Cant go wrong with Lupino. Davis, Bogart, Scott, McGraw, Stewart, Ryan, Ladd.
What would be in your pile of instantly watchables?
Cant go wrong with Lupino. Davis, Bogart, Scott, McGraw, Stewart, Ryan, Ladd.
What would be in your pile of instantly watchables?
Glenn Ford , Van Heflin. “3.10 To Yuma.”
Not sure what the set is, but Ida Lupino is studying the script.
Filming that iconic scene at the start of “Sunset Boulevard “. William Holden.
In discussion, William Wellman, Ginger Rogers. “Roxie Hart.”
You gotta learn to shoot straight, Eleanor! William Holden, Eleanor Parker. “Escape From Fort Bravo.”
Barbara Stanwyck, probably listening to Billy Wilder. “Double Indemnity “.
Shirley Temple visiting Rita Hayworth . “Gilda.”
Howard Hawks, Gary Cooper between takes. “Ball of Fire.”
Showing his loving side! Robert Mitchum , Shelley Winters. “Night of the Hunter”. One of Mitchum’s greatest roles.
Farley Granger in the background. Hitchcock contemplating. “Strangers on a Train.”
What is FILM NOIR.
Let’s start with some titles: City That Never Sleeps, I Wake Up Screaming, Kiss Me Deadly, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Fear In The Night, Detour, On Dangerous Ground.
Get the picture? These titles are going to take you on a thrilling if tortured journey through dark, mean streets in the company of a group of lost souls seeking salvation. If you know Film Noir, you’ll recognise writers like Cornell Woolrich, directors like Robert Siodmak , stars like Robert Ryan.
There will be flashbacks, amnesia (Film historian Lee Server : “Amnesia is fairly epidemic – Noir’s version of the common cold.”), mystery, murder, private eyes, prisons, nightclubs , bad guys, bad gals and sometimes justice is done.
Film Noir is dark entertainment, not light!
Eddie Muller, known as ‘The Czar of Noir”, summed up Film Noir brilliantly (and in the Noir style )in his 1998 book, “DARK CITY: THE LOST WORLD OF FILM NOIR”. The following is part of his two page sizzling intro to his book:
“Remember, once across the Dark City limits, the meter’s double and there is no coming back…….we’ll hit Sinister Heights, Shamus Flats, Blind Alley and maybe Losers Lane……Dark City was built on fateful coincidence , double dealing and last chances. “
And on the book’s back cover, he writes:
It’s a breakneck ride in a getaway car, with Richard Widmark and Gloria Grahame in the front seat and you in the back with some dame you don’t remember and would ‘t mind forgetting.
Dark City delivers the goods…straight, no chaser.”
Eddie comments in his book about the origins of what became known as Film Noir, reflecting on the mood of Americans after WW2:
“Writers and directors responded by delivering gritty, bitter dramas that slapped our romantic illusions in the face……still, plenty of us took it – and liked it. “
Back in the day, I reckon Eddie Muller would have been turning out Noir scripts at RKO ( the studio he calls “The House of Noir.”) . He’s from San Francisco and when he wrote that first book over 20 years ago, fate took a hand and opened up a whole new career for him.
After his book came out in 1998, Eddie was invited to program a Noir Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, and the rest, as they say, is Noir history.
Noir City Festivals spread throughout the U.S. and audiences of over a thousand revelled in 35mm screenings, with guests like Arlene Dahl, Marie Windsor, Rhonda Fleming attending.
The Art Deco Castro Theatre in San Francisco, where Peggy Cummins attended a screening of Gun Crazy.
At that first festival in 1999, attendees included Coleen Gray, Evelyn Keyes, Audrey Totter, Ann Savage and directors Robert Wise and Budd Boetticher.
Great photo showing Eddie with (left to right) Ann Savage, Coleen Gray, Jane Greer, Evelyn Keyes, Audrey Totter.
All starred in memorable Noir films, from DETOUR to LADY IN THE LAKE, KISS OF DEATH, THE PROWLER, OUT OF THE PAST.
