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Marlene and her ‘other life’.

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.


Buddy Holly’s legacy for us

Buddy’s funeral was held on Saturday 7th February 1959.  Up to that date the records that had been released in the British charts were:

‘Peggy Sue’ [first entered 6/12/57; 17 weeks in the charts; reached number 6]
‘Listen to Me’ [first entered 14/3/58; 2 weeks in the charts; reached number 16]
‘Rave On’ [first entered 20/6/58; 14 weeks in the charts; reached number 5]
‘Early in the Morning’ [first entered 29/8/58; 4 weeks in the charts; reached number 17]
‘Heartbeat’ [first entered 16/1/59; 1 week in the charts; reached number 30]

Buddy’s death changed things here in the UK.  In all we had 18 chart ‘hits’ ranging from:

‘It doesn’t matter anymore’ which entered our UK charts on 27th February 1959 and, for 3 weeks from 24th April 1959, held the UK’s number one slot.

In the 17 other entries we have ‘Brown-eyed Handsome Man’ entering the charts in March 1963 and spending 17 weeks there and reaching 3 in the charts.  Close behind on 6th June 1963 we have ‘Bo Diddley’ reaching number 4 in a 12 week stay.

Just to round off this whole story – I have just spent a rather nice 15 minutes or so listening – and watching – some real Buddy Holly with him on stage.  Have a look – it cost nothing!

Stolen from the stables – and never seen again.

Wednesday 8th February 1983 was the day the racehorse Shergar was stolen from its stables at the Ballymany stud in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. At about 8.30 on that winter evening a Ford Granada pulling a horsebox, a van and another car entered the stable yard where Shergar ‘lived’. Two masked and armed men burst into the home of head groom Jim Fitzgerald, locked his family in a downstairs room, and forced him – at gunpoint – to release Shergar from his security protected stable.

There were six raiders in total and they pushed the horse and Jim into a horsebox and drove off. Jim was released four hours later some 40 miles away from the stud farm. The gang told him that they would telephone a ransom demand by lunchtime the next day.

Jim called the police, was picked up and questioned by detectives for several hours before he was released. The police then put listening devices in his home in preparation for the promised telephone call. It was not until the morning of 10th February that a ransom demand was phoned through. £2 million was demanded but, by the end of that day, the ransom figure had dropped to £40,000, the equivalent of £1,000 for each of the 40 shares in the horse. All 34 of the shareholders refused to pay the money on the basis that they wanted to deter future kidnappings. Over the following days there were numerous hoax calls and false alarms received by the police and media about sightings of the horse.

Shergar was never found; the insurers refused to pay out without evidence of the horse’s death; and his kidnappers have never been officially identified. Sean O’Callaghan, a former IRA member turned informer, later wrote in his book ‘The Informer’ that the horse had been killed by its abductors soon after it was taken because they were unable to handle him.

Nicknamed “Shergar – the wonder-horse” after the 1950s film and television ‘Champion the Wonder Horse’, this ‘wonder horse’ had been named European Horse of the Year in 1981 and had retired from racing that same September. Lloyds of London had carried an insurance premium of £300,000 when he was in competition and valued him at £10 million at stud.

It was January 1966 when the future of the Monte Carlo rally was put in doubt.

It was in 1909 that, at the ‘request’ of Prince Albert of Monaco, the Automobile Club de Monaco started planning a car rally.  The participants would start at points all over Europe and converge on Monte Carlo and – in January 1911 – 23 cars set out from 11 different locations.  The rally comprised both driving and then somewhat arbitrary judging based on the elegance of the car, passenger comfort and the condition in which it arrived in the principality. There was an outcry of scandal when the results were published and Henri Rougier, who was among the nine who left Paris to cover their 1,020 kilometres (634 mile) route, was proclaimed the first winner.

Let’s now roll forward to January 1966 and the first four cars to cross the finishing line were Timo Makinen (Finland) driving a British Motor Corporation Mini-Cooper, followed by Roger Clark in a Ford Lotus Cortina and Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, both also driving BMC Minis. However they were all ruled out of the prizes – with six other British cars – for alleged infringements of complex regulations about the way their headlights dipped.

The official winner was announced as Pauli Toivonen, a Finn who lived in Paris and drove a France made Citroen.

The Monte Carlo rally had ended in uproar over the disqualification of the British cars.  BMC and Ford lodged protests and the rally had been severely dented.  A British official said: “This will be the end of the Monte Carlo rally. Britain is certain to withdraw” and ‘winner’ Timo Makinen said: “None of us dreamed that the stewards would turn the results upside down – and for such a stupid reason.”

So what was it all about?

The British cars had been disqualified because they used non-dipping single filament quartz iodine bulbs in their headlamps, in place of the standard double filament dipping glass bulbs, which were fitted to the series production version of each model sold to the public.

