It’s Marlene Dietrich Day on TCM, Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Known for her sultry eyes, smokey German accent and the hottest pair of legs in Hollywood! Marlene Dietrich could turn a room of men into crying babies. I grew up, in awe, of a pen & ink pointillism portrait, by my father, of MD poised against the railing of a winding staircase. When she was performing in Dallas, he asked to have the portrait sent up to Ms. Dietrich’s hotel room for an autograph. She thought is was so lovely, signed it & sent it back to my father. Wish I had a photo, it was quite amazing.
Born Marie Magdalene Deitrich in Berlin, Germany from a successful & well-off family. How did she get her film/stage name, well, she merged her first & middle name together to get “Marlene”. She studied the violin, poetry & acting as a teenager; actually wanted to become a violinist. But the story goes that she was too beautiful & was a huge distraction to the rest of the orchestra & audiences (I had the same problem, so I hung up my violin, lol). In her younger stage career she performed in some weighty plays by Wedekind, Shaw & Shakespeare, but she excelled & sparkled in musical reviews. Her stepping stone into film & break-thru role came in the film “The Blue Angel” (1930), where her smokey contralto pipes were shown off in the song “Falling in Love Again”.
And then the studios came a callin’! Paramount contracted her as their exotic answer to MGM’s foreign sensation, Greta Garbo. Her film career flourished for sometime due to her professional involvement with director Josef von Sternberg. He seemed to capture the true essence of Dietrich. But his career was ended due to Paramount terminating his contract and she never quite gained the popularity after the von Sternberg films. In fact Marlene was considered “Box Office Poison”, along with others like Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn & Fred Astaire. But it did not take long to re-ignite her film career with “Destry Rides Again” (1939).
In the mid 40’s she did what she would call her “most important job”, to entertain and support the troupes in WWII. The 50’s thru the 70’s was her cabaret as she went on to become one of the highest paid cabaret acts in Vegas and other large stages, internationally. I did not know that she employed Burt Bacharach to arrange & put together her shows. She did appear on Broadway in 2 shows & was given an honorary Tony. She continued on the Cabaret circuit for years until she broke her leg during an performance in 1974. She chose to keep in mainly in seclusion, in Paris, until her death in 1992.
POP CULTURE ICON:
Mont Blanc created & named a pen after MD.
She is one of the most renowned drag & gay icons.
Madonna & Marilyn copied Marlene:
“Darling, the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them.”
“I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for the fashion, not for men.”
“Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”
MUST SEE VIDEOS:
Marlene puts a little Voodoo on you you!
And who could forget MADELINE KAHN’s outrageous performance in “Blazing Saddles,” parodying “The Boys in the Backroom” from “Destry Rides Again.”
For more great stuff on Marlene Dietrich check out TCM: