Marlene: Marlene Dietrich, A Personal Biography (Thorndike Biography)

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9781410437655: Marlene: Marlene Dietrich, A Personal Biography (Thorndike Biography)

In Marlene, the legendary Hollywood icon is vividly brought to life, based on a series of conversations with the star herself and with others who knew her well. In the mid-1970s Charlotte Chandler spoke with Marlene Dietrich in Dietrich’s Paris apartment. The star’s career was all but over, but she agreed to meet because Chandler hadn’t known Dietrich earlier, “when I was young and very beautiful.” Dietrich may have been retired, but her appearance and her celebrity—her famous mystique—were as important to her as ever.

Marlene Dietrich’s life is one of the most fabulous in Hollywood history. She began her career in her native Berlin as a model, then a stage and screen actress during the silent era, becoming a star with the international success The Blue Angel. Then, under the watchful eye of the director of that film, her mentor Josef von Sternberg, she came to America and became one of the brightest stars in Hollywood. She made a series of acclaimed pictures—Morocco, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, Destry Rides Again, among many others—that propelled her to international stardom. With the outbreak of World War II, the fiercely anti-Nazi Dietrich became an American citizen and entertained Allied troops on the front lines. After the war she embarked on a new career as a stage performer, and with her young music director, the gifted Burt Bacharach—whom Chandler interviewed for the book—Dietrich had an outstanding second career.

Dietrich spoke candidly with Chandler about her unconventional private life: although she never divorced her husband, Rudi Sieber, she had numerous well-publicized affairs with his knowledge (and he had a longtime mistress with her approval). By the late 1970s, plagued by accidents, Dietrich had become a virtual recluse in her Paris apartment, communicating with the outside world almost entirely by telephone Marlene Dietrich lived an extraordinary life, and Marlene relies extensively on the star’s own words to reveal how intriguing and fascinating that life really was.

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About the Author:

Charlotte Chandler is the author of several biographies of actors and directors, including Groucho Marx, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and Mae West, all of whom she interviewed extensively. She is a member of the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and lives in New York City.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

M arlene Dietrich was on her farewell tour and she was going to be at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles for two weeks, in 1968,” publicist Dale Olson told me. “I received a call from the Ahmanson, and they were worried. They had heard that she would be a terror, that she would be unreasonably demanding, and they wouldn’t be able to work with her. They said they wanted to hire me for the two weeks because they knew I had a good relationship with her, and they wanted me to look after her. I think what they really meant was they wanted me to look after them.

“I said yes.

“When she arrived, I told her what they had said, that they were afraid of her.

“She laughed. ‘They are right,’ she said. ‘They are right to be afraid of me.’ She was laughing as she spoke.

“She said there was one thing she wanted. She had to have an extremely large refrigerator for her dressing room. I said they had one which was large enough for champagne bottles, smoked salmon, and caviar, which doesn’t take up much room, the usual for the dressing room of a star.

“She said, ‘No. That isn’t what I want. I want the largest refrigerator.’

“So I went back with her request. They didn’t understand and weren’t pleased. They wanted to know why she wanted such a large refrigerator. I certainly didn’t know. I wondered if she was going to cook her famous goulash for everyone. She loved to cook for people, and her goulash was delicious, but I didn’t think that was likely. Anyway, she got her huge refrigerator.

“On opening night, I was in the dressing room. When she went out, I couldn’t resist. I was curious about what she had in the refrigerator. I opened the door and looked in.

“She had removed the shelves. It was completely empty.

“She was wonderfully received. After her opening night performance, there was tremendous applause, a standing ovation, and people in the aisles with bouquets of flowers, and single flowers, rushing up to throw their flowers on the stage.

“After absolutely everyone had left the theater, she went out on the stage, all by herself. She had changed from stiletto-heeled shoes to perfectly flat ballerina-type slippers. She began picking up the bouquets. She brought them back to her dressing room. She didn’t stop until she had picked up the last single rose and carried it back to her dressing room. Then, she began carefully arranging them in the refrigerator.

“We hadn’t seen the last of those flowers. The next night, the ushers had them ready for the end of her performance. The flowers were all thrown on the stage. The next night the same. And so on.

“At the end of the two weeks, on the night of the last performance, there they were. The flowers were performing for the last time. They were pretty wilted, but the audience didn’t know. From where they were sitting, the flowers looked fine.

“She was quite a showman.”

© 2011 Charlotte Chandler

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Published by Thorndike Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 1410437655 ISBN 13: 9781410437655
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