Marlene Dietrich

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charliechaplinfan
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Marlene Dietrich

Post by charliechaplinfan »

No one comes as close for me as to what a star should be than Marlene Dietrich. After years of watching her films I'm still unsure as to whether she was a good actress or whether she was so magnetic a performer for it not to matter.

She strove to be a star, she only hit stardom when she was approaching her thirties, she'd married and had a child before reaching stardom. She pursued stardom but didn't give a hoot if her private life confliced with what was expected of her. I can't help but root for Marlene, whatever film she's in, even if it's a stinker, she turns it into a worthwhile experience.

I took a book about Marlene on holiday with me, by Donald Spoto, not the most reliable biographer and the book is too short to document her career. I have Maria Riva's book too but I fear that may be tinged by jealousy. I also have Photographs and Memories a photo book by Maria Riva.

Marlene had a personal life like no other star, she didn't give a damn what the anyone thought. I've started back at the beginning of her film career with The Blue Angel, I watched it years ago, I've never seen the German version, just the English version. Marlene takes the film from Emil Jannings with her performance as Lola Lola. Looking at ther here she's not the Dietrich that Von Sternberg brought to Hollywood, this one's face isn't quite as chiselled and her curves are curves, one can only think that someone ordered her to slim, I don't think it was necaessary. She still has an storng impact, no wonder Hollywood snapped her up . Her poses in The Blue Angel as Lola Lola are very sexy and pack and punch and are not as posured as Von Sternberg's later films.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Despite all the glamour of the thirties films, she wasn't afraid to send herself up or mock her image, her films with Von Sternberg, Mamoulian and Lubitsch are a feast for the eyes. Yet, I just love her in Destry Rides Again, Touch of Evil and Judgement at Nuremberg. Did she chose wisely or was she such a consummate and glamourous professional that most things she appeared in felt like they were touched with gold?
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JackFavell
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

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Ahhhh! Beautiful!

I'm so glad you started this thread, CCFan. I really love Marlene, and in going back to films like Destry Rides Again, Touch of Evil, Judgment at Nuremberg, Knight Without Armour, and Manpower, I realize that she definitely had the skill to bring across feeling and emotion on the screen. I don't know what more acting is than that.

After years of hearing about what a trampy, uncaring individual she was, I have found more and more evidence that she was a very caring person. She tried to help several friends and lovers get back on their feet after bouts with illness or alcoholism. Robert Donat was a friend, not involved with Marlene, and when he almost died from a particularly bad bout of asthma, she nursed him back to health. She tirelessly worked to bring European refugees over before the war, and she entertained the troops even when her life might have been in jeopardy. No one did more war work than Marlene.

I think the two most iconic women in films - Dietrich and Garbo, were probably the most misunderstood, and possibly the most maligned, only because each essentially lived a "man's" life.

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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

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While I'm partial to any film with Dietrich, The Blue Angel (1930), Dishonored (1931), and Shanghai Express (1932) are the three that I always find myself returning to, possibly because they laid the groundwork for everything to come and established her persona. My absolute favorite has always been Dishonored, where she plays a streetwalker turned spy.

Sternberg was always pitting her against Garbo, and you see much of this in the similarity of their projects, such as Mata Hari, which was released the same year as Dishonored, or The Scarlet Empress (1934), following hot on the heels of the previous year's Queen Christina. Both are great actresses and it’s interesting to see how each of them interpret a similar role.

Here’s a little montage of the early Sternberg work:

[youtube][/youtube]

Sooner or later, we're going to have to discuss north lighting.
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JackFavell
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by JackFavell »

That was lovely.

The montage made me realize that what CCFan said was true - that she was a magnetic performer and a rather fascinating enigma in the Von Sternberg films..... In Morocco, I see some kind of strict control of her in her performance. Maybe it is the rest of the movie that is under an iron hand, and Marlene is left to experiment. I don't know the specifics of how they made their films. She is wildly varied in her acting for him, ranging from incredibly bold and exciting to unsure and almost bland. Did Von Sternberg mold and shape her persona, or was there something inside her and he simply took advantage of it? I suppose it's both. She is a cog in the wheel of his vision. A cog you can't take your eyes off of, but a cog nonetheless. But she makes his films more exciting by lending a little bit of an unknown quantity into that strict environment. At her best, you aren't sure what she will do.

By The Scarlet Empress, she has an awareness (even though her character is shy and girlish much of the time) of her own power and impact that is kind of thrilling.

