 photo below of a Christian Dior model in the Soviet Union. She is no Dietrich, but this photo highlighted a series of shots that juxtaposed the West's enduring excesses with the East's former parsimony:

Vera West "Seven Sinners" Costume Sketch

Profiles in History is auctioning a costume design sketch for an ensemble by Vera West, for Marlene to wear in Seven Sinners (1940), at their upcoming Hollywood Auction #44 on 14 and 15 May. Further info at their website.

01 May 2011

Billy Daniels Kisses Marlene Dietrich: My Deutsche Mama?

This photo comes from the September 16 1954 issue of Jet magazine, months after Brown v. Board of Education opened the doors for desegregation in the United States:

You may also hear a live rendition of Billy Daniels' "That Old Black Magic," the song mentioned in the Jet photo caption:

Marlene Dietrich Movie Reviews on NYT Site

Marlene Dietrich movie reviews from the time of the films' release are appearing on The New York Times (NYT) website. Earlier, I cited the original NYT review of A Foreign Affair, but it appears that NYT is conducting an ongoing project to make all reviews available online. For those of you interested in the initial impact and media perception of these films, these reviews should serve you as informative sources.

Be aware that the NYT site is working out kinks, meaning that some of their links may currently be dead or some pages unlinked to their proper hubs. The NYT site could improve the search function by allowing users to limit their results to only reviews, trailers, etc., and if you agree, express this view to NYT here. So far, I have found original reviews for the following films:

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
No Highway in the Sky (1951)
Stage Fright (1950)
A Foreign Affair (1948)
Golden Earrings (1947)
Kismet (1944)
The Lady Is Willing (1942)
The Flame of New Orleans (1941)
Seven Sinners (1940)
Destry Rides Again (1939)
The Garden of Allah (1936)
The Devil Is a Woman (1935)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Blonde Venus (1932)
Shanghai Express (1932)
Dishonored (1931)
Morocco (1930)
The Blue Angel (1930) *Released in the United States after Morocco.
I Kiss Your Hand, Madame (1929) *Released in the United States in 1932.

Bosley Crowther appears to have been a decades-long admirer of Dietrich, no? Please share more review links in the comments section if you find them.