|Maria Dietrich was born December 27, 1901 to Lieutenant Louis Dietrich and Wilhelmina
Maria's father died while Maria was young. Maria studied piano and then violin. About this time,
she also contracted her first two names, reinstated her father's last name and became Marlene Dietrich.
After the privations of WWI, Marlene traded her desire for backroom practicing for the decadence of the '20's.
In 1926 she cut her first record, and in 1927 got her first starring role in Ship of Lost Men.
In the fall of 1929, she was "discovered" by Josef von Sternberg and contracted to star in
The Blue Angel. Although this film was made in Germany, Dietrich moved to the U.S. to fulfill a 6-movie
contract with Paramount. Von Sternberg directed all but one of these.
Dietrich credited von Sternberg with creating her.
Von Sternberg claimed that he portrayed Dietrich just as she was.
Clearly von Sternberg taught her most of what she learned about the
process of making a movie and specifically her image.
Her major claim to fame in this period is her work with the USO. Although much has been made of her hobnobbing with the U.S. brass, there is no doubt that she made a major contribution to the morale of the troops.
In the French & German campaign she often rode with Patton at the front.
Her vehement denouncement of the Nazi regime and her participation in Radio broadcasts
aimed at Germany got the desired result - she got under the skin of the Nazis. For her work,
the U.S., French and (eventually) Israeli governments awarded her medals.
In 1950, Dietrich made one of her great movies. Stage Fright by Alfred Hitchcock is not a superficial movie;
perhaps that is why it was one of his less well-received outings initially.
However, it's reputation has grown over the years and rightly so. In 1957 she made another great movie,
Witness for the Prosecution, which was Dietrich's most dynamic role.
Marlene Dietrich died of kidney and liver failure in her Paris apartment on May 6, 1992.
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