July 28, 2021

Marlene Dietrich, an exterminating angel

In a Berlin in crisis in which the shadow of rampant Nazism was already looming, it was released on April 1, 1930 The blue angel, the movie that turned Marlene Dietrich into an erotic myth pigeonholed her at the same time. Her character as the depraved cabaret queen Lola Lola was her film debut and, at the same time, her catapult to fame. The young woman learned to turn her languid gaze into an argument for seduction and to boldly display those endless legs that drove the film’s protagonist, Professor Rath, mad with passion and they ended up being his downfall… and that of so many other fans.

‘Beautiful butt, but it needs a face‘. This was the reaction of Josef Von Sternberg, its discoverer, upon meeting it. She was then a Chubby young woman of only 1’65 in height, with thinning hair and rough features, but the German director knew how to glimpse what was hidden behind that vulgar facade and opted for it. The young María Magdalena Dietrich (daughter of a widow, took her father’s surname), Lena in the family, Marlene when she was 11 years old, had found her Pygmalion. Gone were his career as a violinist, cut short by a timely wrist injury, his beginnings at the famous German Theater with the prestigious Max Reinhart and his marriage with a Czech, Rudolf Sieber, whom he had met during the filming of a silent film and with whom he would have his only daughter, Maria. Marlene had had steamy relationships with members of both sexes when she met Von Sternberg. Almost immediately they became lovers and he began his work: he was willing to turn young Marlene into an erotic bomb. It transformed her into the fatal Woman par excellence. By pouring all his knowledge and fetish obsessions into her, he modeled her to his liking and made her fascinating. It made her lose a few kilos, taught her to put on makeup and light up her face to hide her broad Nordic nose and mark her Slavic cheekbones, changed her hairstyle and, most importantly, her personality. The young woman learned to turn her languid gaze into an argument of seduction and to boldly display those endless legs that in the future would insure for thousands of dollars. Discovering the inherent magnetism of the Dietrich, Von Sternberg made of her a burning and captivating object of desire. Created the erotic myth, Lola Lola, the depraved queen of the cabaret of The blue angel, was the character with which he made his film debut and his catapult to fame. Marlene was born. The film, considered a masterpiece in the history of cinema, is a great success, it discovers the star and at the same time shows a society that is corrupt and in crisis: Nazism was on the prowl.

NAZI

The actress, always splendid, even when she was little she liked to wear her mother’s jewels and furs that she secretly wore to school before the astonished gaze of her classmates. Thus it is not surprising that he spent his first salary on a sumptuous fur coat. Blinded by success abandons her husband and daughter, and follow Von Sternberg to Hollywood. He gets him a contract for Paramount and, convinced of his talent, he gives himself to Marlene. Determined to make her irresistible vamp insists on his figure: makes her lose fifteen kilos and, in order to refine her face, convinces her to have her wisdom teeth removed (a fact that she always denied), the make-up to accentuate her teutonic pallor and pluck her eyebrows at the same time. Greta Garbo , who curiously would be his eternal rival. They would always be compared and even would share lover, Mercedes de Acosta.
Director and star live together although in separate houses, which does not prevent Von Sternberg’s wife from fighting with the actress for ‘marital alienation’. The Dietrich would be victorious. A fruitful relationship begins during which six culminating works are shot: Morocco (1930), with Gary Cooper, in which does not hide his bisexuality and wearing a tuxedo provocatively kisses another woman ; your favorite movie Fatality (1931), The Shanghai Express (1932), The blonde Venus (1932), Immortal caprice (1934) and The devil is a woman (1935), where she plays a fiery Spanish tobacco company with a topical vision of our country that provoked a Spanish-American conflict with great echo.

BROWN

Marlene Dietrich, in the role of a fiery Spanish cigar maker in El diablo es mujer (1935)

After breaking his relationship with Von Sternberg, he shot with directors of the stature of Hitchcock, Wilder, Lubitsch or Welles, another former lover under whose baton he would interpret his last role as the protagonist in However, the mal.
Its resounding success attracted Hitler’s attention, who tries to make her the Reich’s first movie star, to which she flatly refuses. Hated it and actively militated against Nazism , which would cause her not a few problems with her compatriots, although she always claimed her origins despite becoming an American citizen.
In 1943 he stuffed himself into a military uniform and he came ready to harangue the allies in the front line of fire. Chanting his Lili Marleen , which established her as a singer, became a symbol for the soldiers of both sides. On 1947 would receive the Medal of Freedom for this brave position. At the end of the fifties, his name illuminated the signs of the most important cinemas in the world, from Las Vegas to Paris. The blue angel, things of fate, resumed his musical career and I was successful as a singer. Came to earn two million dollars as a show-woman, conquering her loyal admirers who, fascinated, come to contemplate her idol in the flesh.
Seeing her beauty fade, he decides in the twilight of his life to seclude himself in his home on Parisian Avenue Montaigne. Ten years later he passes away. His age only she knew. His bed witnessed a long parade of lovers, despite this in an interview with The vanguard was defined as ‘the loneliest woman in the world . By his express wish, he lies with his mother in his native Berlin. Only thirty people attended his funeral.

Promotional image of Marlene Dietrich in 'The Shanghai Express', 1932.

Promotional image of Marlene Dietrich in ‘The Shanghai Express’, 1932.