Marlene Dietrich is not known for her historical costume movies. The German actress is better known for the cabaret singing and dancing she often brought to her film roles, as well as for her personal glamor and androgynous image. However, in her long career (spanning the 1910s to the 1980s), Dietrich did take a few historical roles, even if the productions emphasized flash and fantasy more than historical accuracy. One of these films, Destry Rides Again (1939), is credited with reviving her career after a series of flops, and the Western became iconic, leading to similar parts and solidifying a certain trope of a Western saloon singer seen in movies and TV ever since. Marlene Dietrich’s style and personal life has become as influential as her movie roles. Her carefully curated fashion continues to be copied today, while her open marriage, affairs with many of her movies’ leading men, and her “sewing circle” of famous female lovers was a rational precedent for reevaluation of outdated norms. In addition to her unconventional life and her film work, she refused Nazi overtures to return to Germany, and instead, Dietrich worked for the United States war effort and became a U.S. citizen. She was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom in 1947. After her final film and suffering an injury, Marlene Dietrich retired to Paris, where she died in 1992.
Princess Sophia Frederica / Catherine II in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Alexandra in Knight Without Armor (1937)
Frenchy in Destry Rides Again (1939)
Claire Ledeux in The Flame of New Orleans (1941)
Cherry Malotte in The Spoilers (1942)
Jamilla in Kismet (1944)
Altar Keane in Rancho Notorious (1952)
Barbary Coast Saloon Owner in Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Baroness von Semering in Just a Gigolo (1978)
What’s your favorite Marlene Dietrich film, historical or otherwise?
Love Destry. “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” is the highlight of the film.
Love Scarlet Empress and Around the World in 80 Days as well as Destry.
But two of my favourite movies of hers are Witness for the Prosecution and Judgement at Nuremberg with Spencer Tracy.
Agree wholeheartedly, but they’re not technically historical costume flicks—although the case might be made for Judgment at Nuremberg.
I also agree with your comment. But just wanted to let my fellow FrockFlickers know my favourite Marlene Dietrich movies. Besides IMHO these are some of her finest roles.
Agree. She’s amazing in both.
If anyone is, or will be, in the Washington, DC area within the next year, the National Portrait Gallery has a new exhibit on Marlene Dietrich :
“Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” showcases the breadth and specificity of the Dietrich look through home videos, articles, photos and film clips. In tweed or top hat, she is powerful and magnetic. And that impression is real, if one that she reserved for the public.
“Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” is on at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington until April 15, 2018.
Ooh! I live in the DC area. I’ll have to check it out!
TCM just did a Garbo retrospective. I just watched “Desire” this morning. If you think about it, most of her films are “period” because of the time in which they were made. Either way, she was luminous and sexy. She was funeralised with military honours for the efforts during the war.
I think it’s a toss up between Destry Rides Again, Witness for the Prosecution and Judgement at Nuremberg. I don’t really think that there are any “stinkers” in her movies – she was a good actress and was fairly selective in her acting choices
Aww, Kathleen Norwell beat me to it! Here’s the link: http://npg.si.edu/exhibition/marlene-dietrich-dressed-image. And http://www.npr.org/2017/06/19/533090309/gallery-gives-movie-star-marlene-dietrich-the-big-picture-treatment. Also, NPG has lectures, etc., so if you plan to be in town, check the website to see if there is something interesting.
A quote attributed to Lord Beaverbrook: “Marlene Dietrich standing on a bar in black net stockings, belting out ‘See What the Boys In the Back Room Will Have’, is a greater work of art than the Venus de Milo.”
Did I say “Garbo’? I meant Dietrich.
It’s too bad she and Bowie never actually met–think of the conversation they could have had, and the stories they could have shared! I suspect they would have hit it off very well indeed…
And I wish she’d met Madeleine Kahn.
I wish I could’ve met Madeleine Kahn! Hey – has there been a Madeleine Kahn WCW yet?