Marlene Dietrich


Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich (December 27, 1901 – May 6, 1992) was a German-American actress and singer. Her career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s. In 1920s Berlin, she performed on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in Josef von Sternberg‘s The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international acclaim and a contract with Paramount Pictures. Dietrich starred in many Hollywood films including, most iconically, the six vehicles directed by Sternberg – Morocco (1930) (her one Academy Award nomination), with Gary Cooper and and Adolphe Menjou; Dishonored (1931), with Victor McLaglen, Gustav von Seyffertitz and Warner Oland; Shanghai Express (1932), with Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, and Oland; and Blonde Venus (1932), with Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant; The Scarlet Empress (1934), with John Davis Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser, and C. Aubrey Smith; and The Devil Is a Woman (1935), with Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero, Edward Everett Horton, and Luisa Espine.

Other films in the 1930s include Frank Borzage’s Desire (1936), with Cooper; Richard Boleslawski’s The Garden of Allah (1936), with Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Schildkraut, John Carradine, Alan Marshal, and Lucile Watson; Jacques Feyder’s Knight Without Armor (1937), with Robert Donat; Ernst Lubitsch’s Angel (1937), with Herbert Marshall, Melvyn Douglas, Edward Everett Horton, Laura Hope Crews, and Herbert Mundin; and George Marshall‘s Destry Rides Again (1939), with James Stewart.

She successfully traded on her glamorous persona and “exotic” looks, and became one of the highest-paid actresses of the era. Throughout World War II she was a high-profile entertainer in the United States. Films in the 1940s include Tay Garnett’s Seven Sinners (1940), with John Wayne; Raoul Walsh’s Manpower (1941), with Edward G. Robinson and George Raft; Mitchell Liesen’s The Lady Is Willing (1942), with Fred MacMurray and Aline MacMahon; Lewis Seiler’s Pittsburgh (1942), with Randolph Scott, Wayne, and Shemp Howard; William Dieterle’s Kismit (1944), with Ronald Colman, Joy Page, and Florence Bates; Georges Lacombe’s Martin Roumagnac (1946), with Jean Gabin; Leisen’s Golden Earnings (1947), with Ray Milland; and Billy Wilder‘s A Foreign Affair (1948), Jean Arthur and John Land.

Although she still made occasional films after the war, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a marquee live-show performer. Films during this period include Alfred Hitchcock‘s Stage Fright (1950), with Jane Wyman, Michael Wilding, and Richard Todd; Henry Koster‘s No Highway in the Sky (1951), with Stewart, Glynis Johns, Niall MacGinnis, Janette Scott, and Jack Hawkins; Fritz Lang‘s Rancho Notorious (1952), with Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer; Samuel L. Taylor’s The Monte Carlo Story (1956), with Vittorio De Sica, Arthur O’Connell, Natalie Trundy, Mischa Auer, and Renato Rascel; Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), with Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester; and Touch of Evil (1958), with Orson Welles (who also directed), Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, and Akim Tamiroff, Stanley Kramer‘s Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Werner Klemperer, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Montgomery Clift.

Dietrich also made various cameos (often uncredited) in films like A. Edward Sutherland’s Follow the Boys (1944), with George Raft and Vera Zorina; Fletcher Markle’s Jigsaw (1949), with Franchot Tone, Jean Wallace, and Marc Lawrence; Michael Anderson’s Around the World in 80 Days (1956), with David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, and Robert Newton; and Richard Quine’s Paris When It Sizzles (1964), with William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières, Noël Coward, and Tony Curtis. Her final film role was in David Hemming’s Just a Gigolo (1978), with David Bowie, Sydne Rome, and Kim Novak. She also narrated the Academy Award winning documentary Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler (1962) directed by Louis Clyde Stoumen as well as provided audio interviews for the Academy Award nominated documentary Marlene (1984), a retrospective of her long, distinguished career directed by Maximilian Schell.

