28 July 2012

The Great Recasting: The Devil Wears Dior

Count on Dietrich to out-Miranda Priestly Streep herself!
Whenever I watch Stage Fright and The Devil Wears Prada, I revel in the insults that grand dames Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) and Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) hurl at Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) and Andrea "Andy" Sachs (Anne Hathaway), two plain Janes who--like quinoa--are so bland that no one can get their names right. Listening to Erika von Schlütow's (again, Dietrich) clawed comments about and toward Senator Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) in A Foreign Affair also elicits the same delight.

At times, I envision these three movies as a cinematic collage of hilarious derision, and when I learned about "The Great Recasting" blogathon hosted by Frankly, My Dear and In The Mood, I spied an opportunity to mingle a few of my favorite icy characters.

Following the rules of "The Great Recasting," I'm appropriating the 2006 flick, The Devil Wears Prada, by imagining it as a 1951 movie called The Devil Wears Dior (the fashion house that dressed Dietrich for Stage Fright, a movie heavily screen-capped in this entry), recasting Dietrich and Wyman (who must have been a masochist in my alternate universe) as Miranda and Andy's characters respectively due to their antagonistic onscreen chemistry, with A Foreign Affair's director--the comedic genius, Billy Wilder--at the helm. Those of you familiar with The Devil Wears Prada, Stage Fright, and A Foreign Affair will recognize the pastiche of dialogue from all three of these flicks, but in a distilled bitchy brew--without the added ingredients of murder, post-war occupation, and romance. Consider it a sort of Socratic dialogue gone camp that probably would have flopped and become a cult classic. Rather than explain why I made all these choices for my "The Great Recasting" entry, I'll show you by biting the style of a blog that entertains me--I'm Not Patty. Let's get on with it!

The Devil Wears Dior


directed by Billy Wilder

STARRING Marlene Dietrich as Anaïs Silkman Bloom, editor-in-chief of the trans-Atlantic women's fashion magazine, Nouvelle Vue. Anaïs has a penchant for Dior and may be a jab at a few fashion arbiters of the '50s publishing world, e.g., Harper's Bazaar's Carmel Snow, American Vogue's Edna Woolman Chase, and British Vogue's Audrey Withers.

WITH Jane Wyman as Annabel "Billy" Fox, a fresh-faced Vassar graduate who thought she'd be writing on postwar politics in The New Republic--not schlepping stockings at Nouvelle Vue.

PLUS, a supporting cast meant solely for added comic relief.

Annabel "Billy" Fox has a big day ahead of her! She's got an interview with some magazine called Nouvelle Vue, which may not be her cup of tea, but at least it will give her an entrée into publishing.
Here she is dolling herself up for the prospective job.

Fortunately, Billy has toned down her look a bit after realizing that she isn't going to become the next
Ida M. Tarbell at a fashion rag. As she enters the Nouvelle Vue office, her nerves start to overwhelm her.

Rightfully so! Billy's come in for an interview right when editor-in-chief Anaïs Silkman Bloom is busily "auditioning" veils for an upcoming article about the most glamorous widows on Park Ave.

Without even glancing at the schoolmarm in Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail order togs, Anaïs asks, "Who are you?" Billy answers, "I'm Annabel Fox, a recent Vassar graduate--"

Before Billy can brag about her achievements,
Anaïs turns toward her and interrupts, "Why are you here?"

Taken aback, Billy blurts, "Well, Miss Bloom, it was either this or Hot Rod magazine."

"You don't read Nouvelle Vue, do you?"


"And before today, you'd never heard of me."


"And I see you do not believe in lipstick. And what a curious way to do your hair--or rather not to do it."

"Well, I think that's a matter of perso--"

"No, that wasn't a question! Read your resume to me, dear. Not so loud, though."

"I was editor-in-chief of The Miscellany News, where I wrote an award-winning exposé
on secret Socialist societies at women's colleges--"

Anaïs, however, resumes her fitting and announces, "That's all."

Taking the hint, Billy sees her way out. . . .

but her bruised ego compels her to step back and declare, "Madame, I may not be a fashion plate,
but I've got brains, and I'm willing to work fingers to the bone." Anaïs merely repeats, "That's all."

Before Billy exits the building, one of Anaïs's lackeys gives her the good yet perplexing news, "You got the job!"

Attending to Anaïs's every need, Billy can barely keep up
with the unfamiliar names and terms thrown her way.
"Mavis, I need 27 fuschia coats from Bonnie Cashin!"

"Phyllis, get me a Balmain stole!"

"Emily, book Dovima for the next cover shoot!"

Although Billy usually listens obediently to Anaïs, she eventually slips and smirks,
which provokes Anaïs to verbally eviscerate her. "You see that smock you're wearing?" Anaïs inquires.

Dumbfounded, Billy nods her head.

"Well," Anaïs continues, "while you may believe that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back, what you don't realize is that in 1942, the editors of Nouvelle Vue decided to print some Rosie the Riveter cartoons that featured the smock. By 1945, Marilyn Monroe wore a smock that skyrocketed her to stardom in photos published by Nouvelle Vue. From there, the smock trickled down to the tragic Bon Marché bargain bin where you grabbed it. So, your smock was chosen for you by the people in this room."

After that brutal chastisement, Billy was sure she had enough. Then, Anaïs's right-hand man [I couldn't help but recast Hector MacGregor as Stanley Tucci's unforgetable Nigel!] told her, "You know, Billy, you’re not bad-looking. You don’t treat your face properly. That’s all. If you fixed your hair up and used some makeup, you’d be quite attractive."

Following this advice and perhaps with a bit of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's magic, Billy transforms into the glamorous assistant she was meant to be.

The transformation even shocks jaded Anaïs, who exclaims, "Darling! What ever happened to that peculiar figure of yours?" And this is where I ought to end my recasting because I lost interest in The Devil Wears Prada after everyone stopped mocking my pet hate, Anne Hathaway. Also, Wyman reverts to wearing that boxy blazer for the rest of Stage Fright, which ruins the impact of screen-caps.

27 July 2012

Rudi Polt's The Ultimate Marlene Dietrich Souvenir & Memorabilia Book: A Review

Several months ago, I discovered The Ultimate Marlene Dietrich Souvenir & Memorabilia Blog, run by Rudolf "Rudi" Polt, which astounded me because a) I was certain that I knew every blog about Marlene Dietrich and b) I was sure that I had already seen Polt's name somewhere. Although I proved myself wrong about my omniscience, I was right about my observant eye. Indeed, Polt is cited and acknowledged by Steven Bach in Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. Also, I've seen his generous contributions on YouTube.

After browsing Polt's blog, I learned that he had published a book through, The Ultimate Marlene Dietrich Souvenir & Memorabilia Book. To be frank, when I first visited the link, I balked at the price (currently US$118.75) of a self-published book with a typo on its cover, but we all know the adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover." After corresponding a bit with Polt, I realized that this man is a tireless wealth of information about Marlene as well as a keen Dietrich researcher, and I decided that I would buy his book.

Well, now it's in my hands, where I wish it had been sooner because it's a helpful pictorial bibliography of Dietrichiana (or Marlenebilia, if you will). Not only do I consider the scans (often in color) more impressive than the plates of photograph reproductions in most trade publications (ahem, Donald Spoto!), I also contend that the succinct captions are more informative than most Dietrich biographies (*cough* Charlotte Chandler! cough*). If you know about the Major Arcana in a Tarot deck, you may be aware that it tells the story of a Fool's journey toward knowledge. Let me cast myself as that fool and reveal what I've learned from Polt's book:

In a captioned photo below the table of contents, I learned that the ubiquitous German photographer credited as "v. Gudenberg" on postcards (see Fabrice's collection at Marlene Dietrich Collection), "W. von Gudenberg" in Marlene Dietrich: Portraits 1926-1960, and "Baron Wolff von Gudenberg" on auction sites had a given name--Walter! On IMDB, a Walter von Gudenberg is credited as a cinematographer for one of Dietrich's first films--The Little Napoleon. Is that accurate? I don't know, but it does lead me to wonder how much influence von Gudenberg had on Marlene's image during the '20s. Like others, he saw the glory of her gams, even though I've never seen them in such a greased-up and girlish pose. If anyone knows where I can read a substantial biography on von Gudenberg, please direct me to it.

We've seen images of Marlene playing singing saws, violins, and pianos, but what about ukuleles? There are many magazine images that I never saw before communicating with Polt, such as the Das Magazin ones featured prominently in his book. Speaking of images new to me and Hawaiian accoutrements, Polt presents a photo of Marlene and Maria Riva in hula skirts, which is one of the most charming photos of the two from the early '30s--far more than the ones circulating online. Also available are scans of entire film programs! Polt isn't merely showing off his extensive collection--he's sharing it! With an emphasis on sheet music illustrated with Dietrich's image, featuring songs from Dietrich's movies, or containing compositions inspired by Marlene, Polt's book covers a "genre" of Marlenebilia that others have yet to explore thoroughly.