According to new rules introduced at the end of 1965, any car entering the rally must come off a standard production line, with at least 5,000 cars being built to a similar specification. The British cars were equipped with standard headlamps – but the only way of dipping them was to switch to non-standard fog lamps.

Richard Shepherd, from the BMC, said: “There is nothing new about the lights at all. They have been used in our rallies, on rally cars, including the Monte for two years now and we’ve had no trouble at all in the past.”

It transpired that the confusion had arisen because the rally organisers had initially said the race would be run under the old rules – and only announced the switch after entries had been accepted!  The BMC said that it had spent £10,000 on preparing for the Monte Carlo rally – and is now considering withdrawing from next year’s race.

The British teams’ protest to the race organisers was rejected and boycotted the official farewell dinner held at the International Sporting Club. Prince Rainier of Monaco also showed his anger at the disqualifications by leaving the rally before attending the prize-giving which he had always done in previous years.

Just to make it worse when, on 13th October 1966, the supreme motor racing and rally tribunal upheld the disqualifications.  The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in Paris said the iodine quartz headlights fitted on the British cars were not standard and the Citroen was declared the official winner.

Just to take it a step further – the Citroen had similar lamps fitted but was approved because the bulbs were fitted as standard on some of their models!

This year’s rally is from January 22nd to 28th  2018

A husband and a daughter – and the beginning of Fame

Last time we left Marlene, in 1922, being sacked four weeks after getting a job playing the violin in a pit orchestra for silent films at a Berlin cinema!

In 1923 Marlene met Rudolf Sieber, a film professional who helped her land a part in the German 1923 silent film Tragedy of Love where she took the role of the judge’s mistress. The couple married on 17th May 1923 and welcomed their only child, Maria Elisabeth Sieber, on 13th December 1924. Marlene and Rudolf only lived together for 5 years but remained a married couple until Rudolf’s death on 24th June 1976.

Marlene continued to work on stage throughout the 1920s with roles from Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and in musicals and revues. By the late 1920 she was also playing sizable parts on screen and it was in 1929 that she landed a breakthrough role – the role of Lola Lola, a cabaret singer who caused the downfall of a hitherto respectable schoolmaster, in the UFA-Paramount co-production of ‘The Blue Angel’.  Josef von Sternberg directed the film and thereafter took credit for having “discovered” Marlene Dietrich!  For many the film was/is most noteworthy for having introduced Marlene’s signature song “Falling in Love Again”.

On the strength of the film’s international success, and with encouragement and promotion from Sternberg who was already established in Hollywood, Marlene moved to the USA under contract to Paramount Pictures where the studio set about marketing Marlene Dietrich as a German answer to the Swedish sensation, Greta Garbo!

PS: Not recorded above but performed by Marlene we can add: on-stage performance involvement in: Frank Wedekind’s ‘Pandora’s Box’; performances of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Back to Methuselah’ and ‘Misalliance’.  She was also involved in musicals and reviews.

We’ll leave this as is now – and come back next week with some answers and some ‘challenges’.

A story of a Star begins

It was on the first day of this year – 1st January 2018 – that I wrote that it was on Friday 27th December 1901 in Schoneberg, a suburb of Berlin, that one Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born – the product of a privileged and conservative family – and a fact that she seemingly failed to acknowledge throughout her life.  One indication of this starts early as her name ‘changes’ – it will now be Marlene Dietrich.

Over the years, details of her personal life would appear and change with virtually every biography written about her; every studio press release and every word she spoke.  She was creating a legend, and the errors that abounded about her only served to deepen the mystery and to encourage and expand the enigma.  Film director Billy Wilder would describe Marlene as ‘A strange combination of the femme fatale, the German Hausfrau and Florence Nightingale’.

When all aspects are considered, she has been described as a ‘quintessentially the embodiment of erotic sophistication, cosmopolitan glamour and warm, maternal sexuality’.

So – what is my view on the Marlene Dietrich story?  That is a very good question that has taken some quite large thought and research over the past couple of weeks and will – I am sure – take a few more in the months to come so let’s start from the beginning …..

She was born on 27th December 1901in Berlin and was given the name Maria Magdalene Dietrich – the second daughter of police lieutenant Louis Erich Otto Dietrich and Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine Dietrich nee Felsing.  Louis died – some say in 1907, others say 1910 and others 1911 – and, in 1916, his fried Eduard von Losch married his widow Wilhelmina – only to die himself of war-time injuries that same year!

Reading between the lines Marlene had set about going her own ways before this anyway. She had begun school in 1907 and, in 1918, graduated from the Victoria-Luise-Schule.  During this time she had become interested in poetry and the theatre.  She also studied the violin but a wrist injury put a stop to her dream of becoming a concert violinist.  Non-the-less, in 1922 she did get a job playing the violin in a pit orchestra for silent films at a Berlin cinema – she was fired four weeks later!  But all was not lost and, by the end of 1922, the future began looking positive.

