Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Marlene Dietrich 23rd Deathaversary May 6, 2015

Marlene Dietrich
December 21, 1901 - May 6, 1992
"Think twice before burdening a friend with a secret."

Dietrich was one of the most fascinating actresses of the 20th Century.  She turned into one of the most curious recluses.  Classic film fans will probably want to string me up when I say that I constantly confuse Dietrich with Garbo.  Like Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson and DeNiro/Pacino.   I can't explain it.  I can't defend it.  It just is.

Since 1978 Dietrich occupied a two-room apartment overlooking a courtyard garden, at 12 Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

She was bedridden for her final five years and would spend hours chatting with her friends across the world on two telephones (spending up to $7,500 a month). 

"A real friend is one you can call at 4am."

(zzzzzz.... ring ring!  ring ring!  'wha... oh God, please don't let it be her.')

Mike Pare clarifies, "She was not bedridden in the classic sense, she just chose not to get up and around. She had had a bad fall, and did have arthritis, but she was in otherwise excellent health, she just preferred to be a martyr. She was not hard up for money, she maintained her NYC apartment until she died though she had not seen it in years.  She was on occasion cash poor. One emerald piece she left her daughter was sold for over $900,000.

One article quoted a confidante, Bernard Hall.

"I used to sleep on her couch in her flat because she would wake at 4am calling, "Bernard, Bernard'," said Mr. Hall.  "I'd cook her breakfast because I knew that was what she needed.  But at 6am the scotch would be going down.  I didn't know what to do.  I gave it to her.  It was impossible saying no.  Anyway, she had two bottles under the bed.  She was brilliant until 10am, then zonk, she'd collapse."

"I loved her more than anything but she was totally impossible to live with."

Jayne Osborne prompted this memory of a drunken Judy Garland telling a hilarious story about Marlene.

One report claimed that she drank to forget the thrombosis her her once-glamorous legs.

Only on extremely rare occasions would she be seen leaving the door of her Paris apartment building.

She had an aversion to being seen as she aged, tho one resourceful photographer did capture pix of her thru a window and on her balcony shortly before she died that were printed in European papers.  Here is is, THANK YOU Richard!

This is the last verified photograph of Marlene, taken a few months before her death.

It was in this Paris apartment that Dietrich died, May 6th 1992. She was 90 years old.

More than 1,500 people mourned at her funeral at the Madeleine Church in Paris. Her closed coffin, draped in the French flag and adorned with a simple bouquet of white wildflowers, rested beneath the altar. Three medals, including France's Legion of Honor, were displayed at the foot of the coffin, military style, for a ceremony symbolizing the sense of duty Dietrich embodied in her career as an actress, and in her personal fight against Nazism. Her daughter placed a wooden crucifix, a St. Christopher's medal and a locket enclosing photos of Dietrich's grandsons in the coffin. 

On May 16th  her body was flown to Berlin, her birthplace, for burial near her mother Josefine von Losch.

Neo Nazi's disrupted her funeral service in Berlin, handing out anti-Dietrich pamphlets.

Someone put together this nice youtube video of her funeral.

Dietrich is buried in the Friedenau Cemetery, in Berlin.

Thank you, Jurgen friend Harald sends this:  As I have heard and read from many different sources, Dietrich (who had a hate-love relationship with Germany) wanted to have her last resting place in Berlin, because she wanted to be buried close to her mother, who is buried in a little Berlin cemetery, (Friedhof III, Berlin-Friedenau). It could be that Marlene finally made peace with Germany (she even came to Germany for a tour in the early 1960s). But maybe bringing her to Berlin could as well been a late revenge of her daughter, Maria Riva, who always said that Marlene was a dominant tyrant. And now Maria had the last word ;-)

Trivia: Dietrich once proclaimed that the diaphragm to be "the greatest invention since Pan-Cake makeup.

Dietrich on Mommie Dearest:  "Fay Dunaway should be ashamed of herself, but then, she probably needed the money to pay her liquor bills."

"I did not know Joan Crawford, but nobody deserves that kind of daughter.  Too bad she did not leave her where she found her, so that she could now spit her poison in the slums of some big city.   I hate her with a passion, and I know the public will."

"I am shocked that Paramount bought that filthy book and make that frightful bitch who wrote it rich." friend Andrew MW sends this in, December 15, 2001:  In 1981, I had lunch with an actor who had just worked with David Hemmings, who had directed Frau Dietrich in "Just A Gigolo" a few years before.

Apparently Marlene could not walk, and when she did the title song, was put on a platform and wheeled across to the piano!!..... it is a very difficult film to find, but I do recall that moment. A true story I believe. The actors name was John Hargreaves (deceased).

July 2003 My pal Harry Martin sends us this:  We were on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Princess Cruise Line ship the Sea Princess in February 2002. One of the features of the ship was a display of articles from the Marlene Dietrich estate that Princess purchased. I recall they had one gray dress (teeny waistline), some telegrams, a cigarette case and a makeup travel case. It was too cool. But sorry to say, though, most folks never stopped to see it because they were on the way to the theater or because on many days, you had to move the stupid art auction prints out of the way. But you know me, I just moved the dumb pictures so I could see the whole exhibit. So if any Find a Death fans are ever on the Sea Princess, be sure and look up the exhibit.

Trivia:  Her make-up man said she kissed so hard that she needed a new coat of lipstick after every kiss. 

It seemed Dietrich was short of cash towards the end of her life  In 1987 she sold off some of her cigarette cases and compacts for $81,500.  Either that or she wanted a good laugh when she was cleaning out a junk drawer so she called an auction house.

"When you're dead, you're dead.  That's it." - Deitrich


  1. Well done as always! If I may point out a correction: the slender grey haired woman covering her face is Greta Garbo.

    1. First of all, I salute you for posting these photos! There have been efforts to suppress one of them, including on my blog, which I find absurd because it was on magazine covers in France, Germany, and the U.S. and in documentaries. That photo of Dietrich with the "findadeath" watermark wasn't taken months before her death. In the French documentary, Le Crépuscule d'un ange (also in English under the title The Twilight of an Angel), the presenter Laurence Piquet said at 48:40 that the photo (well, photos--there's another from that occasion that has circulated) was taken when MD was 83. A Dietrich biographer named Sauli Miettinen has written that it was taken by Dietrich's grandson Paul in July 1984, so the age of 83 would make sense.

    2. By the way, what was the photo of the woman covering her face? There is a photo of Dietrich covering her face that was taken much the same was at that one of her with her back turned--through her window with the use of a cherry picker.

    3. "much the same was at" = "much the same way as"!

  2. I love that story with Judy Garland telling about Marlene's record. You can tell how witty and funny she was!

  3. Hi, Could I ask about the picture depicting Marlene Dietrich sitting on a wheel chair? Is that really her ? If so, then I would love to know when the picture was taken. Thanks a lot