Movie Legends: Marlene Dietrich

Moody and sensual. Aloof and beautiful. Aristocractic, but with more than a hint of danger beneath the surface.

Marlene Dietrich grew up in a middle-class Prussian household, willfull and rebellious and self-obsessed. Her career began in Berlin, where she became a popular showgirl in the daring musical reviews of the day. At a casting call, she met an assistent director named Rudolf Sieber, who was immediately smitten — they married in 1923 and quickly had a daughter, Maria.

Her popularity in German films grew. When Josef von Sternberg was in Berlin to cast the first German talkie, “The Blue Angel”, he took one look at Dietrich and knew he had found Lola-Lola. Dietrich became an instant star around the world.

She left her family in Germany and flew to Hollywood with von Sternberg, beginning an intense affair and a series of films that etched Dietrich’s unique sense of style into America’s consciousness forever.

After the war, Dietrich made films with directors as diverse as Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder. After making more memorable films, the screen legend left the movies.

She returned to her roots, earning a rumored $30,000 a week as a cabaret singer in Las Vegas.

Dietrich was an icon, and she knew it. In the last years of her life, when she felt she could no longer sustain her image, she became a recluse.

She refused to be photographed or filmed. Refused to do anything that might dilute the power of the image she had created.

It worked. We remember her the way she was, the way she demanded we remember her.