If I have any concerns about Polt's book, it's this: were any of these photos retrieved online? A Manpower publicity shot looks identical to one I saw at Profiles in History, right down to its crooked scanned edges. Then, it occurred to me that perhaps these auction items were consigned by Polt himself. As for criticisms, I must admit that some scans look too heavily pixelated, especially the ones from the January 30, 1951 issue of the miniature People Today, which shouldn't have been enlarged. In these digitized magazine and newspaper photos, the halftone Marlene instead looks like she was caught in a fishing net. Quibble as I may, I can't but praise the many clear color photos of Dietrich during the 1960s, and the breadth of Dietrich-related images in this book will help guide me--a relative neophyte--in collecting Dietrichiana.

21 July 2012

Thom Nickels' "Daddy, Buy Me That" (Pt. 1)

For a blog entry, this is a long read, which is why I'm dividing it into 2 parts. When I first read about Marlene Dietrich's friend John Banks and sought information about him, I learned that a writer named Thom Nickels had published his interview with Banks in 2003. Unfortunately, it was no longer available online, which led to me emailing Nickels to obtain the text. Nickels kindly sent me what was far more than a brief interview. In fact, it's quite a substantial piece called "Daddy, Buy Me That," which I hope will be enlighten those of you who are casual Dietrich admirers and corroborate the beliefs of those of you who are hardcore Marlenephiles. I have made some minor edits (e.g., formatting, punctuation, some names, spelling, and occasional bracketed notes) and added photos, but what you'll read below is almost exactly what appears on Nickels' typed manuscript. As for whether Banks makes any inaccurate statements, I will leave that for you to highlight in the comments section because I'm far more impressed by Banks' extensive knowledge of Marlene.

Because I tend to devour as much as I can when I find writers who interest me, I'll add that I've read the Kindle edition of Nickels' Walking on Water & After All This. I suppose that the two novellas fit within the genre term "speculative fiction," but both are also imbued with humor and cultural references, which is why I intend to read more of Nickels' work. Now, for what you're here to read!

Daddy, Buy Me That!

by Thom Nickels

In Montreal's last remaining Anglo gay bar, La Mystique, the bartender, John Banks, talks with the customers.

The talk is rarely about Marlene Dietrich, if only because John says everyone he knows is sick of hearing about her. The fact is, they've heard it all. How she talked. That her favorite food was hamburger. That when she had people over she'd crave odd foods in the middle of drinks and offer to make ice cream sundaes. That she lived to be 91 years old and spent the last 14 years of her life, like Garbo, in solitude.

Banks knows so much about Marlene Dietrich because for 12 years he worked as her personal assistant both in the United States and Europe.

Dietrich, the icon--the gay icon, as Banks insists--has given the world more than 34 films, including The Blue Angel, Morocco, Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express, The Devil Is a Woman, and The Garden of Allah. Discovered by director Josef von Sternberg in 1929, she came to Hollywood in 1930. A well-educated woman who played the violin and piano and spoke several languages, Banks says she was definitely "not the Hollywood movie star but the kind of well-rounded figure we don't see today."

So it's plenty good, yes, to be shaking the hand that once comforted the great legend in various hotel rooms around the world.

In his home, some 15 minutes by cab from La Mystique, the 60-something Banks opens a bottle of wine. By now I'm fully aware that the precise quality of his speaking voice is matched by a manner that is as unambiguous as his opinions. With us is Edward, a little man from Toronto who attached himself to us in a bar the minute he heard us talking about Dietrich. Inviting him to come along, in  Montreal terms, was easy, since strangers easily become friends here.

16 July 2012

Maria Riva's Blind Items Pt. 6

For those of you new to the game, Maria Riva gives lots of people funny nicknames in her biography about her mother, Marlene Dietrich, just barely obscuring their identities. In many cases, these blind items were still alive when Maria's book was published in 1993 and could have put up a stink had Maria been audacious enough to name them directly. This blind item is a piece of cake--especially because Maria includes not one but two photos of him--but I figured I'd get him out of the way.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. & Marlene Dietrich
The Knight & his Dame at the London premiere of Accused
During 1936, Dietrich was in London filming Knight Without Armour, and she coincidentally acquired an American lover who aspired to be knighted. Thus, Maria Riva calls him the Knight throughout her book, and we learn--thanks to Heidede's photographic memory--that Mutti mocked her lover's social climbing, questioning how a person with a rope-swinging, possibly Jewish father could ever become a Sir. If these hints haven't given it away, I regret to inform you that you're as thick as two short planks. The Knight is Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who eventually got the title he desired in 1949.

