31 October 2012

You're Never Lonely With an eBook

I have been meaning to tell you about the latest eBooks in the Marlene Dietrich library, Marlene and ABC, but most of you are already well-acquainted with both titles, having read them on those blocks of wood pulp rectangles that the ancients called--correct me if I'm wrong--"books."

As you may have guessed, you will enjoy no substantial new material in these eBooks. Marlene's autobiography is almost exactly as it was published in 1989. Poor Travis Banton is still "Benton." I did at least find a new typo, with Jean Gabin metamorphosing into "Cabin"! I blame the typeface used in the Grove Press edition. Alas, the eBook editor(s) denied me the vulgar titillation of seeing the "G"s in "Günter Grass" replaced with "C"s.

Also slightly altered is the index. I haven't tallied the omission(s), but I immediately noticed in the eBook that "Academy Awards" was no longer the first entry. If you were hoping to read about such accolades, you can forgo the index and search "academy awards" yourself. I say good riddance!

Reading this book again has restocked my head with sundry minutiae much more satisfying than Oscars talk. Amidst her misinformation, Marlene recalls some eerily detailed trivia, such as a gift to Edith Piaf--a delicate emerald cross worn by the Parisian "guttersnipe" during her September 20, 1952 wedding to Jacques Peals. Squint to see it in the video below (or click here):

Dietrich's ABC is the same as the revised 1984 Ungar edition, but the e-format suits it better than print! It is as if Marlene had a prophetic sense of organization.

Before I explain that, I want to wave the banner for one of my favorite essays in Dietrich Icon, Amelie Hastie's "The Order of Knowledge and Experience." Hastie finds a filmic structure in ABC due to the cross-references that "capture and display the ephemeral." Well, isn't this how we often experience online text? Are you there, Carolina, or did you close this tab due to the paucity of pretty photos? Or maybe you took a detour by clicking on something I linked?

Such is an eBook experience of ABC--one of link-clicking. Think of it as Wikipedia, if you were only reading stub articles, half of which would probably be flagged for not being notable. Under most circumstances, you may not consider dill worth a second glance, but Marlene will have you reading about it again and again because you fear you will miss a dill dough recipe if you so much as blink.

Otherwise, you might be tempted to click on the cross-reference to dill under "BASIL" simply because you have been impulsively clicking every linked entry you encounter. Why not? It is almost effortless to get lost in ABC as an eBook. No risk of paper cuts as you thumb through the pages. No annoyance when you accidentally skip past the entry you were attempting to find. All you have to do is tap your finger on the screen.

You may have the vague notion that you have been clicking between the same two entries (see "SALK, DR. JONAS" and "SWIMMING POOL") for the past six hours, but you do not mind. The omnipotent link led you there, and you will keep clicking those links until your tablet shuts off, protesting against you for being too distracted to charge it. Then and only then will you return to the hazards of your print copy of ABC. Still, you will yearn for that convenient serial clicking experience, and it is better that you fill the Rivas' coffers than Charlotte Chandler's, whose Marlene biography--in electronic or print form--is akin to a mouthful of parsley.

10 October 2012

1940 U.S. Census--Here's Marlene Dietrich!

 After a simple search of the indexed 1940 United States census at, I finally discovered Marlene Dietrich's name on page 81 of the 84-page census schedule for California Enumeration District (ED) 19-43! Scouring through so many scanned sheets back in April must have made my eyes bleary because I know I viewed this very list. Indeed, Dietrich lived at the Beverly Hills Hotel (which then had the address 1201 Sunset Boulevard). Listed below Marlene is her retinue: daughter Maria Sieber, "secretary" Viola Rubber (a.k.a. "The Rhino"), and Erich Maria Remarque. See the full page for more details. You'll notice that Marlene is only 35, in keeping with her preferred birth year of 1904. You'll also observe that she worked only 8 weeks in 1939--on Destry Rides Again, of course--earning "over $5,000."

04 October 2012

Thom Nickels' "Daddy, Buy Me That" (Pt. 2)

Many moons ago, I shared the first part of an interview that Thom Nickels conducted with Marlene Dietrich pal John Banks, called "Daddy, Buy Me That!" Well, if you weren't sold on Banks' story, maybe this second part will sway you. Banks discusses Dietrich's envy and jealousy toward Angie Dickinson, his thoughts about Maria Riva's depiction of her mother, the time he gave Marlene a Twiggy make-over, and much more.  I'll add my two-cents in brackets. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I never got around to contributing to the Paramount centennial blogathon, but I will post what I had intended someday--hopefully before the studio celebrates its bicentennial. Now, please enjoy . . .

Daddy, Buy Me That!

part two

by Thom Nickels


  Turbulent Sixties

Banks says that the '60s were a hard time for Marlene because she didn't like the fact that age was waning her power.

"In her book, Maria talks about Marlene arriving home from Washington, D.C. and walking in her apartment waving her panties in the air and saying that she'd just had it off with John Kennedy, and that you could still smell him on them, or whatever." Banks thinks this is a crock and maintains that, because Marlene was 60, he doesn't think that John Kennedy would have been interested. "Especially since they'd known each other since they were [e.g., he was?] small. She and Joe Kennedy spent the summer of 1938 or 1939 on the Riviera together when Kennedy was a child. But would a child of his age have kept that image of that super woman until 1960?" Banks says he doubts it.

"When she finally faced age, she realized that things finally had to stop. She could have gone on having affairs right up until her death, but she didn't because she wasn't offering what she had before. She also began to drink in the '60s. She drank as much tea and honey as she drank scotch when I met her," Banks remembers. "She also drank beer. We went to restaurants, and I would always order a Pilsner, and she would always order a half a bottle of champagne. She'd get the champagne, and I'd get the beer, but we'd switch . . . I thought drinking champagne was still very exciting. She was very European. She drank beer at noon. She drank beer with meals. She was German, darling. She was a wonderful German broad."

Thalidomide Babies


"What she'd been all her life, even in those pictures that we see of her in the 1920s when she's kind of hefty, was a gorgeous woman. People wrote about her then as being absolutely fabulous looking. She had reddish blond hair. She had this white-white complexion, a great bone structure. I have very few photos of me with Marlene. I would have felt as if I was insulting her if I'd asked to do photographs. I couldn't say to her, 'Can I have my photograph taken with you, please?' I didn't think she would have liked that. I think she rather liked the fact that I didn't.

"She was a funny broad. She had a good sense of humor. The only thing we did not joke about was 'the image.' That was work, and you did not fuck around with work. But, otherwise, she was pretty funny, and she could laugh at herself. She liked practical jokes like tripping people. She had great gallows humor. For instance, she'd make terrible jokes about thalidomide babies and then say, 'Oh, that's terrible!'"