Watch out next week for the next part of Marlene’s life.

Now would you say this?

As the New Year begins we look forward to 2018 but also look back to the year just gone.  Sometimes we also look back further to years and individuals gone by who made statements that we could and should fine helpful in this coming year.

One I found – with no recorded source – says: “Why do managers need Leadership?”  The answer given by this un-named individual is:  ‘…because, if you are just managing people, you are not doing yourself justice.  With a little insight into the way people thing, feel, and react, you could be rousing your people into breaking production levels, motivating them to do their best, encouraging their cooperation, infusing a sense of loyalty, inspiring them to meet lofty goals, and earning their respect and gratitude as well!    

Going back a bit to some words from Britain’s great leader through – and after – the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill we have these words:  “The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four.  Sometime in life, they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down to the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.”   

To close, these are a few comments/statements that, perhaps, would have been better not being said:

The former French President Charles De Gaulle tells us that: “China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese.”

In the US former vice-president Dan Quale told America that: “It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment.  It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”

And to end to this little list we have a US General – I’m not saying which one – telling us that: “Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.”


Telling stories is not always fictional

Five days ago, in December 1901 in a Berlin suburb, a girl named Marie was born

It was on Friday 27th December 1901 in Schoneberg, a suburb of Berlin, that one Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born – the product of a privileged and conservative family, and a fact that she seemingly failed to acknowledge throughout her life.

One indication of this starts early as her name ‘changes.

It is now Marlene Dietrich.

Over the years details of her personal life appear to change with every biography written about her; every studio press release and; every word she spoke.  Marlene was creating a legend, and the errors that abounded about her only served to deepen the mystery and to encourage and expand the enigma.  It has been said that far less is actually known for certain about Marlene than is known about her far more reclusive contemporary Greta Garbo, the Swedish-born American film actress during the 1920s and 1930s.

Film director Billy Wilder described Marlene as ‘A strange combination of the femme fatale, the German Hausfrau and Florence Nightingale’.

When all aspects are considered, she has been described as a ‘quintessentially the embodiment of erotic sophistication, cosmopolitan glamour and warm, maternal sexuality’.

So – what is my view on the Marlene Dietrich story?  That’s a very good question and – if all goes well – it may take us the whole of 2018 to discover it!

A change of plans for Brian

Hello everyone that has followed my postings over the past few years.  I have really enjoyed it all – and I hope you have too – but all things must come to an end sometime and I think it is the time for me.

I won’t bore you with details – let’s just say Brian’s brains keep deciding far too often not to function correctly!  Hopefully I shall still feel able to post items – but they may be a bit wider apart than recently.

Thank you all for your support and comments – I shall miss it.

Today is Hallowe’en – day or night

My most recent version of Chamber’s Book of Days [2004] tells us that:
This is All-Hallows Eve, better known as Hallowe’en, when witches fly abroad and ghosts, fairies, evil spirits and other supernatural beings are at their most active.  The traditional beliefs and practices of Hallowe’en may be connected in origin with the rituals performed during the night before Samhain.

The 1864 edition of Chambers said:
Great fun goes on in watching the attempts of the youngster in the pursuit of the swimming fruit, which wriggles from side to side of the tub, and evades all attempts to capture it; whilst the disappointed aspirant is obliged to abandon the chase in favour of another whose turn has now arrived.  The apples provided with stalks are generally caught first, and then comes the tug of war to win those which possess no such appendages.  Some competitors will deftly suck up the apple, if a small one, into their mouths.  Others plunge manfully overhead in pursuit of a particular apple, and having forced it to the bottom of the tub, seize it firmly with their teeth, and emerge, dripping and triumphant, with their prize.

So – what is the ‘real’ story?

The last night of October; Old Year’s Night in the Celtic calendar; was a night of witches and fires that was changed by the Church into the vigil of All Saints’ or Hallowe’en.

‘Teanlas’ or ‘tinley’ fires would glow on northern hills on All Souls’ Eve, symbolising the ascent to heaven of souls in purgatory. It was only the introduction of farming enclosures, when bushes were grubbed up, that put an end to the small ‘tindles’, lighted in the furze of Derbyshire commons.

In one Lancashire field, called Purgatory by the old folk, men stood in a circle to throw forkfuls of burning straw high in the air on the night breeze, and all present fell to their knees praying for the souls of the departed. More prosaically – some farmers maintained that the procedure was useful against weed ‘darnel’.

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.  The Celtic day began and ended at sunset so it was traditionally celebrated through the 31st October to 1st November – a time that is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

That’s it – there’s nothing for me to add apart from just saying: