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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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Considered by many to her most ultimate portrayal of a vamp, Dietrich played a cold-hearted temptress who captivates several men during the Spanish revolution.
Dietrich later softened her image somewhat by taking on lighter fare. Starring opposite Jimmy Stewart, she played a saloon gal in western comedy Destry Rides Again (1939). Around this time, Dietrich also made several films with John Wayne,
including Seven Sinners (1940), The Spoilers (1942) and Pittsburgh (1942). The two were said to have had a romantic relationship, which later turned into a strong friendship.
In her personal life, Dietrich was a strong opponent of the Nazi government in Germany. She had been asked to return to Germany by people associated with Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s to make films there, but she turned them down. As a result, her films were banned in her native land. She made her new country her official home by becoming a U.S. citizen in 1939. During World War II, Dietrich traveled extensively to entertain the allied troops, singing such songs as “Lili Marlene” and others, which would later become staples in her cabaret act. She also worked on war-bond drives and recorded anti-Nazi messages in German for broadcast.
After the war, Dietrich made several more successful films. Two films directed by Billy Wilder, A Foreign Affair (1948) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957) with Tyrone Power, were among the most notable from this period. She also turned in two strong supporting performances in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).
As her film career faded, Dietrich began a thriving singing career in the mid-1950s. She performed her act around the world, from Las Vegas to Paris, to the delight of her fans. In 1960, Dietrich performed in Germany, her first visit there since before the war. She encountered some opposition to her return, but she received a warm reception overall. That same year, her autobiography, Dietrich’s ABC, was published.
By the mid-1970s, Dietrich had given up performing. She moved to Paris where she lived out the remainder of her life in near-seclusion. In the mid-1980s, she did provide some audio commentary for Maximillian Schell’s documentary film on her, Marlene (1984), but she refused to appear on camera.
Dietrich died on May 6, 1992, in her Paris home. After her funeral, she was buried next to her mother in Berlin. Dietrich was survived by her daughter Maria and her four grandchildren. Her daughter later wrote her own biography of her famous mother, Marlene Dietrich, in the mid-1990s.
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