In the program notes for the 2009 Noir City festival in San Francisco, Eddie wrote, “Noir City remains dedicated to the grand communal majesty of the moviegoing experience. Enjoy it while you can because pretty soon, watching a black and white movie on a huge screen will be as obsolete as…. reading a newspaper.”
At the 2009 festival, Arlene Dahl was the guest of honour and a crowd of 1,400 watched Arlene’s WICKED AS THEY COME.
Being able to invite stars of the films he would screen at the Festivals made for many great memories for Eddie and the lucky fans who attended:
“…..Marie Windsor trying not to cry when she saw all 600 seats filled for “The Narrow Margin”
“……Screening DETOUR for a packed house, and doing the interview afterwards with Ann Savage.”
Eddie subsequently wrote two more books on Noir – DARK CITY DAMES (2001) and THE ART OF NOIR (2002). Both ‘must- haves’ for Noir fans.
His interest then took him into film preservation ,with his setting up of The Film Noir Foundation in 2005. A non- profit public benefit organisation with a mission to find and preserve films in danger of being lost or irreparably damaged. And to ensure these classic films remain in circulation for theatrical exhibition.
Since its beginning, the Foundation has helped fund and restore The Prowler, Too Late for Tears, Woman On the Run, Cry Danger, Repeat Performance, Trapped.
Describing a restoration, Eddie says: “The ideal elements are the earliest negatives the studio made – the ones used to manufacture copies for theatrical distribution.”
When it came to Ann Sheridan’s WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950) Muller found an archival print at Universal but it had fallen out of copyright. He got the rights to screen the film but had to indemnify the studio in case an owner surfaced and sued for compensation .
Unfortunately, the print was destroyed in a fire at Universal in 2008. Then the British Film Institute searched their database and found a copy which U.C.L.A. borrowed and restored.
And in 2015, Eddie unveiled a brand new 35mm version of “Woman On The Run” at two Noir City Festivals.
In an interview with Barbara Tannenbaum, he said:
I don’t mean to be mawkish, but when I introduce “Woman on the Run”, I always dedicate it to Ann Sheridan. She knew she had made something really good, but never got to see it with a full house. I feel the audience reaction.
That’s when I tell her: ‘Your film still plays.’
In the 20 years since Eddie began his Noir odyssey, so many of the stars he interviewed on film have died, but the Noir Foundation has kept the videos and made them available via the website http://www.filmnoirfoundation.org
it’s wonderful to see interviews with Coleen Gray, Julie Adams, Norman Lloyd, Ernest Borgnine, Lauren Bacall , Marsha Hunt, Peggy Cummins and many others.
In 2017, Eddie Muller joined TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES (TCM) and has a slot every week called NOIR ALLEY in which he introduces a film noir, providing interesting comments before and after the screening.
(Many of his intros on Noir Alley can be viewed on YouTube.) Introducing 99 RIVER STREET, he said: ”I’m a sucker for movies that play out over the course of one night….when normal people are on the nod……CROSSFIRE, THE SET UP, DECISION AT DAWN, THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.”
In his intro to Armored Car Robbery:
”This little 67 minute programmer is truly noir. I love it. It’s part of a sensational run of six ‘B’ crime pictures directed by Richard Fleischer in the late 40s and early 50s.
What really sets this film apart is its fantastic cast . On the crooked side, shifty Steve Brodie, second banana Douglas Fowley, dishy but reliably duplicitous Adele Jergens….
The main event is a knock down, drag out slug fest between two film noir heavyweights – the reptilian William Talman as the slimy criminal , and granite jawed Charles McGraw as the relentless copper.”
Eddie quotes his friend and fellow film historian Alan Rode: ”This is the equivalent of King Kong vs Godzilla “ – though the two guys never have any scenes together!
Eddie added: “I showed ‘Armored Car Robbery” at my first film noir festival 20 years ago, with its director Dick Fleischer as guest of honor. He hasn’t seen it since it wrapped post production in 1950, and was nervous about seeing it for the first time.”