Like Garbo, she had the basic tools early on, but she learned to use those tools to perfection with Von Sternberg. She took them to a new level later. I find her much more satisfactory after Von Sternberg, but I have to go back and really compare. I like her a little freer and more self reliant in her style - like in Touch of Evil or Destry. Even in Manpower, she has a looseness, a knowledge of what will work for her, and she uses it to great effect. I feel that it's all Dietrich.
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by Mr. Arkadin »

She would often give all credit to Sternburg, saying he created her and Sternburg himself often said "I am Marlene Dietrich".

In Morocco (1930), where she pauses at the door to her dressing room and tells Cooper to wait for her, she actually had to stop and count to get the timing Sternburg wanted. He also helped to create her look and shot her through filters, using the north light effect, which enhanced her features.

In the later films, it all came naturally. She was definitely molded (quite literally as he made her lose some baby fat that you can see in the earlier German films she made before The Blue Angel) in the beginning, but she obviously had talent or she would not have been able to sustain such a career. Sternburg's career on the other hand, cooled considerably after their parting and was never the same.
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srowley75
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by srowley75 »

I've often regarded her 7 films with von Sternberg as 7 of the most entertaining pictures ever made - yes, even the oft-maligned The Devil is a Woman - and all of them are must-sees.

Having said all of that, though, I still don't know if I could consider myself a true fan of Dietrich per se - Dietrich and von Sternberg as a team, most definitely. After her collaborations with von Sternberg, she never really rose to quite the same heights, even working with directors like Lang. When I recently revisited Destry Rides Again, I found myself liking it far more than I thought I would, and I've always been a fan of Witness for the Prosecution, but not purely for Dietich. Outside of those, I can't really name any other post-von-Sternberg Dietrich films that I'm fond of.

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MichiganJ
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by MichiganJ »

Mr. Arkadin wrote:She would often give all credit to Sternburg, saying he created her
She pretty much says this in the documentary Marlene and states that her first film was The Blue Angel, claiming that she never was in a silent picture. Of course while she says this in voice-over, Marlene director Maximilian Schell is running clips from her German silents. After seeing one of those silents, Die Frau, nacho deer man sic sehnt (The Woman One Longs For) (1929) it's clear that Dietrich was Dietrich before Sternberg. Her sure knew how to light her, but she was a lot more than just his model or prop.

While I like the Sternberg films, I like her better in the later films. No other actress could steal (or nearly steal) a film from Orson Welles, and she does so in only one or two scenes (and one day's work--or so I've read). Of course she's great in Destry (and in comparing her with Garbo, I wonder what Garbo would have done in a Western?). But for me the complexity she brings to her character in Judgment at Nuremberg is pretty awe-inspiring. She's cordial, dazed, defeated, and really seems to be trying to convince herself "that we didn't know", while her face and mannerism betray the very sentiment.
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JackFavell
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by JackFavell »

Your description of her perfomrance in Judgment at Nuremberg is spot on... and it was very painful for her to portray that role...I heard that Erich Maria Remarque had to convince her to play it.
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by Mr. Arkadin »

MichiganJ wrote:
Mr. Arkadin wrote:She would often give all credit to Sternburg, saying he created her
She pretty much says this in the documentary Marlene and states that her first film was The Blue Angel, claiming that she never was in a silent picture. Of course while she says this in voice-over, Marlene director Maximilian Schell is running clips from her German silents. After seeing one of those silents, Die Frau, nacho deer man sic sehnt (The Woman One Longs For) (1929) it's clear that Dietrich was Dietrich before Sternberg. Her sure knew how to light her, but she was a lot more than just his model or prop.
I thought I said essentially the same thing above. Sorry, if I was unclear.
MichiganJ wrote:While I like the Sternberg films, I like her better in the later films. No other actress could steal (or nearly steal) a film from Orson Welles, and she does so in only one or two scenes (and one day's work--or so I've read). Of course she's great in Destry (and in comparing her with Garbo, I wonder what Garbo would have done in a Western?). But for me the complexity she brings to her character in Judgment at Nuremberg is pretty awe-inspiring. She's cordial, dazed, defeated, and really seems to be trying to convince herself "that we didn't know", while her face and mannerism betray the very sentiment.
Her work in Touch of Evil (1958) amounts to a cameo. A tremendous performance to be sure (and I'll be the first to say there are no small parts...), but not enough to evaluate her post-Sternburg work. It also must be said that Welles wrote the part specifically for her and wanted what she brought to the project.

