Birth Name: Maria Magdalene Dietrich
Born: December 27, 1901, Berlin, Germany
Died: May 6, 1992, Paris, France.
There are only a handful of actors in the history of film whose personalities far extend the film frame, and Marlene Dietrich is one of these. More than just an actress, Dietrich has become one of the most recognizable figures of the 20th centurya Hollywood star who never imagined her profession to be more important than it was.
After studying acting under the renowned Max Reinhardt, Dietrich's film career began in 1923 with THE LITTLE NAPOLEON. She made over a dozen German films, including TRAGÖDIE DER LIEBE (1923), Alexander Korda's A MODERN DU BARRY (1926) and MADAME WANTS NO CHILDREN (1926), and Maurice Tourneur's THE SHIP OF LOST MEN (1929), before being discovered by American director Josef von Sternberg, who was in Germany to cast the female lead in THE BLUE ANGEL (1930). The character of Lola, a dance-hall girl who could drive a professor to the most extreme humiliations in the name of love, was perfect for Dietrich. With her sultry version of "Falling in Love Again," the entire world fell in love, for the first time, with Marlene Dietrich. Over the next five years at Paramount Pictures, Dietrich and von Sternberg sustained one of film's greatest creative collaborations through six films (MOROCCO, 1930, DISHONORED, 1931, SHANGHAI EXPRESS, 1932, BLONDE VENUS, 1932, THE SCARLET EMPRESS, 1934 and THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, 1935), each one considerably more abstract and less commercially successful than THE BLUE ANGEL. After the failure of THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, Dietrich and von Sternberg parted ways.
In the ensuing decades Dietrich would act for some of the greatest directorsErnst Lubitsch, René Clair, Raoul Walsh, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang and Orson Wellesand co-star with some of the greatest actorsCharles Boyer, James Stewart, John Wayne, Edward G. Robinson, Jean Gabin, Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster. During the early 1940s, her onscreen accomplishments were often overshadowed by her contributions to the war effort. After turning down a lucrative offer from Hitler to make films for her Nazi homeland, the anti-Fascist Dietrich retaliated by raising the spirits of American servicemen in numerous USO appearances.
In the early 1960s Dietrich decided to bid farewell to the screen, deciding that her advancing years would be less obvious as a concert singer than as an actress. Her last film appearance, in JUST A GIGOLO (1979) opposite David Bowie, was only a brief one. In later years, she became increasingly and obsessively reclusive, refusing to be photographed. Though she was the subject of the 1984 documentary MARLENE, which she commissioned Maximilian Schell to direct, Dietrich refused to appear on camera.
Biography from Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film.
Filmography from Microsoft Cinemania.