I also love his description of one of my favourite actors, Charles McGraw: ”The most distinctively gruff voice in the movies was strangled out of McGraw – it sounded like a fist was gripping his larynx whenever he deigned to utter dialogue!”
Eddie has also been doing a series which can be seen on You Tube called “ASK EDDIE” in which he answers questions from fans.
He admits that when these films were being made in the 1940s, they were called crime dramas.
So where did the name, FILM NOIR actually come from. The phrase was coined by two French writers, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in their 1955 book, “Panorama du Film Noir.”
The authors argued that Film Noir was a new, darker ,less escapist tendency in Hollywood entertainment, that constituted a series of films closely related to a pulp fiction series in France called ‘Serie Noire’.
Other comments by Noir’s Czar:
“….If the director didn’t write it, he can’t really lay claim to authorship and shouldn’t be taking credit for things that are obviously conjured up by the writer.”
“…..The thing that makes train movies great, whether they are Noir or not, is the claustrophobia, and the fact it is moving, so it is relentless forward motion, and yet you are trapped on the train. The great Noir on a train is THE TALL TARGET – based on a true story. Dick Powell plays an investigator called John F. Kennedy who thwarts an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln.”
Eddie also finds time to do great audio commentaries on dvds like FALLEN Angel, Crime Wave, The Big Combo,The Racket, Macao and many more.He has done about 30 commentaries but finds them very time consuming. Alias Nick Beal , which an Australian company is releasing, will be his last.
Rhonda Fleming was the only hold out when Eddie wrote DARK CITY DAMES and interviewed Marie Windsor, Coleen Gray, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Savage, Audrey Totter and Jane Greer.
Eddie: ”I recorded these interviews with the actresses on a little mini cassette recorder.” ( fans have asked if the interviews could be released as audio recordings, perhaps on blu Ray releases.)
My 2002 well worn copy of Eddie’s definitive study. Dick Powell, Claire Trevor on the cover.
Eddie is bringing out a new edition of DARK CITY in June,2021 (Amazon,£22), with every chapter being revised, and three new added chapters with themes like ‘Hate Street’, ‘The Precinct’ , ‘Shamus Flats’, ‘Vixenville.’, ‘The Stage Door’ , ‘The Big House’.
I did try to contact Mr. Muller. It would have been nice to have him run his eye over my copy and add or subtract anything . I’d like to have heard his views on writer Cornell Woolrich whose books were made into films – “Black Angel”, “Deadline at Dawn” and “Fear in the Night.”
I’m always hoping he might do a Noir City Festival here in the U.K. Maybe one day.
In a radio interview in November 2020, he said, “Noir has never lost its bite.”
If you are already hooked, I know you will agree!
Great too to hear that Mickey Spillane thought that Ralph Meeker was the best Mike Hammer! (KISS ME DEADLY is terrific!)
And to quote Eddie at the end of his Noir Alley outings – “Till next time, see you in the shadows!”
Or out of the shadows when the vaccines kick in . Meanwhile stay safe and my thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog – and commenting this year.
Love this photo from the set of 3.10 TO YUMA, with a quiet conference between stars Felicia Farr and Glenn Ford and their director, Delmer Daves.
Felicia Farr, Glenn Ford.
Delmer Daves wrote screenplays in the 1930s and 40s, and started directing with 1943’s Destination Tokyo. Other Daves films I love are DARK PASSAGE, THE LAST WAGON (also with Felicia Farr).
Delmer Daves on the set of DESTINATION TOKYO, with Cary Grant, John Garfield. (I haven’t seen this one. Is it recommended?
Delmer Daves discussing the shot with Humphrey Bogart, Agnes Moorehead . DARK PASSAGE.
(Daves wrote as well as directed these three films.)
When I saw this photo from the set of The African Queen, two words came to mind – Social Distancing. 2 meters?
Lauren Bacall, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn . THE AFRICAN QUEEN.
The joys of location filming.
