Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich (/
Dietrich in 1951
Marie Magdalene Dietrich|
27 December 1901
Berlin, German Empire
6 May 1992 (aged 90)|
|Resting place||Städtischer Friedhof III, Berlin, Germany|
(m. 1923; d. 1976)
In 1920s Berlin, Dietrich acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international fame and a contract with Paramount Pictures. Dietrich starred in Hollywood films such as Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), and Desire (1936). She successfully traded on her glamorous persona and "exotic" looks, and became one of the highest-paid actresses of the era. Throughout World War II, she was a high-profile entertainer in the United States. Although she still made occasional films after the war, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a marquee live-show performer.
Dietrich was noted for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their US citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium, and Israel. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.
Dietrich was born on Rote Insel in Schöneberg, now a district of Berlin. Her mother, Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine (née Felsing), was from an affluent Berlin family who owned a jewelry and clock-making firm. Her father, Louis Erich Otto Dietrich, was a police lieutenant. Dietrich had one sibling, Elisabeth, who was one year older. Dietrich's father died in 1907. His best friend, Eduard von Losch, an aristocratic first lieutenant in the Grenadiers, courted Wilhelmina and married her in 1916, but he died soon afterwards from injuries sustained during the First World War. Von Losch never officially adopted the Dietrich girls, so Dietrich's surname was never von Losch, as has sometimes been claimed.27 December 1901 at Leberstraße 65 in the neighborhood of
Dietrich's family nicknamed her "Lena" and "Lene" (IPA: [leːnɛ]). Around age 11, she combined her first two names to form the name "Marlene". Dietrich attended the Auguste-Viktoria Girls' School from 1907 to 1917 and graduated from the Victoria-Luise-Schule (today Goethe-Gymnasium (Berlin-Wilmersdorf)|Goethe-Gymnasium Berlin-Wilmersdorf) in 1918. She studied the violin and became interested in theater and poetry as a teenager. A wrist injury curtailed her dreams of becoming a concert violinist, but by 1922 she had her first job, playing violin in a pit orchestra for silent films at a Berlin cinema. She was fired after only four weeks.
Her earliest professional stage appearances were as a chorus girl on tour with Guido Thielscher's Girl-Kabarett vaudeville-style entertainments, and in Rudolf Nelson revues in Berlin. In 1922, Dietrich auditioned unsuccessfully for theatrical director and impresario Max Reinhardt's drama academy; however, she soon found herself working in his theatres as a chorus girl and playing small roles in dramas. She did not attract any special attention at first. She made her film debut playing a bit part in the film The Little Napoleon (1923).
She met her future husband, Rudolf Sieber, on the set of Tragedy of Love in 1923. Dietrich and Sieber were married in a civil ceremony in Berlin on 17 May 1923. Her only child, daughter Maria Elisabeth Sieber, was born on 13 December 1924.
Dietrich continued to work on stage and in film both in Berlin and Vienna throughout the 1920s. On stage, she had roles of varying importance in Frank Wedekind's Pandora's Box, William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah and Misalliance. It was in musicals and revues such as Broadway, Es Liegt in der Luft, and Zwei Krawatten, however, that she attracted the most attention. By the late 1920s, Dietrich was also playing sizable parts on screen, including roles in Café Elektric (1927), I Kiss Your Hand, Madame (1928), and The Ship of Lost Souls (1929).
In 1929, Dietrich landed the breakthrough role of Lola Lola, a cabaret singer who caused the downfall of a hitherto respectable schoolmaster (played by Emil Jannings), in the UFA production of The Blue Angel (1930), shot at Babelsberg film studios. Josef von Sternberg directed the film and thereafter took credit for having "discovered" Dietrich. The film is also noteworthy for having introduced Dietrich's signature song "Falling in Love Again", which she recorded for Electrola and later made further recordings in the 1930s for Polydor and Decca Records.
Success in the United StatesEdit
In 1930, on the strength of The Blue Angel's international success, and with encouragement and promotion from Josef von Sternberg, who was already established in Hollywood, Dietrich moved to the United States under contract to Paramount Pictures, the US film distributor of The Blue Angel. The studio sought to market Dietrich as a German answer to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Swedish sensation, Greta Garbo. Sternberg welcomed her with gifts, including a green Rolls-Royce Phantom II. The car later appeared in their first US film Morocco.
Dietrich starred in six films directed by von Sternberg at Paramount between 1930 and 1935. Sternberg worked effectively with Dietrich to create the image of a glamorous and mysterious femme fatale. He encouraged her to lose weight and coached her intensively as an actress. She willingly followed his sometimes imperious direction in a way that a number of other performers resisted.
In Morocco (1930), Dietrich was again cast as a cabaret singer. The film is best remembered for the sequence in which she performs a song dressed in a man's white tie and kisses another woman, both provocative for the era. The film earned Dietrich her only Academy Award nomination.
Morocco was followed by Dishonored (1931), a major success with Dietrich cast as a Mata Hari-like spy. Shanghai Express (1932), which was dubbed by the critics "Grand Hotel on wheels", was Sternberg and Dietrich's biggest box office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1932. Dietrich and Sternberg again collaborated on the romance Blonde Venus (1932). Dietrich worked without Sternberg for the first time in three years in the romantic drama Song of Songs (1933), playing a naive German peasant, under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian. Dietrich and Sternberg's last two films, The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil Is a Woman (1935)—the most stylized of their collaborations—were their lowest-grossing films. Dietrich later remarked that she was at her most beautiful in The Devil Is a Woman.
