28 May 2012

Horseathon: Dietrich's Horsie Movies Pt. 1

In many Marlene Dietrich movies, you’ll find horses, which is why I’m participating at the final hour in My Love of Old Hollywood’s Horseathon. For most of these flicks, I can divide them neatly into the following groups: Westerns, Middle Easterns, and Europeans. Well, it may be a bit messy that I consider The Flame of New Orleans a European, but its setting is just so “frou-frou French”—to borrow Maria Riva’s phrase—that I wouldn’t consider calling it a Western or anything else. Geographically speaking, The Scarlet Empress and Golden Earrings would fit in the third “genre,” but for reasons I’ll explain later, I’m putting them into their own special group: the WTFs.

As is typical of me, I've realized that I can't bridle my ramblings into one post. Consequently, I'll have to submit only the first part of my horse-themed thoughts to the Horseathon and post the second part on a later date. Here, you'll get the Westerns and the Middle Easterns. Later, I promise to give you the Europeans and the WTFs.

27 May 2012

Marlene Dietrich in the Twilight Zone

Was this the image of Madge & Chirac that shocked Dietrich?
(from Madonna Superstar Queen Photogallery)
Finally, I’ve watched the recent France 5 documentary, Un soir avec Marlene Dietrich: Le crépuscule d’un ange. Despite my frustration that such programs never air in the United States, I must admit that many folks can’t conveniently tweet about them, Pinterest them, or “like” them; therefore, they can’t engage in any discourse about them.

Book-ended by commentary from the presenter Laurence Piquet and the film critic Henri Chapier that references the well-known tropes of Dietrich-as-Galatea and Dietrich-as-myth-and-image, this documentary offers an assortment of testaments from friends, family, and others that invite us to the inner sanctum of our last goddess, not panegyrizing her but rather humanizing her during her Ragnarok. For those less fond of my pretentious rhapsodizing , let me put it to you this way: you’ll get to see and hear Dietrich being a hot mess before she died, which you may find tasteless or morbidly fascinating—or both!

25 May 2012

Veuillez m'aider svp?

Fans francais de Marlene Dietrich, je voudrais regarder l'emission, Le crepuscule d'un ange, mais je ne peux pas trouver aucun lien sur le net avec le documentaire entier. Il y a seulement cette bande-annonce qui est disponible, non? Le documentaire sera diffuse encore une fois ce dimanche a 7h55 sur France 5. Je vous prie de m'aider et de m'excuser pour mes erreurs linguistiques. Quel dommage que j'habite dans un pays ou la Dietrich n'est pas bien appreciee


French Dietrich fans, I'd like to watch the program, Le crepuscule d'un ange, but the entire clip doesn't appear available online. All I can find is a little teaser! I know the documentary will air again this Sunday at 7:55 on France 5, but I'm not mad enough to fly to France just to watch it then. Please help me watch it. Please, please, please!

EDIT: Someone very kind (Fabrice from the Marlene Dietrich Collection blog?) had already sent us an email with such a link at, which I initially missed because it went to our spam folder. Sadly, I can't watch this video because I am in the United States. Now, I need help with proxy servers! Argh!

EDIT AGAIN: Yay! Saw it!

22 May 2012

What's the Beverly Hills Collection?

Earlier in the month, this photo of Marlene Dietrich in the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge began making the rounds online, the highest-quality and most detailed copy of which is at the Vanity Fair website.

While other so-called news sites list the image as "undated," Vanity Fair pinpoints it to 1937, which her Angel-esque eyebrows seem to corroborate and which was before Dietrich called the hotel home. In fact, I suppose she was still at the Countess di Frasso's and just visiting the Polo Lounge socially. The furriers among you may enjoy this image, but I can't get over that contraption on her head. You can't blame folks for gossiping that she had work done when she covered her hairline like a bedazzled babushka.

Anyway, the Beverly Hills Collection has furnished this photo, but what exactly is the Beverly Hills Collection? They've got a site. They've also got a book by Robert S. Anderson called The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows: The First 100 Years, which costs a dollar for every year of the hotel's existence. Still, these facts don't give me many clues about the corporate entity known as the Beverly Hills Collection, nor did the press contact, and--as usual--professional journalists don't provide much insight either.

13 May 2012

Maria Riva's Blind Items Pt. 5

Was it that "Swedish whore" Ingrid Bergman? Naaay!
It's been quite a long time since I wrote an entry in this series, but I notice that readers keep finding this blog by searching "maria riva," so I'll take that as a sign that many of you find Marlene Dietrich's daughter and her book as interesting as I do. For this blind item, I need your help because I only found one mention of the person in Maria Riva's book and am sure I missed previous references. More importantly, you can tell me who the person is because I haven't got a clue!

Maria mentioned that Dietrich's "one-time Swedish Blonde" became the target of Swedish media gossip for her alleged drug abuse. According to Maria, Dietrich mailed out amphetamine care packages to the Swedish Blonde, apparently to ensure her friend's happiness and because the Scandinavian junkie would have got her fix from her roomies, "those two fags."

So who was the Swedish Blonde? She certainly wasn't Ingrid Bergman. Maria extensively quoted Dietrich's jealousy of Bergman, her suspected rival for Yul Brynner's love. Via Maria, we learn that Dietrich called Bergman a "Swedish horse" and "an internationally known whore." Poor Bergman always got crucified for doing publicly what her Hollywood peers were doing privately. Every time I think about the "scandal" between Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, I remember a song I used to play from my mom's record collection, Sophie Tucker's "Mister Segal." Yes, it goes without saying that my mother was a bit of an Auntie Mame!

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

11 May 2012

L'chaim, Higham!

Over the weekend, I read about Marlene Dietrich biographer Charles Higham's demise and two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, "Why did it take the papers two weeks to publish his obituary? They must have just realized he was 'somebody.'" Second, "Don't write about it! You've written enough death-posts this year!" After one of our readers, Paul, mentioned Higham, I changed my tune because I considered the possibility that some of you might be interested in discussing him.

09 May 2012

Dial 'M' for Marlene

As I told you all before, a Greta Garbo alter-ego has been planting stories about Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe. Well, I'm glad to play along now that I know Miss Gussie Berger isn't here to pat our pockets and catch the culprit who stole her sugar cubes. Straight from the original Swedish horse's mouth, I'd like to share with you the news about . . .

04 May 2012

Fill Up Your Tumblr! Pt. 1

I really wish Tumblr users did more crowdsourcing because they post many beautiful Marlene Dietrich photos with little or no information, but maybe that's like asking Rihanna to sing an aria. The information that commenters have been adding over at Flickr Commons hasn't been so, well, informative either. I trust that you, my readers, are a cut above the average Tumblr and Flickr users (I also trust that you know how to use the "e" key!).

Now that I've stroked your egos, let's play a game. I'll post a Dietrich photo from Tumblr, and you tell me everything you know about it--when it was taken, who took it, what's Dietrich wearing, who's with her, etc.  

Let's begin:

Is that a plasma T.V. in the background?;) Photo from here

Notes On Cafe Elektric At Aero Theatre

Dietrich headlined, but Gruber stole the show
Tonight, I saw Cafe Elektric (now spelled Cafe Electric all over the Web, despite the signs visible on the joint itself in the movie) for the first time at Santa Monica's Aero Theatre, alongside over 50 other folks. Truly, pianist Gerhard Gruber was the star of the show, and I recommend that you attend any silent film screening he accompanies because he improvises in dialogue with the screen and the audience. Gruber has posted his Cafe Elektric compositions on YouTube, which gives you some sense of his work. My favorite scene of the film was the near-rape of Hansi because of Gruber's jolting arrangement.

Bah! I'm typing out of order. If you want a structured synopsis, read the one on the Silents Are Golden site, which summarizes exactly what I saw; however, the print the Aero screened continued after Gottlinger noticed the ring on Hansi's finger. Maybe the Silents Are Golden writer didn't wish to spoil any surprises, not that there are any. Also, read Ferdinand Von Galitzien's spiel; he's Blogger nobility, you know. I'll share a slightly cleaned-up and cleaner version of my jumbled notes, which I wrote right after watching the film:

03 May 2012

Why Is Maria Riva Still A Punching Bag?

I haven't heard of Richard "Bugs" Burnett, a columnist at Montreal Gazette's blogs whose bio touts him as a maple-flavored Michael Musto. I don't know of John Banks either, one of Dietrich's boys during the '60s and '70s--figuratively and literally, apparently beginning his service to Dietrich at the tender age of 15. Burnett, however, gave me a thorough introduction to Banks in an article just published called "How one night in Montreal changed the life of Marlene Dietrich." Clearly, the presumptuous title should have been "How one night in Montreal changed the life of John Banks," but Dietrich's name naturally has more SEO clout.

Misleading title aside, Burnett extracts a lot of details from Banks, including a beautiful photo of Dietrich and Banks together, who remind me of Catherine Deneuve and Pierre Clementi in Belle de jour. More intriguing are Burnett's choice of authoritative biographers, Charlotte Chandler and David Bret. I've covered Chandler a bit after having read her Dietrich bio and still have yet to read Bret's, who has at least made his presence known, but I'm well aware that both biographers are of ill-repute if you take Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin's newsletters as gospel (Bret here; Chandler here). Of course, those who read enough of my shtick must know that I enjoy the apocrypha as much as the torah and welcome all. In fact, I still have hopes of writing about Dean Goodman and Erik Hanut's books, which I read many months ago.

Back to Burnett, while I find his favored biographers a surprising choice, his silence on Maria Riva's book--the Song of Songs as far as Dietrich tomes are concerned--strikes me as strange. Instead of citing Maria's book, Burnett quotes Banks' recollection of Maria enabling Dietrich's alcoholism. Maria admitted to being Dietrich's handmaiden but never her Hebe! Sometimes, I wonder whether some Dietrich fans still have it out for Maria. Burnett expresses his fandom throughout his article--especially the introduction--and in an earlier article he wrote that mentioned Banks. I've been meaning to post a lengthy look at all the times Dietrich fanboy Steven Bach poked fun of Maria's weight in his book, and I have been keeping my eye on the vitriol that some (or one?) DataLounge poster(s) spew(s) Maria's way, too. Do any of you still have these kinds of feelings about Maria? Feel free to air them out here!

I'll just request that if any of you know more about John Banks, please educate us in the comments section in between your rants. So far, I've learned that he was a bartender at Le Mystique, the oldest gay bar in Montreal until it closed in 2009. As least its Angelfire site remains, which may very well be the last Angelfire site standing. Seriously, I hope someone salvaged its NOSTALGAY exhibit. Establishments like Le Mystique remind me of the Hollywood gay dive that I never had a chance to visit--Spotlight, which looked like Skid Row on poppers from the street but must have been brimming with history within its doors.