In an article by author Bob Thomas, some of Hollywood’s stars were persuaded to reveal what they consider to be their favourite ‘Turkeys’, ie the films they would most like to forget!
Anyone care to disagree?
“BLUE DAHLIA” was pretty awful. We made up the story as we went along. I never did figure it out.”
Maybe Alan wasn’t happy because screenwriter Raymond Chandler had trouble finishing the script and insisted on working from home. The film was well received.
“My worst, “DEAD RECKONING”. I never did understand the character. Bogie was a baby. He was the only thing that made it possible to get through the picture.”
Always liked this one and Lizabeth is well matched with Bogie.
“I consider all my pictures bad from my point of view. But the worst was BACHELOR’S DAUGHTERS. It had a good cast but was terribly mixed up.”
This 1946 film is one I’d like to see with its all star cast of Claire, Gail Russell, Ann Dvorak, Jane Wyatt, Adophe Menjou , Billie Burke.
The plot of capturing a rich husband wasn’t exactly fresh.
“There was one called TRAIL STREET in which I was a pal of the hero. I fought like hell, made love like hell, and appeared in endless footage, but it didn’t mean a thing. Moral: never be a pal to a hero.”
Randolph Scott is ‘Bat Masterson’, called in by Robert Ryan to tame a town . The main villain was Steve Brodie. I suspect Robert would have preferred Steve’s role. Still he had CROSS FIRE the same year.(1947).
“Oh, I had so many. MOKEY, with Dan Dailey at MGM was probably the worst. I was 20 at the time and playing a mean stepmother. When I saw the finished picture in the projection room, I was so embarrassed that I walked out half way through it.”
Young Robert Blake played the title role. Mokey’s father , Dan Dailey, remarries (Donna Reed) and neither are very good at parenting.
One IMDB review called it a horrible little film.
Was it that bad, I wonder.
“POWDER TOWN in which I appeared with another fellow and nine RKO girls. When I read the story, I told the studio it was no good. I left for New York. They wrote and said the script had been re-written. So I returned and found all they did was re-type the script. We made it anyway and I’d certainly like to forget it.”
This 1942 film had Edmund as an absent minded professor working on a project for the war effort. Costars included Victor McLaglen, June Havoc. The New York Times review of the time agreed with Edmund and called it a dud.
“The one I’d like most to forget is THE LAST GANGSTER. I had to wear a moustache and I refused to grow one myself. It was a lot of trouble to put one on every day and it tickled when I talked. The preview audience agreed with me about the moustache. They were laughing at it in my most dramatic scene.”
This is an Edward G. Robinson starrer from 1937. He’s a hoodlum who spends ten years in prison. Meanwhile his wife, Rose Stradner has divorced him and married reporter James Stewart.
Robinson was on loan to MGM who were obviously hoping to cash in on the Warner’s success with the star.
James was given a moustache to make him look older after the ten years have passed. It didn’t work.
See what I mean!
“I like all my pictures. They’ve all been good. I’ve been lucky.”
Santa Claus Lane in Hollywood, 1932 and Claudette Colbert unveils a wreath with her portrait.
Jane Greer and her wish list, including Cary Grant and a mink coat!
I might fast forward to the end of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, just to see Alistair Sim as Scrooge turn over a new leaf.
One of my Christmas films will be SHOP AROUND THE CORNER,
A heartwarming story and great cast. Love the trailer above.
James Stewart – Margaret Sullavan – Frank Morgan – Felix Bressart – Joseph Schildkraut – Sara Haden – Inez Courtney – William Tracy -Charles Smith.
Wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2021, and a return to normality.
George Brent and Barbara Stanwyck in MY REPUTATION.
Cinematographer James Wong Howe behind the camera. And that might be Director Curtis Bernhardt kneeling.
Barbara practices kissing Gary Cooper in BALL OF FIRE. There’s a smile on Gary’s face.
Barbara with Edward G. Robinson. DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
Barbara getting ready for her number in LADY OF BURLESQUE.
Preparing for a scene in JEOPARDY.