While Maria was apparently nibbling on her Norwegian roommate's brunost care packages at Brillantmont, Dietrich moved to 20 Grosvenor Square (address just included at Mapping Marlene Dietrich), in the apartment below her Knight's. By 1937, Marlene convinced her Knight to follow his daddy's swashbuckling footsteps and play the villain in a David O. Selznick feature. If I have to tell you the name of that film (The Prisoner of Zenda), go do something else because you're a novice!

Anyway, when Dietrich returned stateside to make Angel, her Knight followed. The two broke up at some point, but the Knight gave Dietrich something to remember (but unfortunately not regift): a gold cigarette case engraved with his nickname for her, Dushka, which Maria jokingly associates with Marlene's post-coitus ablutions. You can see a photo of it (the ciggy case, not the ablutions!) in the book, Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories.

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

12 July 2012

Dial 'M' for Marlene: One More Ballyhoo

Gussie Berger & Ariane Bellamar
as Marlene Dietrich & Marilyn Monroe
Tell me where this story originated: after Marlene Dietrich had rejected the role of Nazi floozy Erika von Schlütow in A Foreign Affair, Billy Wilder showed her June Havoc's screen test, which presumably convinced Dietrich that only she could handle the part. I can only trace it as far back as Homer Dickens' book, The Films of Marlene Dietrich, first published in 1968.

Whatever this tale's roots may be, it came to mind (as did Barbra Streisand and the multiple hats she wore for the productions of Yentl, The Prince of Tides, and The Mirror Has Two Faces) when I learned of Dial 'M' for Marlene's recent casting change.

Although Gussie Berger has assured me that the play's former Dietrich, Victoria Valentino, left by her own volition, I can't help but credit kismet because Berger herself has now stepped into Dietrich's foundation. This second recasting will undoubtedly augment the play's comedic appeal, and I hope to catch it before it ends its run on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at The Flight Theater. Make your reservations before you miss this incredible revamp! Visit its Facebook page for more info!

News About This Blog

On the subject of recasting, you may have noticed the banner in the sidebar for the blogathon, The Great Recasting, co-hosted by Frankly, My Dear and In The Mood. Click it to learn more. I'll be imagining Marlene Dietrich and Jane Wyman in The Devil Wears Prada. When I first watched this movie, the way that Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) treated Andi Sachs (Anne Hathaway) immediately reminded me of Charlotte Inwood and Eve Gill in Stage Fright. Now, I have an excuse to fashion my fancy into a blog entry! If you have any suggestions for who should play Stanley Tucci and Adrian Grenier's roles, I welcome them.

Aside from that, I look forward to others contributing entries. If you'd like be an author on this blog, let me know! Of course, I've got my own list of entries in mind, but I never manage to get to them as quickly as I intend: a third part in my horse-related series (see the first and second parts; by the way, I've been agonizing about my omission of Blonde Venus, which features a brief horse scene), more Maria Riva blind items, a series comparing Marlene's films with Greta Garbo's, an entry about Dietrich's influence on Marilyn Manson, a look at how Marlene was promoted to Latino audiences in the United States, a transcription of Thom Nickels' profile on Marlene's friend John Banks (which Nickels very kindly mailed me), etc. If you'd like me to get to any of those topics first, tell me what interests you most.

Meanwhile, I'll continue adding locations to Mapping Marlene Dietrich and listing online resources for Dietrich's concert-era photographers, both of which would benefit vastly from your contributions. I would like to especially thank missladiva and Paul for their help in both those endeavors.

EDIT: Thanks to Google Alerts, I saw a somber example of Dietrich's cultural salience--a girl named Marlene Dietrich who was born in 1931 and passed away in 1934. Also, I watched a Russian newsreel of Dietrich's 1964 Moscow appearance on YouTube that seems to categorize Marlene Dietrich's work as art and Marlene as a poet (Russian-speakers, correct me if I'm wrong; I speak Bulgarian, and these words appear to be cognates).

10 July 2012

Marlene Dietrich's Photographers: The Concert Years

Marlene Dietrich photographed by William Claxton (Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, 1959)
Dietrich photographed by Claxton
(Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, 1959)
[UPDATE: Thanks for your responses, all! I've added more entries on February 16, 2013 and will continue doing so!]

Help! I'm beginning to wrangle disparate online Marlene Dietrich resources into quasi-bibliographies. This is a long-term project, and you can contribute by adding links to content in the comments section.

Because many of you are particularly fond of Dietrich's concert career, I've decided to start with this period. I've also chosen to focus first on the photographers who had the honor of gazing at Marlene through their lenses.

