Marlene Dietrich was a legendary actress and singer, her career spanned over eight decades. She gave up music and pursued an acting career and made her name. The ‘American Film Institute’ named her the 9th greatest female star of classic Hollywood Cinema. She is remembered for her magnetic charisma, distinctive voice, and unique personal style. Dietrich Carefully curated her image for the cameras, she was dressed as a gentleman many times during her photoshoots. She told the Observer in 1960.
I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.
She learned violin in her childhood and performed in the theatres in her teens. Dietrich started her career with silent films, she made her debut with an uncredited role in the German silent movie ‘The Little Napoleon’ in 1923. In 1929, she portrayed the role of ‘Lola Lola’, a night club dancer in the movie ‘The Blue Angel’. The film was a super hit and it helped make Dietrich a star in the United States. After the success of ‘The Blue Angel’, she moved to the United States and got her first role in the movie ‘Morocco’ with Gary Cooper.
A symbol of glamour and elegance, she continuously developed herself both professionally and personally. During the 1930s, she performed in twelve movies and became the highest paying actress. She was asked to return to Germany by the German government, but she turned down the offer. As a result, her films were banned in her native homeland. During World War II she also toured and performed for Allied troops.
Dietrich’s popularity began to decline in the early-1940s. It was the time when film exhibitors labeled her as ‘box office poison’, a title shared by the likes of Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, and Mae West. However, she did not stop there and worked in many high and low-budgeted movies for the next two decades. During the 1960s and 1970s, she also performed in the theaters as a high-profile cabaret dancer. Throughout her long career, she portrayed in more than fifty movies.
End of Dietrich’s legacy
On September 29, 1975, Dietrich fell from the stage, while she was performing in Sydney and broke her thigh. The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, died of cancer. After that, she never recovered and her last film was Just a Gigolo’ in 1979.
Marlene Dietrich was only married once but she had an unending string of affairs throughout her career. She had affairs with actors Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Jean Gabin, and many more. Her affair with actor Yul Brynner lasted more than a decade. Dietrich also claimed that she had affairs with George Bernard Shaw, John F. Kennedy, and John Wayne. Her husband also knew about her affairs, she often passed the intimate letters of her lovers with her husband.
She met her husband Rudolf Sieber during the filming of ‘Tragedy of Love’ in 1923 and they married the same year. She had an only child, daughter Maria Elisabeth Sieber.
Marlene Dietrich’s death
Dietrich died on May 7, 1992, in Paris due to renal failure at the age of 90. She was buried next to her mother in Berlin. She was survived by her daughter Maria and her four grandchildren. Her daughter, Maria Elisabeth Sieber, later wrote her biography of her mother.
A substantial portion of her estate was sold to Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek on October 24, 1993, while her Manhattan apartment at 993 Park Avenue was sold for $615,000 in 1998.
Here below are some stunning photos of young Marlene Dietrich form her life and career.