Fashioning a Nation - Marlene Dietrich

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German American Actress and Fashion Icon (1901 - 1992) After rejecting the Nazis' offer to return to Germany and be the star of the Third Reich in 1937, Marlene Dietrich applied for American citizenship which was granted in 1939. She had already achieved success in Hollywood under the mentorship of  Josef von Sternberg, an established American-Austrian director. She went on to have a prolific film career. In 1945, she sold her beloved 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom to a private collector. Beginning in 2007, it underwent three years of restoration work. It was most recently auctioned in 2015 for a bid of $742,500. 

Marlene was outspoken against Nazism and when Jews in Germany started being arrested, she helped fund the escape of several friends. During the war she assisted the Allies by participating in bond drives, providing anti-Nazi broadcasts in German, and touring North Africa and Europe to entertain Allied troops. In 1947, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. She also received the Légion d'honneur from the French government for her contributions during the war. 

Marlene guarded her private life from public view. She married Rudolf Sieber in 1924 the couple welcomed their first and only child, Maria, a year later. 

Marlene died in 1992 at the age of 90.

Film Clips

Marlene performs this scene in character, singing the chorus of "You're the Cream in My Coffee" and scolding the pianist, played by Friedrich Hollaender. She sits atop the paino to pull up her stocking before launching into a German torch song by the famous composer Peter Kreuder who arranged the film's musical score. As the scene ends, she breaks character to apologize to the pianist. 

Marlene in a scene from Paramount's Morocco, her first Hollywood film in which she stars opposite Gary Gooper. She appears as her character, Amy Jolly, in a tuxedo and smoking a cigarette while singing "Give Me the Man Who Does Things" in French

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This page was last updated December 22, 2016.