Category Archives: 1970s life

Marlene Dietrich – her final years

It was on Monday 29th September 1975 that Marlene’s show business career largely came to an end when she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, Australia.  The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, died of cancer on Wednesday 24th June 1976.

In 1979 she did her final film appearance in David Bowie’s ‘Just a Gigolo’.  In that same year her autobiography, Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life), was published.

With an alcoholic dependent on painkillers, Marlene withdrew to her Paris apartment and spent the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden, allowing only a select few – mainly family and employees – to enter the apartment. She was not isolated though – she was a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller!

In 1982 she agreed to take part in a documentary film about her life, but refused to be filmed and her director – Maximilian Schell – was allowed only to record her voice. However he used the interviews with her as the basis for a film set to a collage of film clips from her career and in 1984 the film – Marlene – won several European film prizes and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary in 1984 and Newsweek named it “a unique film, perhaps the most fascinating and affecting documentary ever made about a great movie star”.  Four years later – in 1988 – Marlene recorded the spoken introductions to songs for a nostalgia album by Udo Lindenberg.

It was on Saturday 6th May 1992 that Marlene Dietrich died of renal failure at her flat in Paris – she was 90.

Her funeral ceremony was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris, a Roman Catholic Church on Sunday 14th May 1992 and her 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 Marlene’s coffin, military style, for a ceremony symbolising the sense of duty Marlene 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”.

Marlene Dietrich’s gravestone is in Berlin – and the inscription reads “Hier steh ich an den Marken meiner Tage” (literally: “Here I stand at the marks of my days”), which is a line from Theodor Körner’s sonnet “Abschied vom Leben” (“Farewell to Life”).

Marlene had instructed in her will that she was to be buried in her birthplace, Berlin, near her family and, on Tuesday 16th May 1992, her body was flown there to fulfil 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.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2005, Marlene’s daughter and grandson claimed that Marlene was politically active during those years and that she kept in contact with world leaders by telephone, including Ronal 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.

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A personal Snippet from quite a while ago

A while ago a few of us were sitting and chattering about the comedy songs we had heard on the radio and decided that each of us would list our own ‘top five’ and then sort them into order from 5th to number 1.  This was our result:

At number 5 was The Goodies song ‘Funky Gibbon’

At number 4 was Billy Connolly‘s ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’ [one of the group had recently had a divorce and sympathy was shared!]

Number 3 was Andy Stewart‘s ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’

Number 2 was Rolf Harris with ‘Jake the Peg’

At the top – at number 1 was Benny Hill with ‘Ernie, the fastest milkman in the West’

I know that many of our readers are not here in the UK but – if you had to pick a top five for your comedy songs and tunes we’d all like to know what ones you would choose

A snippet for 18th July

It was at the Montreal Olympic Games on Sunday 18th July, 1976 that the first perfect 10 ever recorded in Olympic gymnastics was achieved up by Romania’s 4-foot-11, 88-pound Nadia Comaneci on the women’s uneven parallel bars.  She later said that:

I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.

Two other of her comments at the time are also worth recording:

Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.
and
You should also appreciate the goodness around you, and surround yourself with positive people.

Plane spotting can be a crime

On Saturday 4th June 1977, five young British men – all members of the West London Aviation Group – were released from jail in Athens. They were accused of spying and had spent ten weeks in prison for plane-spotting. Their original sentence was ten months but they were released after ten weeks on the condition that they would pay heavy fines. The men were simply interested in planes. The Greek police and courts did not understand that collecting serial numbers of aeroplanes was a hobby.

The Greek authorities could not understand what these young men – all in their twenties – were doing. Each had to pay a fine of £555 to obtain their release. Other plane spotters have had similar experiences.

Apparently Greek agents had tailed the spotters’ rented car as it travelled from airbase to airbase, parking on public highways as the occupants noted down aircraft numbers.  When they swooped on the departing Britons, the security police accused the men of taking notes which might describe the layout and features of the military runways they had visited. The five were immediately taken for interrogation by the Greek central intelligence agency.

“It was good cop, bad cop, just like you see on TV. One interrogator would be quite nice and then the other one would turn nasty.”

After 48 hours of questioning, the five were put on trial.
“We were very nervous. We had no idea if they were going to release us or put us away for 20 years.”

During their brief court appearance, the spotters attempted to convince Judge Stephanos Matthias that the taking of aircraft serial numbers was a genuine hobby in the UK (likening it to the Greek passion for football) and that it was not a cover for espionage.
“How can this silly, tasteless and costly game be a hobby?” retorted the judge.
While even Wing Commander Ioannis Marinakis – chief of air force intelligence and a prosecution witness – said the group acted “amateurishly”, all of the defendants were found guilty of violating security regulations under article 149 of the Greek penal code.

“They wanted to make an example of us. They didn’t want us going home and telling other plane-spotters about all the great numbers we had collected. That would have opened the flood gates.”

Britain’s 18 year olds have the vote

It was on Friday 13th March – unlucky for some, but not for others – 1970 that the British Conservative Party celebrated a big majority in a by-election in Bridgwater, Somerset. ‘So what’ one might say.

The ‘so what’ was the historic fact that, for the very first time, 18 year olds were now allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections in Britain!  The new legislation had come into force in January 1970 completing the updating of voting in Britain. Up until that point, you had to be 21 years old before you were eligible to vote. In fact it was only in 1928 that women had been given the same voting rights as men. Up until 1918, they could only vote when they had reached the age of 30.

Twenty-one had always been the point at which young people ‘attained their majority’ or ‘came of age’.  At this age they were regarded as adults and were allowed to vote and could get married without permission from their parents. When moves were made to lower the voting age to 18 it was considered a bit controversial, as some people felt that it was too young!

This result was totally unexpected as opinion polls had predicted an easy victory for Labour on the back of a healthy economy and large pay rises.  However – on 18th May Harold Wilson called a general election for 18th June.  His Labour Party lost that election to Edward Heath’s Conservatives.