A Tribute to Marlene Dietrich
Once the highest paid actress of her time, Marlene Dietrich is today viewed by many movie fans as an icon, while others see her as a curiosity at best. While it’s probably true that some of her films and performances haven’t held up well (and few are seen very often), no serious film afficionado can deny the impact she had on the world of filmmaking during the 30s and 40s. She finished 9th on the AFI’s list of greatest actresses, ahead of Grace Kelly, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joan Crawford.
Marlene Dietrich was born as Marie Magdelene Dietrich in Berlin on December 27, 1901. As a young girl, she enjoyed singing and playing the piano and violin, and discovered acting as a teenager. When she was 20, she attended an acting school run by Max Reinhardt. In 1923 she married Rudolf Sieber and remained married to him until his death, though they were separated. In 1929, Josef von Sternberg discovered her in a Berlin cabaret and gave her a screen test, which resulted in the role for which she is perhaps best known to this day, that of the cabaret singer in The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel). She then went to Hollywood, appearing in Morocco (1930), with Gary Cooper, the second in a series of von Sternberg films.
Shanghai Express (1932) was a great success, making her a star, but she was constantly appearing as prostitutes or women of low morals, and the quality of her work began to decline. At one point she even left Hollywood and returned to Europe. However, in 1939 she starred with Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again, as a saloon hostess in the American West, and finally was able to escape the typecasting and make a comeback. Many of her best films were made in the early 40s.
She became a U.S. citizen and helped the war effort in WW II, and after the war traded her movie career for one involving singing and the stage, including appearances in Las Vegas and on Broadway. Her last notable film role was in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Her health steadily declined in her later years (reportedly helped along by alcohol), and she died on May 6, 1992 in Paris at the age of 90.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art, and Posters