Cool Marlene Dietrich

Day 234 of Colourisation Project – December 27

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Long before Berlin became today’s epicenter of European ‘cool’, there was Marlene Dietrich.  She single handedly made ‘coolness’ an art form.

Ernest Hemingway, said of her, “If she had nothing more than her voice, she could break your heart with it.”

Maurice Chevalier said of her, “Dietrich is something that never existed before and may never exist again. That’s a woman.”

Born this day, 27 December 1901, Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer, known for her smoldering sex appeal, exotic looks and distinctive voice, capped off by a cool non-conventional personal style. 

Marlene Dietrich

Photographer Don English – Publicity Still for Shanghai Express – Marlene Dietrich 1931 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

With direction and butterfly lighting by film director, Joseph von Sternerg, photographer, Don English took what was to become possibly the most iconic image of Dietrich. Sternberg cast a young Dietrich as Lola Lola, in The Blue Angel (1930) making her an international star overnight. They collaborated in the United States on a further six highly successful films, Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil is a Woman (1935).

A major leading lady, she was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses of the 1930s and 1940s. Part of her allure was her glamorous androgynous public persona, openly defying sexual norms and challenging accepted standards of femininity. She would often wear pants and more mannish clothes. She looked great in a white tuxedo. Theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan  described her this way;

“She has sex, but no particular gender. She has the bearing of a man; the characters she plays love power and wear trousers. Her masculinity appeals to women and her sexuality to men.”

Her bisexuality was no secret and the stories of her romantic liaisons with both sexes are legendary.  She had widely reported love affairs with many actors and actresses, including Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, Jean Gabin, Michael Wilding, Gary Cooper, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., James Stewart, John Wayne and Maurice Chevalier, film director, Joseph von Sternerg and the writers George Bernard Shaw and Erich Maria Remarque.  “I’ve always been attracted to intelligent men,” she once said. “I can pick ’em in a full room, just like that. I don’t care what age they are.”

She is said to have openly prided herself on the fact that she had slept with three men of the Kennedy clan – Joseph P. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

Berlin born Dietrich was a strong opponent of Germany’s Nazi government. She declined requests in the late 1930s to return and make films there. Consequently, she was branded a traitor and her films were banned in in Germany. In 1939 she became a U.S. citizen and during World War II travelled extensively to North Africa and Europe to entertain the allied troops with renditions of the ever popular Falling in Love Again, La Vie en Rose, Give Me the Man and Lili Marlene. She also assisted the war effort by recording anti-Nazi messages in German for broadcast.

Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a successful cabaret show performer.

In 1992 Dietrich died in Paris in her sleep at the age of 90. She was buried in Berlin next to her mother.

In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth-greatest female star of all time. Dietrich was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the US in 1945 claiming it as her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government as recognition for her wartime work.


“In Europe, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman – we make love with anyone we find attractive.”   Marlene Dietrich

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Hollywood, Photography, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Cool Marlene Dietrich

  1. Pingback: Neonatal Herpes Simplex Infection and the Three Musketeers | Herpes Survival Kit

  2. Loredana, what a beautiful rendering and nice background story on Marlene Dietrich!

    Thank you for following my blog as well. As I’m moving my platform, please sign up the mailing list here to continue receiving post from the new location:

    Happy New Year, Loredana!


  3. Pingback: Anna May Wong – Reluctant Dragon Lady | Random Phoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s