Happy 110th Birthday, Gorgeous and Talented!

110 years ago on December 27, Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born in Berlin-Schöneberg, Germany. In time, she metamophosed into a most fabulous creature who was, in her own lifetime, celebrated for her performances on film, stage, record and television…

Marlene’s first stage roles came in 1922. In 1923, she married her sole husband, Rudi Sieber (they were married until his death in the 1970s), and in 1924 her only child, their daughter Maria, was born.

Marlene did not give up her theatrical ambitions to become a wife and mother. In 1929 she made a fateful screen test at the request of director Josef von Sternberg for the role of Lola-Lola in Der Blaue Angel (The Blue Angel). The film was produced by Ufa, Germany’s principal film studio of the time. The day after that film premiered in Berlin, Dietrich sailed for the U.S., Paramount Pictures, six more iconic films under the direction of Josef von Sternberg and, eventually,  status as a 20th century icon in the field of entertainment.

Marlene became a sensation in the U.S. with two films released here in 1930,  Morocco for Paramount (co-starring Gary Cooper) and the English-language version of The Blue Angel (co-starring Emil Jannings). Though Morocco was filmed later, it was released first in the U.S. She received her only Oscar nomination, a Best Actress nod, for her performance as Amy Jolly. Paramount successfully promoted Dietrich as its answer to MGM’s Greta Garbo, though the two women had only great beauty, international stardom and their European origins in common…

After moving on from her association with Josef von Sternberg and starring in lavish failures like The Garden of Allah and Knight Without Armor, Dietrich was labeled “box office poison” (along with Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire and several others) by the National Theater Distributors of America. But Dietrich was resilient and rebounded vigorously in 1939 in the hit comedy/western Destry Rides Again with James Stewart. She was never labeled anything but ‘legend’ from then on…

Approached by high-ranking Nazis in the late ’30s and pressured to return to Germany and support the Third Reich, Dietrich refused and became a U.S. citizen. She entertained Allied troops on the front line throughout World War II and her rendition of “Lili Marlene” was an anthem for America’s propaganda radio broadcasts in Europe during the war. In 1947 President Harry Truman awarded Dietrich the Medal of Freedom, one of the first, for her wartime work; similarly, France bestowed upon her its Légion d’honneur.

Marlene Dietrich continued to make films from the late ’40s through the mid-’70s, though with much less frequency as time passed. In the 1950s, as her film career waned, she reinvented herself as a high-ticket “cabaret” performer (if venues like the  Sahara in Las Vegas can be called cabarets). She performed on stage until the 1970s as one of the highest paid entertainers in the world.

As her age advanced, her health faltered and her beauty faded, Marlene Dietrich disappeared behind the door of her Avenue Montaigne apartment in Paris. She died there in 1992 at the age of 90.

About The Lady Eve

I blog mostly on classic film - here, there and everywhere - but mainly at http://www.ladyevesreellife.com/
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