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.
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