ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dietrich or Marlene, Falling in Love Again

Updated on July 17, 2014


A number of stars become known by their Surname or Chrisian name alone. Marlene Dietrich is unique in being universally recognised by the use of either of her names.

She was the first German actress to become a major Hollywood star.

After a successful career as a cabaret singer, chorus girl and film actress in 1920s Berlin, she became a World War II frontline entertainer during the 1940s, and finally a topline international stage show performer from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In the process she became one of the entertainment icons of the 20th century. The American Film Institute ranked Dietrich No. 9 amongst the Greatest Female Stars of All Time.

Early Life and Career

Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born on December 27, 1901 in Berlin-Schoneberg. Her parents were Louis Erich Otto Dietrich, a German police officer and Elisabeth Josephine Dietrich (nee Felsing).

Nicknamed "Lena" within the family, she contracted her two first names to form the now popular but then unusual name, Marlene, when she was still a teenager.

Click Here for the best of Classic Hollywood

She was an accomplished violinist but after an injury to one of her hands she decided to pursue an acting career and auditioned at the Berlin school of drama, supporting herself by working in a glove factory.

During this time, she met and married casting director Rudolf Sieber, and her only child, Maria, was born. Although their marriage failed, they never divorced and remained amicable until her death.

Acting on stage, she became "The Toast of Berlin" in such plays as 'Duel on the Lido' and 'From Mouth to Mouth'. She acted in 17 silent movies between 1922 and 1929, most notably, 'Café Elektric'.

           The Blue Angel

In 1929, the Hollywood film director, Josef von Sternberg, cast her in his 1930 film Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) in which she sang what became her signature song "Falling in Love Again".

Even before the picture premiered, von Sternberg offered a rough cut to his American studio Paramount, who signed her for Morocco, where she played a cabaret singer romancing both Adolph Menjou and Gary Cooper, and which earned Dietrich her only Oscar nomination. She portrayed her characters sometimes to shock as well as entertain. In 'Morocco' she created a sensation with her portrayal of a nightclub singer in black tails and top hat. The movie made headlines worldwide.

Both films premiered in New York almost simultaneously, and Dietrich became a major star. Paramount signed her to a more long-term contract, at a cost of 125,000 dollars per film and with von Sternberg, who had become her lover, in the director's seat of each. The studio, in an unprecedented five-million-dollar publicity blitz, marketed her as a rival to Greta Garbo's supremacy; upon learning that Garbo was starring as Mata Hari, Paramount cast Dietrich as a spy in 1931's Dishonored in response.

The Greatest Thirties Star

Who is the Greatest Actress from the 1930's?

See results


Marlene became one of the major female stars of the 1930s, in such films as Song of Songs, The Scarlet Empress, Knight Without Armour and the 1939 Western satire, Destry Rides Again, with James Stewart. A series of disappointments -- The Lady Is Willing, The Spoilers, and Pittsburgh -- followed in the early 1940's, with Dietrich reportedly so disheartened with her work that she considered retirement.

During the early Nazi years, Joseph Goebbels offered to make her "The Queen" of German films if she made movies promoting Hitler,

              Visiting the troops 1944

but she consistently refused. Instead, she mounted a series of lengthy tours entertaining wartime troops before returning to films in 1944's Follow the Boys, followed by Kismet.

Because of her German heritage, and pronounced anti-Nazi views, the newly naturalised American citizen made a large mark in the war effort, performing the favorite "Lilli Marlene" on USO tours and recording anti-Nazi propaganda in German. At one time there was a reward offered for her death. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom and Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor after war's end.

Marlene Books on Amazon

Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories
Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories
Marlene Dietrich is honored in this beautiful coffee-table book, which is introduced by brief recollections from director Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles (who worked with her in Touch of Evil), Ernest Hemingway, and others.
Marlene Dietrich: Life And Legend
Marlene Dietrich: Life And Legend
We could sure use a few more like Marlene in today's world. This is a must read for fans of the Lady and the Legend!!
Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich
Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich
News of Dietrich's bisexuality isn't likely to astound knowledgeable film buffs, but Spoto goes further than previous biographers in naming sexual partners (usually without citing his sources).
I Wish You Love: Conversations With Marlene Dietrich
I Wish You Love: Conversations With Marlene Dietrich
The Dietrich that emerges from this book shows flashes of the scathing wit that was one of her cinematic trademarks.

Change of Direction

After WWII, as her film career slowed, a new career as a singer and performer appeared, with reviews and shows in Las Vegas, touring theatricals, and even Broadway. Singing to packed houses in major cities all over the world she became famous as an on stage performer.

In 1953, Dietrich was offered a then-staggering $ 30,000 per week to appear live at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. The show was short, consisting only of a few songs associated with her. Her daring sheer costumes, designed by Jean Louis, attracted a lot of publicity and attention. This engagement was so successful that she was signed to appear at the Cafė de Paris in London the following year, and her Las Vegas contracts were also renewed.

            Cabaret Performer 1967

It was the start of a new phase in Dietrich's career. When she signed Burt Bacharach as her musical arranger in the mid-1950s, her show started to evolve from a mere nightclub act to a more ambitious one-woman show featuring an array of new material. Her repertoire included songs from her films as well as popular songs of the day. Bacharach's arrangements helped to disguise Dietrich's limited vocal range and allowed her to perform her songs to maximum dramatic effect.

She appeared on Broadway twice (1967 and 1968), winning a special Tony Award for her performance. Her costumes (body-hugging dresses covered with thousands of crystals as well as a swansdown coat), body-sculpting undergarments, careful stage lighting (by Joe Davis) and temporary mini-facelifts helped to preserve Dietrich's glamorous image well into old age.

Later Life

Her show business career largely ended on September 29, 1975, when, apparently under the influence of drink, she fell and broke her leg during a stage performance in Australia.

                    Later Years

She appeared briefly in the film, Just a Gigolo, in 1979, and wrote and contributed to several books during the 1980s.

Late in her life, she was rarely seen in public, but she agreed to provide the voice-over for Maximillian Schell's screen biography of her Marlene (1984). She wrote three volumes of memoirs: Marlene Dietrich's ABC (1961), My Life Story (1979) and Marlene (1987).

Marlene Dietrich died peacefully of renal failure on May 6, 1992, at the age of 90 in Paris. A service was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris before 3,500 mourners and a crowd of well-wishers outside. Her body, covered with an American flag, was then returned to Berlin where she was interred at the Städtischer Friedhof III, Berlin-Schöneberg, StubenrauchstraÃe 43-45, in Friedenau Cemetery, not far from the house where she was born.

Marlene on DVD

Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection (Morocco/ Blonde Venus/ The Devil Is a Woman/ Flame of New Orleans/ Golden Earrings)
Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection (Morocco/ Blonde Venus/ The Devil Is a Woman/ Flame of New Orleans/ Golden Earrings)
The Glamour Collection assembles five titles featuring la Dietrich at her best, with a special emphasis on one of the great Hollywood director-star collaborations.
The Blue Angel
The Blue Angel
For Marlene Dietrich it all began with The Blue Angel, one of the masterpieces of Germany's Weimar cinema.
Shanghai Express
Shanghai Express
This is one of the most intriguing von Sternberg-Dietrich films not only because of its exotic style and setting but because of its passionate love story.

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)