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Film actress Marlene Dietrich was known for her sultry, sex appeal. She was a major leading lady in the 1930s and 1940s.
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Born on December 27, 1901, in Berlin, Germany, Marlene Dietrich had the given name Maria Magdalene Dietrich. In her teens, she gave up music to explore acting. She appeared in her first film, Tragedy of Love, in 1923. She explored notions of feminism with her femme fatale roles in films, such as in the film Morocco. She died on May 6, 1992, in Paris, France.
"There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich."
Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich was born Maria Magdalene Dietrich on December 27, 1901, in Berlin, Germany. One of the most glamorous leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, Marlene Dietrich is remembered for her smoldering sex appeal, distinctive voice, and unusual personal style. Her police officer father died when she was young, and her mother later married Edouard von Losch, a cavalry officer. Growing up, Dietrich studied French and English at her private school. She also took violin lessons with the hopes of becoming a concert pianist.
While in her late teens, Dietrich gave up music to explore acting. She attended Max Reinhardt’s drama school and soon started to land small parts on stage and in German films. Because of her family’s disapproval of her career choice, Dietrich chose to use a combination of her first and middle name professionally.
In 1923, Dietrich married Rudolf Sieber, a film professional who helped her land a part in Tragedy of Love (1923). The couple welcomed their only child, Maria, the following year. They later separated, but never divorced.
Dietrich’s career in Germany began to take off in the late 1920s. Making film history, she was cast in Germany’s first talking picture Der Blaue Engel (1930) by Hollywood director Josef von Sternberg. An English language version, The Blue Angel, was also filmed using the same cast. With her sultry good looks and sophisticated manner, Dietrich was a natural for the role of Lola Lola, a nightclub dancer. The film follows the decline of a local professor who gives up everything to have a relationship with her character. A big hit, the film helped make Dietrich a star in the United States.
In April 1930, shortly after the premiere of Der Blaue Engel in Berlin, Dietrich moved to America. Again working with von Sternberg, Dietrich starred in Morocco (1930) with Gary Cooper. She played Amy Jolly, a lounge singer, who gets entangled in a love triangle with a member of the Foreign Legion (Cooper) and a wealthy playboy (Adolphe Menjou). For her work on the film, Dietrich received her one and only Academy Award nomination.
Continuing to play the femme fatale, Dietrich challenged accepted notions of feminity. She often wore pants and more masculine fashions on- and off-screen, which added to her unique allure and created new trends. Dietrich made several more films with von Sternberg, including Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932) and The Scarlet Empress (1934), in which she played the famed member of Russian royalty, Catherine the Great. Their last film together was The Devil Is a Woman (1935)—reportedly her personal favorite film.
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