Sternberg is noted for his exceptional skill in lighting and photographing Dietrich to optimum effect. He had a signature use of light and shadow, including the impact of light passed through a veil or slatted blinds (as for example in Shanghai Express). This combined with the scrupulous attention to set design and costumes makes the films they made together among the most visually stylish in cinema history. Critics still vigorously debate how much of the credit belonged to Sternberg and how much to Dietrich, but most would agree that neither consistently reached such heights again after Paramount fired Sternberg and the two ceased working together. The collaboration of one actress and director creating seven films is still unmatched in cinema history, with the possible exception of Katharine Hepburn and George Cukor, who made ten films together over a much longer period but which were not created for Hepburn the way the last six von Sternberg/Dietrich collaborations were.
Dietrich's first film after the end of her partnership with Sternberg was Frank Borzage's Desire (1936), a commercial success that gave Dietrich an opportunity to try her hand at romantic comedy. Her next project, I Loved a Soldier (1936), ended in shambles when the film was scrapped several weeks into production due to script problems, scheduling confusion and the studio's decision to fire the director, Ernst Lubitsch.
"Box office poison"Edit
Extravagant offers lured Dietrich away from Paramount to make her first color film The Garden of Allah (1936) for independent producer David O. Selznick, for which she received $200,000, and to Britain for Alexander Korda's production, Knight Without Armour (1937), at a salary of $450,000, which made her one of the best paid film stars. While both films performed respectably at the box office, her vehicles were costly to produce and her public popularity had declined. By this time, Dietrich placed 126th in box office rankings, and American film exhibitors proclaimed her "box office poison" in May 1938, a distinction she shared with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Mae West, Katharine Hepburn, Norma Shearer, Dolores del Río and Fred Astaire among others.
While she was in London, officials of the Nazi Party approached Dietrich and offered her lucrative contracts, should she agree to return to Germany as a foremost film star in the Third Reich. She refused their offers and applied for US citizenship in 1937. She returned to Paramount to make Angel (1937), another romantic comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch; the film was poorly received, leading Paramount to buy out the remainder of Dietrich's contract.
Revival and later film careerEdit
In 1939, with encouragement from Josef von Sternberg, she accepted producer Joe Pasternak's offer to play against type in her first film in two years: that of the cowboy saloon girl, Frenchie, in the western-comedy Destry Rides Again, opposite James Stewart. This was a significantly less well paid role than she had been accustomed to. The bawdy role revived her career and "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have", a song she introduced in the film, became a hit when she recorded it for Decca. She played similar types in Seven Sinners (1940) and The Spoilers (1942) both opposite John Wayne.
While Dietrich never fully regained her former screen success, she continued performing in motion pictures, including appearances for such distinguished directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, and Billy Wilder in films that included Golden Earrings (1947), A Foreign Affair (1948), Stage Fright (1950), Rancho Notorious (1952), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Touch of Evil (1958).
World War IIEdit
Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. In the late 1930s, Dietrich created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor ($450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.
During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK and France, then went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton. When asked why she had done this, in spite of the obvious danger of being within a few kilometers of German lines, she replied, "aus Anstand"—"out of decency". Wilder later remarked that she was at the front lines more than Eisenhower. Her revue, with Danny Thomas as her opening act for the first tour, included songs from her films, performances on her musical saw (a skill she had originally acquired for stage appearances in Berlin in the 1920s) and a "mindreading" act that her friend Orson Welles had taught her for his Mercury Wonder Show. Dietrich would inform the audience that she could read minds and ask them to concentrate on whatever came into their minds. Then she would walk over to a soldier and earnestly tell him, "Oh, think of something else. I can't possibly talk about that!" American church papers reportedly published stories complaining about this part of Dietrich's act.
In 1944, the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) initiated the Musak project, musical propaganda broadcasts designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Dietrich, the only performer who was made aware that her recordings would be for OSS use, recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including "Lili Marleen", a favorite of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Major General William J. Donovan, head of the OSS, wrote to Dietrich, "I am personally deeply grateful for your generosity in making these recordings for us."
At the war's end in Europe, Dietrich reunited with her sister Elisabeth and her sister's husband and son. They had resided in the German city of Belsen throughout the war years, running a cinema frequented by Nazi officers and officials who oversaw the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dietrich's mother remained in Berlin during the war; her husband moved to a ranch in the San Fernando Valley of California. Dietrich vouched on behalf of her sister and her sister's husband, sheltering them from possible prosecution as Nazi collaborators. Dietrich would later omit the existence of her sister and her sister's son from all accounts of her life, completely disowning them and claiming to be an only child.
Dietrich received the Medal of Freedom in November 1947, for her "extraordinary record entertaining troops overseas during the war". She said this was her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d'honneur by the French government for her wartime work.
Stage and cabaretEdit
From the early 1950s until the mid-1970s, Dietrich worked almost exclusively as a highly paid cabaret artist, performing live in large theatres in major cities worldwide.
