In 1999 American Film Institute named Marlene Dietrich as the ninth-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema. We think if we polled gay men (of a certain age) for Legendary Queer Icons in Gay History, Dietrich would rate much higher than that .
For those of you reading this who have never heard of Dietrich (and are therefore in danger of losing your ‘gay card’) we should simply explain that Dietrich is the movie star that Madonna would have loved to have been both on and off the screen.
This 46 minute documentary “No Angel – A Life of Marlene Dietrich” directed by Chris Hunt and narrated by Melvyn Bragg for BBC TV in 1996 totally captures the essence of the star. It will show newcomers exactly why she was/is still worshipped for being such a powerhouse who insisted on living by her own rules and that the whole world fell in love with .
Born in Germany in 1901, it was her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) that brought her international acclaim and a contract with Paramount Pictures. Her first movie in the US directed by lover/mentor Josef von Sternberg was Morocco where dressed in a men’s tuxedo suit she had a very full-on lesbian kiss ….. and she never ever looked back after that.
Even though Dietrich was married she also had lovers, both men and women in tow, and more often than not more than one at a time. That list is almost as impressive as her filmography and often her latest lover-de-jour was her leading man.
In an age of Hollywood studio bosses insisting on strict moral codes so that they stars wouldn’t offend ‘middle America’ Dietrich may no secret of publically falling in and out of love all the time. It’s kind of summed up by a quote from one of her films when she had just rejected a lover immediately after kissing him …..it was , she said, because she had loved him for that one brief moment.
This fascinating documentary that that covers most of her life stresses that throughout her long career, which spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she continually reinvented herself. Particularly wonderful is how she parlayed her film career into becoming the most highly paid cabaret performer for the last two decades of her life in the limelight.
There are interviews with people who knew Dietrich well including her daughter (and biograoher) Maria Riva who acknowledges whilst she had great respect for Dietrich the Star, she couldn’t say the same about Dietrich the Mother.
This however is not the first time that Dietrich’s life has been the subject of a documentary. in 1984 Oscar Winning Actor Maximilian Schell directed Marlene, and although Dietrich refused to be filmed for it, the film was still nominated for an Oscar
In 1978 , Dietrich long retired, made one brief and poignant last performance singing the title track in Just A Gigolo
There will come a day when youth will pass away
What will they say about me?
When the end comes, I know
They were just the gigolos
Life goes on without me
P.S. Dietrich once asid “When you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it.” Thankfully not completely true in her case. After you watch the doc below, be sure to check out the video below that : it’s of her last Live Performance on London in 1972. It’s what legends are made off