I like Destry Rides Again, but I prefer Rancho Notorious (1952) for a western. I also enjoy her in The Garden of Allah (1936), where it is her performance alone that makes a bare bones script and cheesy plot work as a film. She is sublime in Judgment at Nuremberg and you described her contribution to that movie better than I ever could.
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

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I was watching The Big Valley and it occurred to me that in the 60s Marlene Dietrich would have been great in a Victoria Barkley type of role, perhaps as a German immigrant, who along with a late husband built up a big cattle empire out west.

Marlene was possibly IMO the screens greatest beauty, though if anything I thought her more beautiful in her 50s, while making Witness of The Prosocution, than her pk yrs of the 1930s
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by charliechaplinfan »

It was The Garden of Allah I was thinking of when I thought of a film that I watched purely for the enjoyment of watching Marlene in colour, the story itself takes some swallowing.

Marlene absorbed all the techniques of filmmaking from Von Sternberg, she every job that was being done in the studio. She knew what lighting she needed and placed a large mirror to the right of the camera so that she could see how she looked. She helped design many of her outfits, spending hours perfecting them. She credited everything to Von Sternberg but he said he worked with what was already there.

I watched An American Tragedy the other day, comparing it to the Dietrich movies I was underwhelmed. He didn't get the best performance from his leading man Phillip Holmes who seemed stilted. I've seen Salvation Hunters and felt the same but The Last Command and Underworld are a great movies.

Last night I watched The Blue Angel again, it's a film rich in atomosphere, the scenes of Lola Lola and ensemble on stage remind me of the Kit Kat club of many years later. Yet the Blue Angel isn't a nostalgic look at the past, it happens almost in real time. Lola Lola is such a great character, the first of Marlene's/Von Sternberg's tarts with hearts although I'm not sure Lola Lola had a heart, not the way she let Rath descend into self despair and pity, he was married to her but she wasn't really his wife. How the canary at the beginning having died during the night sets the scene for what comes later, with Rath demise. How his demise comes from the flesh and makes him have to turn his back on what he had been until then. Marlene does steal the film from Jannings but Rath's death is so pitying and sad.
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by MichiganJ »

Mr. Arkadin wrote: MichiganJ wrote:
Mr. Arkadin wrote:
She would often give all credit to Sternburg, saying he created her

She pretty much says this in the documentary Marlene and states that her first film was The Blue Angel, claiming that she never was in a silent picture. Of course while she says this in voice-over, Marlene director Maximilian Schell is running clips from her German silents. After seeing one of those silents, Die Frau, nacho deer man sic sehnt (The Woman One Longs For) (1929) it's clear that Dietrich was Dietrich before Sternberg. Her sure knew how to light her, but she was a lot more than just his model or prop.

I thought I said essentially the same thing above. Sorry, if I was unclear.
You weren't unclear, I was merely citing a readily available source where those who may be interested could hear her in her own words. This is a thread on Dietrich, so I thought a mention of a documentary on her would be appropriate. Sorry for any offense.
Mr. Arkadin wrote:Her work in Touch of Evil (1958) amounts to a cameo. A tremendous performance to be sure (and I'll be the first to say there are no small parts...), but not enough to evaluate her post-Sternburg work. It also must be said that Welles wrote the part specifically for her and wanted what she brought to the project.
While her roll is short, I'm not sure sure I'd call it a cameo (her appearance in Just a Gigolo is, though), but even if true, at least to me, she's one of the most memorable characters in the film. That she makes such an impression in such a small role, even one written for her, I think does show off her acting ability.
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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by Mr. Arkadin »

No biggie. :wink:

She is amazing in TOE.

[youtube][/youtube]

[youtube][/youtube]
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Marlene Dietrich

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I always thought that she lookedlike she was having a great time with the role in Touch of Evil.

I rewatched Judgement at Nuremberg some months ago. I suppose everyone remembers the cameos of Monty Clift and Judy Garland. Judgement really is a film that is packed to the rafters with great actors. Tracy, Widmark, Schell, Lancaster and Dietrich. She's so good in that film, trying to retain dignity and trying to understand what has happened around her. She's good at projecting the guilt and confusion of how it could have happened. One wonders how she tackled the role and if she found it difficult, did she feels guilty for being a German, or ashamed of her race and what they did? One can't deny that she went above and beyond her duty entertaining the troops.

Tonight I've been watching the German version of Anna Christie, like so many I link the two women in my mind. Garbo is much better in this version, much more relaxed and it feels like she is enjoying the portrayal. Despite the link of the two women, they were very different. Marlene couldn't have played Anna Christie, not without seeming to partly enjoy the life she had led. Both women I like tremendously but I think I'd prefer to have spent time in Marlene's company.
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