In 1953, Dietrich was offered a then-substantial $30,000 per week to appear live at the Sahara Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The show was short, consisting only of a few songs associated with her. Her daringly sheer "nude dress"—a heavily beaded evening gown of silk soufflé, which gave the illusion of transparency—designed by Jean Louis, attracted a lot of publicity. This engagement was so successful that she was signed to appear at the Café de Paris in London the following year; her Las Vegas contracts were also renewed.
Dietrich employed Burt Bacharach as her musical arranger starting in the mid-1950s; together, they refined her nightclub act into a more ambitious theatrical one-woman show with an expanded repertoire. Her repertoire included songs from her films as well as popular songs of the day. Bacharach's arrangements helped to disguise Dietrich's limited vocal range—she was a contralto—and allowed her to perform her songs to maximum dramatic effect; together, they recorded four albums and several singles between 1957 and 1964. In a TV interview in 1971, she credited Bacharach with giving her the "inspiration" to perform during those years.
Bacharach then felt he needed to devote his full-time to songwriting. But she had also come to rely on him in order to perform, and wrote about his leaving in her memoir:
From that fateful day on, I have worked like a robot, trying to recapture the wonderful woman he helped make out of me. I even succeeded in this effort for years, because I always thought of him, always longed for him, always looked for him in the wings, and always fought against self-pity...He had become so indispensable to me that, without him, I no longer took much joy in singing. When he left me, I felt like giving everything up. I had lost my director, my support, my teacher, my maestro.
She would often perform the first part of her show in one of her body-hugging dresses and a swansdown coat, and change to top hat and tails for the second half of the performance. This allowed her to sing songs usually associated with male singers, like "One for My Baby" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face".
"She … transcends her material," according to Peter Bogdanovich. "Whether it's a flighty old tune like 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby' … a schmaltzy German love song, 'Das Lied ist Aus' or a French one 'La Vie en Rose', she lends each an air of the aristocrat, yet she never patronises … A folk song, 'Go 'Way From My Window' has never been sung with such passion, and in her hands 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?' is not just another anti-war lament but a tragic accusation against us all."
Francis Wyndham offered a more critical appraisal of the phenomenon of Dietrich in concert. He wrote in 1964: "What she does is neither difficult nor diverting, but the fact that she does it at all fills the onlookers with wonder … It takes two to make a conjuring trick: the illusionist's sleight of hand and the stooge's desire to be deceived. To these necessary elements (her own technical competence and her audience's sentimentality) Marlene Dietrich adds a third—the mysterious force of her belief in her own magic. Those who find themselves unable to share this belief tend to blame themselves rather than her."
Her use of body-sculpting undergarments, nonsurgical temporary facelifts (tape), expert makeup and wigs, combined with careful stage lighting, helped to preserve Dietrich's glamorous image as she grew older.
Dietrich's return to West Germany in 1960 for a concert tour was met with mixed reception— despite a consistently negative press, vociferous protest by chauvinistic Germans who felt she had betrayed her homeland, and two bomb threats, her performance attracted huge crowds. During her performances at Berlin's Titania Palast theatre, protesters chanted, "Marlene Go Home!" On the other hand, Dietrich was warmly welcomed by other Germans, including Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt, who was, like Dietrich, an opponent of the Nazis who had lived in exile during their rule. The tour was an artistic triumph, but a financial failure. She was left emotionally drained by the hostility she encountered, and she left convinced never to visit again. East Germany, however, received her well. She also undertook a tour of Israel around the same time, which was well-received; she sang some songs in German during her concerts, including, from 1962, a German version of Pete Seeger's anti-war anthem "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", thus breaking the unofficial taboo against the use of German in Israel. She would become the first woman and German to receive the Israeli Medallion of Valor in 1965, "in recognition for her courageous adherence to principle and consistent record of friendship for the Jewish people". Dietrich in London, a concert album, was recorded during the run of her 1964 engagement at the Queen's Theatre.
She performed on Broadway twice (in 1967 and 1968) and won a special Tony Award in 1968. In November 1972, I Wish You Love, a version of Dietrich's Broadway show titled An Evening With Marlene Dietrich, was filmed in London. She was paid $250,000 for her cooperation but was unhappy with the result. The show was broadcast in the UK on the BBC and in the US on CBS in January 1973.
Dietrich commanded a fee of $25,000 plus a percentage of the box office for each engagement during her years of touring as a live performer.Dietrich continued with a grueling performance schedule until September 1975. Up until the mid 1970s, Dietrich had between 30 and 50 scheduled engagements around the world annually.  When asked about why she continued to perform by Clive Hirschhorn she said, "Do you think this is glamorous? That this is a great life, and that I do it for my health? Well, it isn't. It's hard work. And who would work if they didn't have to? I work because I pay away in taxes to the American Government 88 cents out of each dollar I earn. Everybody in America works today. You have to. Oh - know, I could live tucked away out of sight in some Swiss chalet - but why should I? I am an American citizen, and proud to be so. I enjoy living in that country and one pays for one's pleasures. So I work. And as long as people want me, and I have them eating out of my hands, I shall continue to do so."
In her sixties and seventies, Dietrich's health declined: she survived cervical cancer in 1965 and suffered from poor circulation in her legs. Dietrich became increasingly dependent on painkillers and alcohol. A stage fall at the Shady Grove Music Fair in Maryland in 1973 injured her left thigh, necessitating skin grafts to allow the wound to heal. She fractured her right leg in August 1974.
