A Closer Look at Marlene Dietrich


Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich was born in Berlin at the turn of the century and got her start as chorus girl in the early 1920s. As an aspiring young starlet, Marlene got a few small roles in German dramas, but went largely unnoticed until she was cast in a film that was a joint venture with Paramount Pictures. The 1930 motion picture, called The Blue Angel, was her first exposure to American audiences and remains one of her most iconic performances to date.

Paramount thought that she would compete with Swedish star Greta Garbo, who was then signed to a rival movie studio. The company brought Dietrich to America on a contract, where she made some of the most memorable films of the early thirties. In collaboration with director, Josef Von Sternberg, she starred in many consecutive blockbusters for Paramount, including Carine’s favorite Morocco.

Sternberg was known for his innovative use of lighting, and used Marlene’s stunningly angular features to heighten his film’s cinematic style. Together they made some of the most visually compelling movies of the 20th century and created an aesthetic that was a precursor for Film Noir. Their greatest collaborative masterpiece was 1932’s Shanghai Express, in which Marlene played a man eating and maniacal courtesan.

While Dietrich always played a tough, sometimes villainous character, in her private life she was known for her integrity and open mindedness. The actress was bisexual and reveled in the thriving gay underground of Berlin. When the Nazi’s approached her with lucrative offers to join their propaganda machine 20 years later, she flatly turned them down. Instead, she chose to become an American citizen and a voracious critic of fascism. She even set up a fund with fellow German-American film star, Billy Wilder to help Jews escape the Third Reich. Many years later in 1961, she would star in Judgment at Nuremburg, which chronicled the 1948 war crimes trials that sought to bring justice for victims of the holocaust.

Dietrich’s personal fashion style was indicative of her rogue individualism. She was known for her love of menswear, and could often be seen wearing three-piece suits. Marlene and Katherine Hepburn are credited with making pants acceptable everyday wear for women. She was also known to never leave the house without a hat. Some of the most iconic images of Dietrich portray her looking debonair in a tux and top hat, holding a cigarette or a cigar.

On why she finds Marlene Dietrich so inspiring, Carine said the following: “I suggest that we all take a cue from Dietrich—it’s crucial to remember that no matter how glamorous one’s life may be, we must always make time to do what’s right.”


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