27 December 2014

Happy Birthday: Stars and Cake!

Dietrich was born 113 years ago, on this day in 1901.  

A Capricorn, she was one of the first stars to use the services of astrologer Carroll Righter, who had come to Hollywood in 1938. ("The stars impel, they don't compel. What you make of your life depends on you," he said).

"Anyone with troubles can unload them safely onto Capricorn's shoulders," Marlene said of her own zodiac sign, ruled by Saturn  "the celestial taskmaster. He won't let you get away with anything."

Righter either looked at his charts of the screenplay of The Lady Is Willing in 1941 and advised Marlene not to go to the studio one day. She disregarded his advice: while filming a scene with 'Baby X' in her arms, she tripped over a toy on the set and broke her ankle as she shielded the baby. Columbia's publicity men had a field day supplying photos of Marlene recuperating to the press. (She completed filming of the movie with her ankle in a cast, deftly hid out of view).

"Don't mess around with old Carroll — 'cause he must know something." Marlene concluded.

As late as 1978, according the New York Daily News, Marlene still rarely made "a move without consulting the zodiac ... with Righter". (The paper was reporting about a lunch date between Maria Riva and the astrologer. Riva had just become a "very happy" grandmother; great-grandmother was in Paris working on her autobiography).


Today being Marlene's birthday, here's a "birthday" cake: her recipe for Dutch Apple Cake, shared with readers of New Movie magazine in 1932. 

1 cake yeast
¼ cup lukewarm milk
¾ cup scalding hot milk
¼ cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour
¼ cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, beaten

Soak the yeast in lukewarm milk. Add to scalded milk. Add half the sugar and flour. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Then eat in the rest of the sugar, flour and other ingredients. Spread thinly in greased baking pan. Let rise in warm place until doubled again. Press thinly sliced apples into dough in even rows. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon cinnamon mixed with a half cup brown sugar and dot with currants. Bake in hot oven.

(Let us know what it tastes like!)

Happy Birthday Marlene!

18 December 2014

A Suite of Ivory Suits

Spoliansky in Berlin.
Bonhams sold an ivory cloqué Balenciaga evening suit from Marlene's wardrobe earlier this month (it fetched £3 250, premium included). According to the auctioneer's description, Marlene had gifted it to composer Mischa Spoliansky's daughter, whose family offered it for sale.

Spoliansky was one of the people who could have claimed to have "discovered" Marlene: he auditioned and cast her in two of his revues in Berlin. 

She made her first recordings as a cast member of 1928's  Es liegt in der Luft; the following year, Josef von Sternberg spotted her on-stage in Zwei Krawatten, and arranged her screen test for The Blue Angel. While Marlene went on to Hollywood stardom, Spoliansky emigrated to London in 1933, where he became a well-respected film composer. 

For decades, the pair would catch up when Marlene was in London. (Spoliansky later wrote one of Marlene's songs in Stage Fright and she included his lilting Auf Der Mundharmonika in her 1964 album, Die Neue Marlene). 

Here's the evening suit sold by Bonhams, and a photo of Marlene wearing a similar outfit  in 1962:

Spot the differences.
Dietrich wore similar ensembles to the one auctioned: in 1962, when she was received the Edison Award in the Netherlands; and in 1963, when she performed in London at The Royal Variety Performance. Both of those suits had differing detailing to one another, and the suit sold is again slightly different to both of those.

Dietrich in The Netherlands, 1962 (left); and Marlene Meets The Beatles at The Royal Variety Performance, 1963 (right).
[Photos: Bonhams & Crees Collection]

04 December 2014

Pretty Souvenirs: A 2014 Marlene Dietrich Auction Overview

Many a Dietrich admirer (and lovers of fine jewellery) would love to be the owner of this tri-colour gold bracelet, with a lapis lazuli clasp, which is being offered by Sotheby's New York as part of their Magnificent Jewels sale next week. Made by Cartier, it was given to Marlene by Erich Maria Remarque. She was photographed wearing it by Harper's Bazaar's Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Sotheby's estimates the 14 karat bracelet will fetch between $ 20 000 - $ 30 000. 

Perhaps you'd prefer to strut your stuff à la Dietrich? That can be arranged!

This pair of custom-made Delman shoes, used by Marlene in her stage shows, will be sold this week by Julien's. Online bidding is already under way (the top bid is currently at $ 700: it should easily reach their estimate of $ 800 - $ 1 200).

Salerooms have been earning nice commissions offering an interesting mix of other Dietrich items for sale this year. Some other highlights:

In January,  Sotheby's also sold this Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot sketch of a landscape with cows, another gift from Remarque.  Previously, the sketch had been offered to the public in November 1997, when the contents of Marlene's New York apartment was sold by her heirs. This time around, it brought  $ 11 250 (buyer's premium included) — well in excess of the the estimate of $ 6 000 - $ 8 000.

The most high-profile Dietrich auction of 2014 was the “Marlene Dietrich Inheritance Sale” which garnered worldwide press coverage. The internet-only sale, held in March by UK-based newcomer Auction My Stuff, featured everyday items gifted by Marlene to of some of her grandchildren (many were from John-David Riva's collection).