Dietrich was married only once, to assistant director Rudolf Sieber, who later became an assistant director at Paramount Pictures in France, responsible for foreign language dubbing. They were married for over 50 years (until his death in 1976), and had one child together, daughter Maria Riva (born December 13, 1924), who also became an actress and later an author. She was known for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their American citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium and Israel. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • Im Schatten des Glücks (1919) – directed by Jacob Fleck – unconfirmed
  • The Little Napoleon (1923) – directed by Georg Jacoby
  • Man by the Wayside (1923) – directed by William Dieterle
  • Tragedy of Love (1923) – directed by Joe May
  • The Countess of Paris (1923) – directed by Dimitri Buchowetzki & Joe May
  • Leap Into Life (1924) – directed by Johannes Guter
  • The Monk from Santarem (1924) – directed by Lothar Mendes
  • Dancing Mad (1925) – directed by Alexander Korda
  • Manon Lescaut (1926) – directed by Arthur Robison
  • Madame Wants No Children (1926) – directed by Alexander Korda
  • A Modern Dubarry (1927) – directed by Alexander Korda
  • The Imaginary Baron (1927) – directed by Willi Wolff
  • Heads Up, Charley (1927) – directed by Willi Wolff
  • His Greatest Bluff (1927) – directed by Heinrich Galeen
  • Café Elektric (1927) – directed by Gustav Ucicky
  • Princess Olala (1928) – directed by Robert Land – aka Art of Love
  • I Kiss Your Hand, Madame (1929) – directed by Robert Land
  • The Woman One Longs For (1929) – directed by Curtis Bernhardt – aka Three Lovers
  • The Ship of Lost Souls (1929) – directed by Maurice Tourneur – aka The Ship of Lost Men
  • Dangers of the Engagement Period (1930) – directed by Fred Saur – aka Nights of Love
  • The Blue Angel (1930) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Morocco (1930) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Dishonored (1931) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Shanghai Express (1932) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • Blonde Venus (1932) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • The Song of Songs (1932) – directed by Rouben Mamoulian
  • The Scarlett Empress (1934) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • The Devil Is a Woman (1935) – directed by Josef von Sternberg
  • I Loved a Soldier (1936) – directed by Henry Hathaway – aka Invitation to Happiness – unfinished, presumed lost
  • Desire (1936) – directed by Frank Borzage
  • The Garden of Allah (1936) – directed by Richard Boleslawski
  • Knight Without Armor (1937) – directed by Jacques Feyder
  • Angel (1937) – directed by Ernst Lubitsch
  • Destry Rides Again (1939) – directed by George Marshall
  • Seven Sinners (1940) – directed by Tay Garnett – Cafe of the Seven Sinners
  • The Flame of New Orleans (1941) – directed by René Clair
  • Manpower (1941) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • The Lady is Willing (1942) – directed by Mitchell Leisen
  • The Spoilers (1942) – directed by Ray Enright
  • Pittsburgh (1942) – directed by Lewis Seiler
  • Follow the Boys (1944) – directed A. Edward Sutherland – Three Cheers for the Boys – cameo as herself
  • Kismet (1944) – directed by William Dieterle
  • Martin Roumagnac (1946) – directed by Georges Lacombe – aka The Room Upstairs
  • Golden Earrings (1947) – directed by Mitchell Liesen
  • A Foreign Affair (1948) – directed by Billy Wilder
  • Jigsaw (1949) – directed by Fletcher Markle – uncredited cameo as herself
  • Stage Fright (1950) – directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  • No Highway in the Sky (1951) – directed by Henry Koster – aka No Highway
  • Rancho Notorious (1952) – directed by Fritz Lang
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1956) – directed by Michael Anderson – cameo
  • The Monte Carlo Story (1956) – directed by Samuel A. Taylor
  • Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – directed by Billy Wilder
  • Touch of Evil (1958) – directed by Orson Welles
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – directed by Stanley Kramer
  • Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler (1962) – directed by Louis Clyde Stoumen – narrator – documentary
  • Paris When It Sizzles (1964) – directed by Richard Quine – uncredited cameo as herself
  • Just a Gigolo (1978) – directed by David Hemmings
  • Marlene (1984) – directed by Maximillian Schell – herself (voice only) – documentary