Final years and deathEdit
Dietrich's show business career largely ended on 29 September 1975, when she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia. The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, died of cancer on 24 June 1976. Dietrich's final on-camera film appearance was a cameo role in Just a Gigolo (1979), starring David Bowie and directed by David Hemmings, in which she sang the title song.
An alcoholic dependent on painkillers, Dietrich withdrew to her apartment at 12 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. She spent the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden, allowing only a select few—including family and employees—to enter the apartment. During this time, she was a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller. Her autobiography, for which she was paid an advance of $300,000 - Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life), was published in 1979.
In 1982, Dietrich agreed to participate in a documentary film about her life, Marlene (1984), but refused to be filmed. The film's director, Maximilian Schell, was allowed only to record her voice. He used his interviews with her as the basis for the film, set to a collage of film clips from her career. The final film won several European film prizes and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary in 1984. Newsweek named it "a unique film, perhaps the most fascinating and affecting documentary ever made about a great movie star".
Dietrich earned an advance of $100,000 for the recording of Marlene (1984), and an extra sum plus a percentage on its sale to television. 
In 1988, Dietrich recorded spoken introductions to songs for a nostalgia album by Udo Lindenberg. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2005, Dietrich's daughter and grandson claim that Dietrich was politically active during these years. She kept in contact with world leaders by telephone, including Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, running up a monthly bill of over US$3,000. In 1989, her appeal to save the Babelsberg studios from closure was broadcast on BBC Radio, and she spoke on television via telephone on the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year.
A few years prior to her passing, Maria and she, both in need of money, planned another book. They negotiated the deal with Alfred A. Knopf in New York, with a proviso that the book should be published only after Dietrich's death. Having sorted through familial archives pertaining to the life of her mother, and her own memories, Maria was ready with her mother's biography soon after she was buried.
On 6 May 1992, Dietrich died of renal failure at her flat in Paris at age 90. Her funeral ceremony was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris, a Roman Catholic church on 14 May 1992. Dietrich's funeral service was attended by approximately 1,500 mourners in the church itself—including several ambassadors from Germany, Russia, the US, the UK and other countries—with thousands more outside. Her closed coffin rested beneath the altar draped in the French flag and adorned with a simple bouquet of white wildflowers and roses from the French President, François Mitterrand. Three medals, including France's Legion of Honour and the US Medal of Freedom, were displayed at the foot of the coffin, military style, for a ceremony symbolising the sense of duty Dietrich embodied in her career as an actress, and in her personal fight against Nazism. The officiating priest remarked: "Everyone knew her life as an artist of film and song, and everyone knew her tough stands... She lived like a soldier and would like to be buried like a soldier". By coincidence, her picture was used in the Cannes Film Festival poster that year which was currently pasted up all over Paris.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dietrich instructed in her will that she was to be buried in her birthplace, Berlin, near her family; on 16 May her body was flown there to fulfill her wish. Dietrich was interred at the Städtischer Friedhof III, Berlin-Schöneberg, next to the grave of her mother, Josefine von Losch, and near the house where she was born.
On 24 October 1993, the largest portion of Dietrich's estate was sold to the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek—after U.S. institutions showed no interest—where it became the core of the exhibition at the Filmmuseum Berlin. The collection includes: over 3,000 textile items from the 1920s to the 1990s, including film and stage costumes as well as over a thousand items from Dietrich's personal wardrobe; 15,000 photographs, by Sir Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, George Hurrell, Lord Snowdon and Edward Steichen; 300,000 pages of documents, including correspondence with Burt Bacharach, Yul Brynner, Maurice Chevalier, Noël Coward, Jean Gabin, Ernest Hemingway, Karl Lagerfeld, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Erich Maria Remarque, Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder; as well as other items like film posters and sound recordings. The Marlene Dietrich Collection was sold to the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek for US$5 million, by Dietrich's heirs.
The contents of Dietrich's Manhattan apartment, along with other personal effects such as jewelry and items of clothing, were sold by public auction by Sotheby's in Los Angeles on 1 November 1997. The auction generated US$659,023 - twice what auctioneers had anticipated. Her former apartment located at 993 Park Avenue was sold for $615,000 in 1998.
Unlike her professional celebrity, which was carefully crafted and maintained, Dietrich's personal life was kept out of public view. She was fluent in German, English, and French. Dietrich, who was bisexual, quietly enjoyed the thriving gay scene of the time and drag balls of 1920s Berlin. She also defied conventional gender roles through her boxing at Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir’s boxing studio in Berlin, which opened to women in the late 1920s. As Austrian writer Hedwig (Vicki) Baum recalls in her memoir, "I don't know how the feminine element sneaked into those masculine realms [the boxing studio], but in any case, only three or four of us were tough enough to go through with it (Marlene Dietrich was one)."
Dietrich was married only once, to assistant director Rudolf Sieber, who later became an assistant director at Paramount Pictures in France, responsible for foreign language dubbing. Dietrich's only child, Maria Riva, was born in Berlin on 13 December 1924. She would later become an actress, primarily working in television. When Maria gave birth to a son (John, later a famous production designer) in 1948, Dietrich was dubbed "the world's most glamorous grandmother". After Dietrich's death, Riva published a frank biography of her mother, titled Marlene Dietrich (1992).
Throughout her career, Dietrich had an unending string of affairs, some short-lived, some lasting decades. They often overlapped and were almost all known to her husband, to whom she was in the habit of passing the love letters from her men, sometimes with biting comments. When Dietrich arrived in Hollywood and filmed Morocco (1930), she had an affair with Gary Cooper, even though he was already having an affair with Mexican actress Lupe Vélez. Vélez once said, "If I had the opportunity to do so, I would tear out Marlene Dietrich's eyes." Another of her famous affairs was John Gilbert, famous for his alleged affair with Greta Garbo. Gilbert's untimely death was one of the most painful events of her life. Dietrich also had a brief affair with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., even though he was married to Joan Crawford. At the filming of Destry Rides Again, Dietrich started a love affair with co-star James Stewart, which ended after filming. In 1938, Dietrich met and began a relationship with writer Erich Maria Remarque, and in 1941, the French actor and military hero Jean Gabin. Their romance began when both were supporting the Allied troops in World War II. The relationship ended in the mid-1940s.
In the early 1940s, Dietrich also had an affair with John Wayne, her co-star in three films (Seven Sinners, Pittsburgh, The Spoilers). Dietrich had a strong friendship with Orson Welles, who for her was a kind of platonic love and whom she considered a genius. She also had an affair with Cuban-American writer Mercedes de Acosta, who claimed to be Greta Garbo's lover. Sewing circle was a phrase used by Dietrich to describe the underground, closeted lesbian and bisexual film actresses and their relationships in Hollywood.
In the supposed "Marlene's Sewing Circle"  are mentioned the names of other close friends such as Ann Warner (the wife of Jack L. Warner, one of the owners of the Warner studios), Lili Damita (an old friend of Marlene's from Berlin and the wife of Errol Flynn), Claudette Colbert, and Dolores del Río (whom Dietrich considered the most beautiful woman in Hollywood). The French singer Edith Piaf was also one of Dietrich's closest friends during her stay in Paris in the 1950s, and there were always rumors of something more than friendship between them.
Greta Garbo has been commonly regarded as Dietrich's greatest film rival, but there is also a rumor of an affair between them. This rumor had its highlight in 2000 when writer Diana McLellan released her book The Girls: Sappho goes to Hollywood. The author wrote that, in her research, she found proof of a never-before-reported affair between Garbo and Dietrich. She wrote that they met in Berlin in 1925 while Garbo was filming The Joyless Street and Dietrich had a minor part in the film. The two enemies shared the most intimate friends, without so much as a word passing between them or speaking each other's names in public. Finally, in the summer of 1945, when Dietrich was the guest of Orson Welles and his wife Rita Hayworth at their house in Los Angeles, she decided it was time to attempt a reconciliation with Garbo. Dietrich persuaded Welles to invite Garbo to a dinner hosted by Clifton Webb, and Garbo accepted. Welles presented the two women to each other, and promptly Dietrich swarmed around Garbo and told her how inspiring she was, calling Garbo goettlich (divine) and an unsterbliche (undying) muse. Dietrich was evidently unimpressed by Garbo remarking to Welles, "It's not true that she doesn't wear makeup. She had her eyelashes beaded. Do you know how long it takes to have your eyelashes beaded?" They are alleged to have met one last time in New York, when Dietrich, dressed as a nurse to remain incognito, was with her grandson in Central Park. Garbo is supposed to have admired the baby and not recognized Dietrich.
Her last great passion, when Dietrich was in her 50s, appears to have been for the actor Yul Brynner, with whom she had an affair that lasted more than a decade; her love life continued well into her 70s. She counted Errol Flynn, George Bernard Shaw, John F. Kennedy, Michael Wilding, and Frank Sinatra among her conquests. Dietrich maintained her husband and his mistress first in Europe and later on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, near Hollywood.
Dietrich's family brought her up to follow the Lutheran religion, but she abandoned it as a result of her experiences as a teenager during World War I, after hearing preachers from both sides invoking God as their support. "I lost my faith during the war and can't believe they are all up there, flying around or sitting at tables, all those I've lost." Quoting Goethe in her autobiography, she wrote, "If God created this world, he should review his plan." On 14 May 1992, her funeral ceremony was performed at her favorite Paris church, La Madeleine.
Dietrich was a fashion icon to the top designers as well as a screen icon that later stars would follow. Edith Head remarked that she knew more about fashion than any other actress. Dietrich herself favored Dior. In an interview with The Observer in 1960, she said, "I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men. If I dressed for myself I wouldn't bother at all. Clothes bore me. I'd wear jeans. I adore jeans. I get them in a public store – men's, of course; I can't wear women's trousers. But I dress for the profession."  Her public image included openly defying sexual norms, and she was known for her androgynous film roles and her bisexuality.
A significant volume of academic literature, especially since 1975, analyzes Dietrich's image, as created by the film industry, within various theoretical frameworks, including that of psycho-analysis. Emphasis is placed, inter alia, on the "fetishistic" manipulation of the female image.
In 1992, a plaque was unveiled at Leberstraße 65 in Berlin-Schöneberg, the site of Dietrich's birth. A postage stamp bearing her portrait was issued in Germany on 14 August 1997.
For some Germans, Dietrich remained a controversial figure for having sided with the Allies during World War II. In 1996, after some debate, it was decided not to name a street after her in Berlin-Schöneberg, her birthplace. However, on 8 November 1997, the central Marlene-Dietrich-Platz was unveiled in Berlin to honour her. The commemoration reads: Berliner Weltstar des Films und des Chansons. Einsatz für Freiheit und Demokratie, für Berlin und Deutschland ("Berlin world star of film and song. Dedication to freedom and democracy, to Berlin and Germany").
Dietrich was made an honorary citizen of Berlin on 16 May 2002. Translated from German, her memorial plaque reads
Berlin Memorial Plaque
Funded by the GASAG Berlin Gasworks Corporation.
"Tell me, where have all the flowers gone"
27 December 1901 – 6 May 1992
Actress and Singer
She was one of the few German actresses that attained international significance.
Despite tempting offers by the Nazi regime, she emigrated to the USA and became an American citizen.
In 2002, the city of Berlin posthumously made her an honorary citizen.
"I am, thank God, a Berliner."
The U.S. Government awarded Dietrich the Medal of Freedom for her war work. Dietrich has been quoted as saying this was the honor of which she was most proud in her life. They also awarded her with the Operation Entertainment Medal. The French Government made her a Chevalier (later upgraded to Commandeur) of the Légion d'honneur and a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Her other awards include the Medallion of Honor of the State of Israel, the Fashion Foundation of America award and a Chevalier de l'Ordre de Leopold (Belgium).
Dietrich is referenced in a number of popular 20th century songs, including Rodgers and Hart's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (1935), Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?" (1969), Suzanne Vega's "Marlene On The Wall" (1985), and Madonna’s "Vogue" (1990).
Dietrich is referred to in the fourth season of American Horror Story, in which Elsa Mars, a German woman with dreams of stardom, fails to become famous in part because of her similarities to the already established Dietrich.
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Noteworthy appearances include:
- Lux Radio Theater: The Legionnaire and the Lady opposite Clark Gable (1 August 1936)
- Lux Radio Theater: Desire opposite Herbert Marshall (22 July 1937)
- Lux Radio Theater: Song of Songs opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr (20 December 1937)
- The Chase and Sanborn Hour with Edgar Bergen and Don Ameche (2 June 1938)
- Lux Radio Theater: Manpower opposite Edward G Robinson and George Raft (15 March 1942)
- The Gulf Screen Guild Theater: Pittsburgh opposite John Wayne (12 April 1943)
- Theatre Guild on the Air: Grand Hotel opposite Ray Milland (24 March 1948)
- Studio One: Arabesque (29 June 1948)
- Theatre Guild on the Air: The Letter opposite Walter Pidgeon (3 October 1948)
- Ford Radio Theater: Madame Bovary opposite Claude Rains (8 October 1948)
- Screen Director's Playhouse: A Foreign Affair opposite Rosalind Russell and John Lund (5 March 1949)
- MGM Theatre of the Air: Anna Karenina (9 December 1949)
- MGM Theatre of the Air: Camille (6 June 1950)
- Lux Radio Theater: No Highway in the Sky opposite James Stewart (21 April 1952)
- Screen Director's Playhouse: A Foreign Affair opposite Lucille Ball and John Lund (1 March 1951)
- The Big Show starring Tallulah Bankhead (2 October 1951)
- Marlene Dietrich in conversation with J. W. Lambert and Carl Wildman recorded after her season at the Queen's Theatre London, BBC radio, 12 August 1965 (a shorter version had been broadcast on 2 April).
- The Child, with Godfrey Kenton, radio play by Shirley Jenkins, produced by Richard Imison for the BBC on 18 August 1965
- Dietrich's appeal to save the Babelsberg Studio was broadcast on BBC radio
Dietrich made several appearances on Armed Forces Radio Services shows like The Army Hour and Command Performance during the war years. In 1952, she had her own series on American ABC entitled, Cafe Istanbul. During 1953–54, she starred in 38 episodes of Time for Love on CBS (which debuted 15 January 1953). She recorded 94 short inserts, "Dietrich Talks on Love and Life", for NBC's Monitor in 1958. Dietrich gave many radio interviews worldwide on her concert tours. In 1960, her show at the Tuschinski in Amsterdam was broadcast live on Dutch radio. Her 1962 appearance at the Olympia in Paris was also broadcast.
- Desert Island Discs, Dietrich asked to choose eight recordings, broadcast Monday 4 January 1965
- Dietrich, Marlene (1962). Marlene Dietrich's ABC. Doubleday.
- Dietrich, Marlene (1979). Nehmt nur mein Leben: Reflexionen (in German). Goldmann. ISBN 3-442-06327-2.
- Dietrich, Marlene (1989). Marlene. Salvator Attanasio (translator). Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1117-3.
- Dietrich, Marlene (1990). Some Facts About Myself. Helnwein, Gottfried [Conception and photographs]. ISBN 3-89322-226-X.
- Flint, Peter B. (7 May 1992). "Marlene Dietrich, 90, Symbol of Glamour, Dies". The New York Times.
- "Marlene Dietrich to be US Citizen". Painesville Telegraph. 6 March 1937.
- "Citizen Soon". The Telegraph Herald. 10 March 1939.
- "Seize Luggage of Marlene Dietrich". Lawrence Journal World. 14 June 1939.
- "Marlene Dietrich – The Ultimate Gay Icon » The Cinema Museum, London". The Cinema Museum, London. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "AFI's 50 Greatest American Screen Legends". American Film Institute. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Born as Maria Magdalena, not Marie Magdalene, according to Dietrich's biography by her daughter, Maria Riva (Riva 1993); however Dietrich's biography by Charlotte Chandler cites "Marie Magdalene" as her birth name (Chandler 2011, p. 12).
- Bach 2011, p. 19.
- "Marlene Dietrich (German-American actress and singer)". Our Queer History.
- Bach 1992, p. 20.
- Bach 1992, p. 26.
- Bach 1992, p. 32.
- Bach 1992, p. 39.
- Bach 1992, p. 42.
- Bach 1992, p. 44.
- Bach 1992, p. 49.
- Bach 1992, p. 491.
- Bach 2011, p. 62.
- Bach 1992, p. 65.
- Bach 1992, p. 480.
- Bach 1992, p. 482.
- Bach 1992, p. 483.
- Bach 1992, p. 488.
- "Ship of Lost Men (Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen)". Amazon. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
- "100th anniversary of Studio Babelsberg". www.StudioBabelsberg.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "filmportal: The Blue Angel". www.filmportal.de. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "The Ex-Marlene Dietrich, Multiple Best in Show Winning 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom". Bonhams.
- See e.g., Thomson (1975), p. 587: "He was not an easy man to be directed by. Many actors—notably [Emil] Jannings and William Powell—reacted violently to him. Dietrich adored him, and trusted him...."
- See, for example, Thomson (1975). The entry for Dietrich: "With him [von Sternberg] Dietrich made seven masterpieces [i.e., Blue Angel in Germany and the six in Hollywood], films that are still breathtakingly modern, which have no superior for their sense of artificiality suffused with emotion and which visually combine decadence and austerity, tenderness and cruelty, gaiety and despair."
- See, for example, the entries for Dietrich and Sternberg in Thomson (1975).
- Nightingale, Benedict (1 February 1979). "After Making Nine Films Together, Hepburn Can Practically Direct Cukor; Hepburn Helps Cukor Direct The Corn Is Green'" – via NYTimes.com.
- Spoto, Donald (5 July 2000). Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 978-1-4616-2421-9.
- Bach 1992, pp. 210-211.
- "How Joan Crawford Survived Box Office Poison twice!". 29 July 2015.
- Helm, Toby (24 June 2000). "Film star felt ashamed of Belsen link". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- Sudendorf, Werner.
- "Thanks Soldier". MarleneDietrich.org. 2000. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
- "A Soldier Lovingly Remembers Marlene Dietrich". Sister Celluloid.
- "A Look Back … Marlene Dietrich: Singing For A Cause". Central Intelligence Agency. 23 October 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
- McIntosh 1998, p. 58.
- McIntosh 1998, p. 59.
- Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song. TCM documentary. 2001.
- Helm, Toby (24 June 2000). "Film star felt ashamed of Belsen link". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- "Miss Dietrich to Receive Medal" (PDF). The New York Times. 18 November 1947.
- "Marlene Dietrich : Biography". Who's Who – The People Lexicon (in German). www.whoswho.de. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and Officier de la Légion d'Honneur
- Bach 1992, p. 369.
- Bach 1992, p. 368.
- Bach 1992, p. 371.
- Bach 1992, p. 395.
- Carpenter, Cassie (9 August 2011). "Cassie's Corner: Marlene Dietrich's Top 10 Badass One-Liners". L.A Slush. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012.
- O'Connor 1991, p. 154.
- on YouTube, 1/2 hour video
- Dietrich, Marlene. Marlene, Grove Press (1989) ebook
- Bach 1992, p. 394.
- Morley 1978, p. 69.
- O'Connor 1991, p. 133.
- "How one night in Montreal changed the life of Marlene Dietrich". The Montreal Gazette. 2 May 2012.
- Bach 1992, p. 406.
- Bach 1992, p. 401.
- Chesnoff, Richard Z. (7 March 1966). "A Candid Portrait of Marlene Dietrich". The Montreal Gazette.
- Bach 1992, p. 526.
- "I Wish You Love Production Schedule". Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
- https://www.independent.co.uk/money/yours-with-acrimony-and-a-lot-of-lacrimony-an-emotional-set-of-correspondence-is-going-on-sale-which-1531011.html. Missing or empty
- "Marlene Dietrich Concert Setlists". setlist.fm. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- "Marlene Dietrich". IMDb. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- Bach 1992, p. 416.
- Bach 1992, p. 436.
- Bach 1992, p. 437.
- "Act follows suggestion of song's title". Toledo Blade. Ohio. 7 November 1973. p. 37.
- Voss, Joan. "Marlene Dietrich". Senior Connection. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
- Skærved, Malene Sheppard (2003). Dietrich. Haus Publishing. ISBN 9781904341130.
- "Nehmt nur mein Leben ... : Reflexionen / Marlene Dietrich". Library of Congress Online Catalogue. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- "Marlene". Atlas International. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2009.
- Skærved, Malene Sheppard (2003). Dietrich. Haus Publishing. ISBN 9781904341130.
- Bach 1992, p. 528.
- "Der Himmel war grün, wenn sie es sagte". Der Spiegel (in German). 13 November 2005.
- Skærved, Malene Sheppard (2003). Dietrich. Haus Publishing. ISBN 9781904341130.
- "I have given up belief in a God." Allen Smith, Warren (2002). Celebrities in Hell: A Guide to Hollywood's Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Free Thinkers, and More. Barricade Books Inc. p. 130. ISBN 1-56980-214-9.
- "Obituary of Maria Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich". The Message Newsjournal. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- "Marlene Dietrich Funeral". Associated Press Images. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "15 Most Inspiring Cannes Film Festival Posters". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
- "Obituary for Marlene Magdelene Dietrich". The Message Newsjournal. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- "Marlene Dietrich: Berlin". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
- Swanson, Carl (5 April 1998). "Recent Transactions in the Real Estate Market". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014.
- Bourke, Amy (29 May 2007). "Bisexual side of Dietrich show". Pink News.
- Kennison, Rebecca (2002). "Clothes Make the (Wo)man: Marlene Dietrich and "Double Drag"". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 6 (2): 147–156. doi:10.1300/J155v06n02_19.
- Baum cited in Gammel (2012), p. 372
- "Marlene Dietrich by Her Daughter". Goodreads. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Riva 1994, p. 344.
- "History on Film: Actors: Gary Cooper". Archived from the original on 11 February 2012.
- "Marlene Dietrich". Revista Vanidades de México. Editorial Televisa S.A. de C.V. 46 (12): 141. 2006. ISSN 1665-7519.
- Bach 1992, pp. 207, 211.
- Bach 1992, p. 223.
- Bach 1992, p. 462.
- Freeman, David (7 January 2001). "Closet Hollywood: A gossip columnist discloses some secrets about movie idols". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
- Madsen, Axel (2002). The Sewing Circle: Sappho's Leading Ladies. New York: Kensington Books. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7582-0101-0.
- Moser, Margaret (2011). Movie Stars Do the Dumbest Things. Macmillan. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4299-7837-8.
- Bach 1992, p. 240.
- Riva 1994, pp. 489, 675.
- Bach 1992, pp. 316, 380.
- "Marlene Dietrich – Did they meet?". Garbo Forever.
- McNulty, Thomas (2004). Errol Flynn: The Life and Career. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1750-1.
- Riva 1994, passim.
- Bach 2011.
- "Dead Atheists Society". Michaelnugent.com. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "From the Observer archive, 6 March 1960: Marlene Dietrich's wardrobe secrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- Gammel 2012, p. 373.
- Weber, Caroline (September–November 2007). "Academy Award: A new volume analyzes Dietrich in and out of the seminar room". Bookforum.
- Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (1010) Marlene. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 87. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- "The German-Hollywood Connection: Dietrich's Street". Archived from the original on 22 December 2008.
- "The Legendary, Lovely Marlene". marlenedietrich.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 May 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- Rentschler, Eric (2007). "An Icon between the Fronts". In Schindler,, Stephan K; Koepnick, Lutz Peter. The Cosmopolitan Screen: German Cinema and the Global Imaginary, 1945 to the present. University of Michigan Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-472-06966-8.
- "Marlene Dietrich: Why Google honours her today". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- Morse, Leon (22 October 1949). "The MGM Theater of the Air". Billboard. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- Kirby, Walter (11 January 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved 19 June 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bach, Steven (1992). Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. William Morrow and Company, Inc. ISBN 0-688-07119-8.
- Bach, Steven (2011). Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-7584-8.
- Carr, Larry (1970). Four Fabulous Faces:The Evolution and Metamorphosis of Swanson, Garbo, Crawford and Dietrich. Doubleday and Company. ISBN 0-87000-108-6.
- Chandler, Charlotte (2011). Marlene Dietrich, a personal biography. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-8835-1.
- Gammel, Irene (2012). "Lacing up the Gloves: Women, Boxing and Modernity" (PDF). Cultural and Social History. 9 (3). doi:10.2752/147800412X13347542916620.
- McIntosh, Elizabeth P. (1998). Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS. London: Dell. ISBN 0-440-23466-2.
- Morley, Sheridan (1978). Marlene Dietrich. Sphere Books. ISBN 0-7221-6163-8.
- O'Connor, Patrick (1991). The Amazing Blonde Woman: Dietrich's Own Style. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 0-7475-1264-7.
- Riva, David J. (2006). A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3249-8.
- Riva, Maria (1993). Marlene Dietrich (1st ed.). Knopf. ISBN 0-394-58692-1.
- Riva, Maria (1994). Marlene Dietrich. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-38645-0.
- Spoto, Donald (1992). Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-42553-8.
- Thomson, David (1975). A Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema. London: Secker and Warburg. ISBN 0-436-52010-9.
- Walker, Alexander (1984). Dietrich. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015319-9.
- Official website
- Marlene Dietrich at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Marlene Dietrich at the Internet Broadway Database
- Marlene Dietrich on IMDb
- Marlene Dietrich at AllMovie
- Marlene Dietrich at the TCM Movie Database
- Marlene Dietrich Collection, Berlin (MDCB)
- Marlene Dietrich – Daily Telegraph obituary
- A film clip Air Army Invades Germany (1945) is available at the Internet Archive
- A film clip Atom Test Nears, 1946/06/13 (1946) is available at the Internet Archive
- A film clip Cruiser Bow Ripped Off By Typhoon, 1945/07/23 (1945) is available at the Internet Archive
- A Soldier Lovingly Remembers Marlene Dietrich
- Marlene Dietrich FBI Files
- Marlene Dietrich at Find a Grave
- Spring, Kelly. "Marlene Dietrich". National Women's History Museum. 2017.