It was on the first day of this year – 1st January 2018 – that I wrote that it was on Friday 27th December 1901 in Schoneberg, a suburb of Berlin, that one Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born – the product of a privileged and conservative family – and a fact that she seemingly failed to acknowledge throughout her life. One indication of this starts early as her name ‘changes’ – it will now be Marlene Dietrich.
Over the years, details of her personal life would appear and change with virtually every biography written about her; every studio press release and every word she spoke. She was creating a legend, and the errors that abounded about her only served to deepen the mystery and to encourage and expand the enigma. Film director Billy Wilder would describe Marlene as ‘A strange combination of the femme fatale, the German Hausfrau and Florence Nightingale’.
When all aspects are considered, she has been described as a ‘quintessentially the embodiment of erotic sophistication, cosmopolitan glamour and warm, maternal sexuality’.
So – what is my view on the Marlene Dietrich story? That is a very good question that has taken some quite large thought and research over the past couple of weeks and will – I am sure – take a few more in the months to come so let’s start from the beginning …..
She was born on 27th December 1901in Berlin and was given the name Maria Magdalene Dietrich – the second daughter of police lieutenant Louis Erich Otto Dietrich and Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine Dietrich nee Felsing. Louis died – some say in 1907, others say 1910 and others 1911 – and, in 1916, his fried Eduard von Losch married his widow Wilhelmina – only to die himself of war-time injuries that same year!
Reading between the lines Marlene had set about going her own ways before this anyway. She had begun school in 1907 and, in 1918, graduated from the Victoria-Luise-Schule. During this time she had become interested in poetry and the theatre. She also studied the violin but a wrist injury put a stop to her dream of becoming a concert violinist. Non-the-less, in 1922 she did get a job playing the violin in a pit orchestra for silent films at a Berlin cinema – she was fired four weeks later! But all was not lost and, by the end of 1922, the future began looking positive.
Watch out next week for the next part of Marlene’s life.