She absolutely nailed it. The American Film Institute in named her the 9th greatest female star of all time. She pleased men and women in her audience by incarnating in her roles and expressing in her songs a cynicism without acrimony--by representing the ordinary adult experience of failed romance, lost love, diminished expectations. She represented what she was--the eternal love, tenacious, proud, destined for the cycles of fierce romance and eventual disappointment, hovering too closely, nurturing too much, rejected but unbitter, ever eager for restoration to favor.
But most of all, she simply endured, and all the world loves a survivor. It was simply irresistible. Dietrich was a headline almost every minute. View all 22 comments. Sometimes when reading a book my brain makes connections that other readers might not--not because I'm an especial genius but because we all have different sets of experiences that remind us of seemingly disparate things.
A day after finishing Donald Spoto's biography of Marlene Dietrich and fixating on the extent to which she created and maintained a public image and self-image--even having Jean Louis and other costume designers and makeup artists encase her body in a flesh-colored, foam-rubber Sometimes when reading a book my brain makes connections that other readers might not--not because I'm an especial genius but because we all have different sets of experiences that remind us of seemingly disparate things. A day after finishing Donald Spoto's biography of Marlene Dietrich and fixating on the extent to which she created and maintained a public image and self-image--even having Jean Louis and other costume designers and makeup artists encase her body in a flesh-colored, foam-rubber fake body to suggest an ageless physique under her sleek stage costumes--I could not help but be reminded of Joris-Karl Huysmanns fin de sicle masterpiece, A Rebours Against Nature , in which the male protagonist, Des Esseintes, secludes himself to create an environment of complete aesthetic artifice.
Dietrich spent an entire lifetime doing that very thing to herself, creating an artificial image so inviolate that her own sense of reality and identity become submerged into it. Once Dietrich no longer felt able maintain the artificial image of eternal youth and sexuality, she withdrew from the world. It's as if Dietrich came to believe that her value as a person and her talent had evaporated once she felt unworthy of being seen. As the creator of an artificial image, Dietrich had it all over Lady Gaga and Madonna.
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Spoto's book is best when it examines how Dietrich sculpted that image, how it evolved and overtook whatever other identity she may have had. Dietrich was a force of nature, a woman of incredible discipline, and authority--steamrolling her way to fame and fortune often through sheer force of will and personality. Her singing and acting talents were limited; her legendary looks owed a great deal to creative lighting, camera angles and makeup.
And for the rest of her showbiz career she often became her own director in order to sustain her "brand", telling her ostensible auteur bosses how she would be photographed and posed--or else. In a small role, Dietrich had the most memorable line in Orson Welles' masterful movie, Touch of Evil when, in considering the checkered career of a friend-- a corrupt police detective played by Welles who was a hero to some and a pox on law enforcement to others--she coolly asks: "What can you say about a man?
What does it matter what you say about people? This book asks: What can you say about Marlene Dietrich? All of us are contradictory and explicable, but because we don't exist in the celebrity fishbowl or attract massive attention to ourselves we somehow believe ourselves to be "normal" or average people. Dietrich was vain, sexually driven, struck by moments of humility and charity, etc.
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She did manage to defy convention in ways that even today would perturb many of the insufferable prigs who'd like to make bedroom inspection mandatory for consenting adults she was very much into casual sex with women and men, and pulled off the nearly impossible feat of remaining on friendly terms with most of her ex-lovers. She was fiercely independent in ways that earned both admiration and scorn. Dietrich's actions and motivations were contradictory, selfish and often childish. And just when you think you hate her, she does something marvelous and admirable.
At the height of her beauty and popularity she was the world's most glamorous and highest-paid woman. At the same time, she loved being a traditional German hausfrau, cooking classic mittle Euro fare or scrubbing the floors for those she chose to dote over at any given moment. Dietrich's very Germanic obsession with cleanliness seemed to be another of her ways of maintaining the orderliness and artifice of her life, but also was a way of controlling others and, as Spoto suggests, was a kind of penance for some of the guilt she accumulated during her life for the casually cruel way she often treated friends and loved ones.
There are some factual errors in the book, the worst being an attribution of the classic, The Last Laugh to director G. Pabst instead of to F. For a star biographer and film expert of Spoto's calibre this seems an egregious rookie mistake.
In another passage he seems to suggest that American howitzers destroyed the monastery and town of Cassino during the time Dietrich was entertaining troops in Italy. This is a woefully erroneous statement, as it was primarily bombers and a combination of weaponry that leveled the buildings. Otherwise, Spoto has done good research, and tells us the facts of Dietrich's life, surmises about her motivations when the facts and circumstances warrant, and analyzes the films very well to show us the life-imitates-art parallels.
It's a solid and very readable effort and answers probably all that I would want to know about the screen legend. I felt that this started out strong, dipped a bit in the middle chapters, and picked up at the very end.
