31 July 2013

From Marlene Dietrich's Hotplate: Banana Trifle

A onetime chef at one of Marlene's favourite Parisian restaurants wrote a book about dishes the star liked to order (for delivery, naturally), and Dietrich herself shared some dish in her ABCs, but no-one has yet published  "The Way To Cook With Maria Riva's Mutti".

The recipe for Banana Trifle below may or may not be Dietrich's: it was called hers in a 1943 edition of the fan magazine Hollywood, not always a reliable source. Certainly, the lack butter or dill in a Dietrich recipe is suspect, but this may have been the sort of thing John Wayne liked between takes on the set of Pittsburgh.

You will need:

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 heaping tsp cornstarch
1 even tsp sugar
1/2  tsp salt
2 bananas
6 ladyfingers
1/2 pint cream or whipped white of one egg


Slice bananas and lay them in a glass dish in alternate layers with four ladyfingers split in two. Heat milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, salt and the cornstarch which has been diluted in a little cold water. When thick, pour over the bananas, and let stand until cold. Then cover top with whipped cream. Split remaining ladyfingers in two, and place them upright around the edge.


30 July 2013

Marti, Marlene and Mother

In her memoir, singer Eileen Farrell remembers the time she and a friend, Shirley Cowell, were invited by Marti Stevens' mother, Pansy Schenck, to catch Marlene's show in Miami .

[Marti Stevens]
(Pansy's husband was one-time 20th Century-Fox executive, Joe Schenck.):
"Now, I don't think Pansy had much of a clue about what any of her children were up to, but I thought she must have heard the rumours that Marti was having an affair with Marlene Dietrich, because it was fairly common gossip in show business circles.
The show was absolutely fabulous, even though Marlene couldn't sing worth a damn. Afterward, the three went backstage to meet Dietrich. Pansy introduced herself:
'Hello,' she said, 'I'm Mrs Joe Schenck. I think you know my daughter, Marti.'
There was a perfectly timed pause. Then Marlene said with a knowing smile, 'Oh yes. I do.'
Shirley and I wanted to die right then and there. Pansy just kept chattering away, and I don't think she ever figured out  why Shirley and I were so tongue-tied."
 (From: Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell, by Eileen Farrell and Brian Kellow. UPNE, 1999.)

13 July 2013

Shine On! Marlene Dietrich, Interviewed at Grosvenor House. London, 1974.

(Thank you to the Crees Collection for sharing yet another gem: this interview with Marlene, preparing for her performances at London's Grosvenor House in 1974.)

by Roger Falk

The omens were not promising. At midnight she had railed at photographers who ambushed her at London Airport. “Why aren’t you all home in your beds?” she snapped, and then, rather than be photographed in a wheelchair, had endured the painful long walk to the terminal building from the aircraft. The next day a surprised radio reporter was bundled away from her suite at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. His crime: asking silly questions. A national newspaper writer, awaiting audience, was being softened up by her publicity man. “Now you won’t ask her about her age, her family or her leg ?” he implored. “Don’t be so bloody wet,” came the robust retort. “‘If I don’t ask her about her leg, it’ll be like interviewing Nelson and not  mentioning the eye and the arm.”

03 July 2013

Dressed to Kill Must Have Been Marlene Dietrich's Fav Angie Dickinson Flick!

Don't you think?

When I read Burt Bacharach's autobiography, Anyone Who Had a Heart, I realized that lyricists Hal David and Carole Bayer Sager performed a crucial role by putting words to the Gershwin Prize-winning composer's music. Without their poetic nuances and Bacharach's Sybil-esque signature shifts, Burt's story in prose reads more like a raw interview transcript, yet from this candor emerges some amusing accounts.

Overlooking the laudatory excerpt from Marlene Dietrich's own memoirs, I will gloss over the Dietrich-related anecdotes in Burt's book. Like in Josef von Sternberg's Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Marlene is the subject of an entire chapter. Burt entitles his the unimaginative "The Blue Angel" and even repeats almost verbatim his recollections published in A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered and Charlotte Chandler's Dietrich bio. Burt's already-documented memories include meeting Marlene through Peter Matz, sipping on her beef tea after a game of tennis, facing bomb threats during Dietrich's 1960 German tour (in Duesseldorf or Wiesbaden? Burt says the former in the earlier publications), Quincy Jones questioning why a hit songwriter like Bacharach was still going on the road with Dietrich, and Marlene's unrealized plans to record "Any Day Now" with Burt during her seclusion on Avenue Montaigne. Despite Burt's lack of literary prowess, he did manage to capture Marlene's indignation over Frank Sinatra snubbing "Warm and Tender" far better than professional biographer Charlotte Chandler.

Don't let me mislead you into believing that Burt's book will leave you thirsty. Mr. Bacharach has got pitchers of tea to spill! Despite creating such passionate and poignant arrangements for Marlene, Burt admits that he wasn't a fan of her repertoire. Conversely, Marlene didn't like his protege, Stan Freeman. Burt even reveals that--on one drunken night in Vegas--he rejected Marlene's kisses and invitation to her room. Perhaps Burt has a hazy memory, though, because he also informs us that Dietrich could speak Spanish. Then, Burt throws a curve ball of a story about a juggler accidentally dropping a ball on Dietrich's head before her Leningrad show, causing her to suffer temporary lyrical amnesia. Please tell me there is extant footage of this performance!

As I had expected, the sweetest drops of Burt's book are the bile that Marlene spewed over Angie Dickinson. On the Daily Mail website, you can read an excerpt from Burt's book about the tension between the two ladies, which led to Marlene engaging in witchcraft. Be aware, however, that the language was toned down because--according to Burt's book--Marlene did not merely call Angie a slut but also a, um, well, the word that rhymes with "stunt." Forget about that, though. Can you imagine Marlene eating Kentucky Fried Chicken?