After you share links with me, I'll edit this fledgling bibliography to reflect our collective information, which will hopefully become comprehensive and organized. Specifically, you can direct me to photographers I've failed to mention, links to photos or sites with photos, specific dates, places, events, etc. Also, if any prints are available for purchase, let me know where and for what price.

To show you how much I need your participation, I'll begin this bibliography with an sparse list of Marlene Dietrich photographers. Remember, you need to aid me in making this decent because apathetic consumption makes me weary.

Aarons, Slim

New York City (1959)

April in Paris Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel


Arnold, Eve

Paris (May 1962) 

The Olympia


Basch, Peter

Edinburgh (August 23-28?, 1965)

Royal Lyceum Theater?


Claxton, William

Las Vegas (Spring 1959)

Sands Hotel


  • one (Digital Journalist) *Claxton recalls his meeting with Dietrich in a video interview; includes transcript

Dauman, Henri

New York City (1959)

[April in Paris Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel?]


Dean, Loomis 

Las Vegas (December? 1953)

The Sahara Hotel and Casino


Eijsten, Lili

Netherlands (1963)


Erwitt, Elliott

New York City (1959)

April in Paris Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel


Fischer, Walter

Las Vegas (February 19-March 21?, 1962)

Riviera Club


Fournier, Pierre

Paris (May 1962) 

The Olympia


Freston, George 

London (November 4, 1963)

Prince of Wales Theatre


Gragnon, François 

Paris (November 27, 1959)

Theatre de l'Etoile 


Hanekroot, Gijsbert

Amsterdam (January 27, 1975)

Theatre Carre


List, Herbert

Munich (May 27, 1960)

Deutsches Theater


McDowall, Roddy

New York City (October 1967)

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre


Meisert, Harald

Bad Kissingen (May 20, 1960)



Morphet, Chris

London (November 1962)

Golders Green Hippodrome


Nisberg, Jack

Paris? (1959?)


O'Neill, Terry

London (February? 1975)

New Wimbledon Theatre?


Parkinson, Norman

London (1955)

Cafe de Paris


Redfern, David

London (February 1975)

New Wimbledon Theatre


Riva, Peter

London (1972)

Queen's Theatre


Whitmore, James

Berlin (May 1960)


06 July 2012

My Favorite Marlene Dietrich YouTube Clips

In case you didn't notice, this blog is getting a makeover, a few squirts of Juvederm mixed with sheep embryo stem cells, and ultherapy sessions via Groupon. I've fixed many broken links, inaccessible videos, and non-displaying photographs. Regarding any blog entries with private videos, I've reverted them to drafts until the clips once again play for everyone. Despite the daunting efforts it entails, I've also begun weeding out useless labels and tagging entries with underused labels.

While inspecting the YouTube label, I came across some Marlene Dietrich videos that brought me fond memories, and I must bring them to your attention:

Don't you love them as much as I do? Share more clips like these in the comments section!

02 July 2012

All Aboard The Ship of Lost Men!

Ethel Marley (Marlene Dietrich) screams in The Ship of Lost Men
Scream if you like silents!
Earlier in June, I ordered the last silent movie that Marlene Dietrich filmed, The Ship of Lost Men (a.k.a. Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen, a.k.a. The Ship of Lost Souls, a.k.a. the worst alternate title ever, Grischa the Cook), on DVD from Grapevine Video. After my difficulties with TCM Shop, I hesitated to do business again with a small outlet, but my concerns were unfounded. Grapevine’s checkout process was simple, and within two days after placing my order, I had the product in my hands. Therefore, I give my unsolicited endorsement of Grapevine and look forward to ordering DVDs from its site in the future.

For most of my entries, I research what I present to you. Well, I’m a bit burnt out from that and will leave it to someone else to answer my questions. Was Grapevine responsible for the restoration and music of its The Ship of Lost Men release? If so, I’d like to thank them. The score, performed by David Knudtson, accentuates every scene appropriately due to the theater organ’s portentous timbre. The subtitles are mostly free of typos and certainly weren’t translated by Babelfish. The length--at 122 minutes--exceeds the 1996 Critic’s Choice Video VHS release, which is 97 minutes. Not having seen any other versions of this movie, I’d like for those of you who have watched this Grapevine release and previous releases to compare them.

Although I hate writing synopses, I’ll distill what I watched below. Of course, be forewarned that I may have seen a different cut than what others have detailed on IMDB and elsewhere. Spoiler-haters, you ought to skip this altogether: