A lot had happened for Marie Marlene Dietrich since her birth in Berlin, Germany on the last Friday in December 1901. War had come and gone – and was back again for the 2nd time. She had married; given birth to her daughter; parted company but kept in touch with her child’s father. She has developed her skills and moved to Hollywood and, in 1930, made her first film – ‘Morocco’ – with Gary Cooper. In 1932 she was in ‘Blond Venus’ with Cary Grant. In both of these films – and others – she seemed to be typecast as a woman of low morals but, in 1939, she was cast as ‘Frenchy’ a Western saloon hostess – a change that would provide much for the future. We’ll look at them later – but now we can have a look at another aspect of her life.
Marlene was beginning to select her own lovers – with Josef von Sternberg probably being the first. It is said that Marlene juggled her lovers with the skill of a practical joker. At dawn her ‘visitor’ would sneak out of whatever rented Hollywood mansion she was living in at the time and then go back and ring the front doorbell as a polite visitor and sit down with Marlene to a breakfast of Scrambled Eggs!
When Marlene was taking part in a 1984 documentary ‘Marlene’ by Maximilian Schell she refused to be seen on camera but was ‘happy’ to talk and to snap “There have been 55 books written about me”. It’s quite possible that another 50+ books have followed.
Steven Bach’s ‘Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend’ gives us a different slant but both agree that she slept with von Sternberg – also Maurice Chevalier; John Gilbert; Douglas Fairbank Jr; the screenwriter Mercedes de Acosta (on the rebound from Greta Garbo); Kirk Douglas; Yu Brynner; Frank Sinatra; James Stewart (her co-star in the western Destry Rides Again) – and quite a lot more! Other sources add John Wayne, Maurice Chevalier and one General Patton!
Not ‘recorded’ as much but near as many meetings were Marlene’s relationships with members of her own sex – Edith Piaf being one. In one of her diaries she was quoted as saying: “Women are better but you can’t live with women.”
Next week we’ll go back to the worlds of filming and war.