I enjoyed learning about Dietrichs' early life, but found the book to be reptitious. I don't know how many times one needs to be told that Dietrich cleaned and cooked for the people in her life. My attention span is not so short that the same things have to be repeated every chapter. Nov 15, Desiree rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. This is my first serious foray into the aura of Marlene Dietrich: I've seen a von Sternberg flick or two, and many of her items on display at a fucking awesome film museum I hung out in in Berlin.
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Spoto's Dietrich is bundle of talent, intrigue, and contradiction: one of the first people let alone women to thoroughly control her marketing, image, and success with wit and panache; a mega-diva playing sound recordings of nothing the applause from her appearances on a loop for all acquaintances wi This is my first serious foray into the aura of Marlene Dietrich: I've seen a von Sternberg flick or two, and many of her items on display at a fucking awesome film museum I hung out in in Berlin.
Spoto's Dietrich is bundle of talent, intrigue, and contradiction: one of the first people let alone women to thoroughly control her marketing, image, and success with wit and panache; a mega-diva playing sound recordings of nothing the applause from her appearances on a loop for all acquaintances with earshot; a consistent and vocal opponent of Nazism; a sexual libertine dallying with both sexes, drag, and an open marriage; a highly successful woman somehow also insisting upon female inferority and submissive favors for others; and an eventual recluse who died alone.
What I appreciated about this biography was its refusal to paint Dietrich as exclusively demon or angel-- the book did a good job painting a portrait of a complex human being who was both tragic and fabulous, not one or the other. This Autobiography was at times very dry and boring. I did enjoy the bit about early theater in Berlin in the 's and how things were put together. Clothing, lighting, general rehearsals and song and dance numbers were really challenging and usually heavily critiqued! As far as Dietrich goes, though her career well outlasted Garbo's I think that seeing a few movies she was featured in The Devil is a Woman, The Garden of Allah and Angel to name a few Her characters were all the same person an This Autobiography was at times very dry and boring.
As far as Dietrich goes, though her career well outlasted Garbo's I think that seeing a few movies she was featured in The Devil is a Woman, The Garden of Allah and Angel to name a few Her characters were all the same person and played the same way, I guess she was popular due to her exotic nature and sultry voice but one should look at all of the box office disasters she made from '37 to This was not my favorite autobiography to date and am glad to have finished it!
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Apr 09, Elizabeth rated it liked it Shelves: biography. Dietrich was, however, absolutely sui generis, and she never indulged in the petty hypocrisies of many stars. She stamped out her own trademark, lived according to her own creeds, forged an image that was a direct reflection of her own social and sexual complexity. In important ways, therefore, she was perhaps the first triumphant example of "She was certainly not without minor but effective talent, but this had mainly to do with her relationship to the camera; she was no Duce, and she knew it.
In important ways, therefore, she was perhaps the first triumphant example of self-promotion. Aug 02, Inunn56 rated it it was ok. A biography of Marlene Dietrich while informative and psychologically engrossing would have been a better read with more character analysis. What was most interesting to me is how the world of entertainment cannot contain an ego the size of this woman's.
In spite of the ruthless climb to the top, she was an empty vessel in the end as she sought more bizarre and painful methods of preserving her outer self. Feb 14, Jennifer Manganelli rated it really liked it. I never realized how complicated things could be back then. When you hear stories or see movies about the good ole days everyone seems so happy without a care in the world and they never get upset or have any problems. But let me tell you Marlene Dietrich had problems and unhappiness.
The book was a little depressing at times but hey thats real life. I would definitely read this book again in the future!! Jun 14, Crystal rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , 3-stars , old-hollywood. Good biography. I really didn't know much about Dietrich at all. Haven't seen any of her films either. Will have to change that. My goodness though, she sure got around. Jan 25, Zelmer Wilson rated it really liked it.
I was familiar with Marlene Dietrich, but it wasn't until I learned that she had an affair with one of my favorite writers, Erich Maria Remarque. After that, I was curious about her.
This was an easy and enjoyable read. I recommend it to any of her fans or anyone else who would like to learn more about her. Jan 03, Pixietweet Clip is currently reading it. What an annoying nag the grande dame was. She must have slept with half of Hollywood and then some! Jul 09, Nick rated it liked it.
But even her death was only referenced in a sentence. I should the think the end to one of the world's most famous women would have warranted more of a send off. The book is enjoyable, but I did have to skim over certain overly technical areas or parts that were repeated for the umpteenth time.
Jan 08, Jessica T. She was a legend for her beauty but had little talent. In her later years she tried with plastic surgery and foam bodysuits to stay eternally young. She became an incorrigible drunk and was basically an unpleasant person. The biography was well written but relied towards the end on Noel Cowards diar After reading Blue Angel: the Life of Marlene Dietrich, I have mixed feelings about the woman.
The biography was well written but relied towards the end on Noel Cowards diary. Unintentionally the biography speaks of societal pressure on women beauty and age. Feb 22, Simpson rated it really liked it. I read this book to learn more about the artist who sang "Lili Marlene" a well known WWll song. What a magnificent women Marlene Dietrich was to appear young and beautiful until her 70's by focussing on the every tiny detail in lighting, makeup and wardrobe. JoLynn rated it really liked it Dec 16, Joy H.