Marlene Dietrich - A Liberated Woman Ahead of Her Time
It seems only fitting that we are about to celebrate Marlene Dietrich's
birthday this week. Dec. 27th is the 110th anniversary of the famous film actress's birth in Berlin, Germany at the turn of the 20th century.
Dietrich was a real lover of quotes, so it's equally fitting that we celebrate her life and accomplishments right here for she once famously remarked, "I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizably wiser than oneself."
We are sure that Dietrich would find it amusing that the many quotes attributed to her during her long life have found their way into the annals of what many consider the best quotes of all time.
Born Marie Magdalene Dietrich and known among friends as Lili Marlene, Dietrich was known as much for her brash fashion sense as her roles on the silver screen. Favoring tuxedos, men's suits and hats over dresses, she was once quoted as saying, "I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men." She also famously remarked in another quote, "I am at heart a gentleman."
Dietrich was discovered by Josef von Sternberg while performing in a Berlin cabaret. After a screen test, she was introduced to the world in the 1930 film Morocco. She was typecast in her early films as a woman of questionable morals, often a prostitute or streetwalker. Though she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood at the time, her star power began to fade by the middle of the 1930s and she returned to Europe, disillusioned.
She made her comeback opposite Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again, not only demonstrating why she deserved to be a star, but that she was also quite a talented comedienne. Her sexy demeanor and flamboyant style made her a real hit with male theatergoers. With a resurrected film career, Dietrich turned out a string of movies in the 1940s and 1950s, including four films in 1942 alone, Manpower, The Spoilers, The Lady is Willing and Pittsburgh.
Her last film was Judgment at Nuremburg though she continued to appear on stage until the late 70s.
Ironically, Dietrich never wanted to be a film star. She was once quoted as saying, "I had no desire to be a film actress, to always play somebody else, to be always beautiful with somebody constantly straightening out your every eyelash. It was always a big bother to me."
While she didn't relish her calling as an actress, she did relish her role of entertaining American troops during the war. "There's something about an American soldier. They're so grateful for anything, even a film actress coming to see them,"
was one of her most well known quotes. She was awarded the U.S. War Department's Medal of Freedom in 1947 for her service.
Named the ninth greatest screen legend by the American Film Institute, Dietrich's deep voice and alluring looks led her to have many legendary off-screen trysts. She even bragged that she had once bedded three of the Kennedys."The average man is more interested in a woman who is interested in him than he is in a woman with beautiful legs,"
she once said. In another quote by Dietrich, she mused, "Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they do not like him."
In the twilight of her career, Dietrich battled alcohol abuse, which led to a fall in Sydney, Australia while performing on stage, fracturing her leg. She never performed again. She was bed ridden for the last decade of her life in her Paris apartment and died of natural causes at the age of 90 in 1992.
Her views of death had been made clear to all in life, when she said, "When you're dead, you're dead. That's it."
Thankfully, she left us all with a body of work that will live on for many generations to come.