Another scene from JEOPARDY, with Barry Sullivan.
With Ralph Meeker. JEOPARDY, great little thriller.
Barbara and Howard Hawks. BALL OF FIRE. Looks like the chair Hawks is leaning on has Barbara’s nickname on it – “Stany”.
Resting between scenes. With Clark Gable. TO PLEASE A LADY.
With Gary Cooper. BLOWING WILD.
On the set of QUO VADIS, with Robert Taylor (not working that day I guess), Peter Ustinov, Patricia Laffan.
……..Nice to see continuing issues of blu- Ray box sets in these days of TV streaming.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings out this Carole Lombard set on 6th April ,2021.
……….Marlene At Universal is a 4 disc set featuring Marlene Dietrich’s films at Universal from 1940 to 1942. The titles are Seven Sinners; Flame of New Orleans; The Spoilers; Pittsburgh.
The set will be released on 18th January,2021 and is limited to 4,000 copies. Extras include a 60 page booklet about the films.
Cant say I like the illustration of Marlene. The pose is great, but it’s not Marlene’s face.
……..The new Oscar Academy museum in Los Angeles has pushed back its opening to 30th September, 2021.
……..Sad to read that the Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood is now trying to survive ,with a GoFundMe campaign which has raised $50,000 so far.
This famous film bookshop was established in 1938 by Larry Edmunds who died in 1941. Larry’s partner Milton Luboviski took over and the shop became a Mecca for everyone interested and involved in the film business. Stock included posters, photos, lobby cards in addition to books. And with many celebrity book signings.
During the 1960s, the shop produced a 200 page catalogue.
The current owner is Jeffrey Mantor and we can only hope that this historic shop survives.
Shelves of wonderful titles in this wonderful shop.
……….Delighted to find a You Tube channel run by Mark Milano who has done exhaustive research on those behind-the-scenes singers who dubbed for all the big stars. (YouTube.com/lostvocals8)
Mark has put together a wonderful compilation of song clips , with the names of the dubbers on each brief clip.
So interesting to hear that Louis B. Mayer insisted that Eleanor Powell be dubbed in all her films,even though Eleanor was a Broadway singer as well as dancer, and had recorded with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
Mark Milano has synched a recording of Eleanor singing ‘You Are My Lucky Star’ (with Dorsey) and showed us the scene from BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 , taking out Eleanor’s dubber, Marjorie Lane and letting us see and hear Eleanor do the number.
Why would Eleanor need to be dubbed. Mark’ s only explanation was that Mayer preferrred a soprano sound.
Mark could write a book – I wish he would! So many stories eg stars who were keen to do their own singing but were overruled – Leslie Caron in GIGI; Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, Audrey Hepburn in MY FAIR LADY, Ava Gardner in SHOW BOAT; Joan Crawford in TORCH SONG.
And listening to the stars do their own singing , you can decide whether the studios did the right thing. Ava Gardner seems to get the most votes though the trained professional singers usually win out.
And dubbing was required for many films other than musicals. So many films had nightclub scenes where we’d see one or two songs during the film.
Martha Mears really was the queen of dubbers. Mark Milano on his You Tube channel showed clips from all the films Martha sang in – Claudette Colbert (ZAZA) ; Veronica Lake (I WANTED WINGS, THIS GUN FOR HIRE); Marjorie Reynolds (HOLIDAY INN; Rita Hayworth (COVER GIRL, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT) ; Maria Montez (SOUTH OF TAHITI); Virginia Huston (NOCTURNE);
Belita (THE GANGSTER); AUDREY TOTTER (THE SAXON CHARM, UNDER THE GUN.)
And that’s only some of the dubbing Martha did. She also dubbed Sonia Henie, Marta Toren, Hedy Lamarr, Carole Landis.
But as with Eleanor Powell, I don’t know why she had to dub Lucille Ball in THE BIG STREET and DUBARRY WAS A LADY or Patricia Morison in SILVER SKATES.
And couldn’t Barbara Stanwyck have sung “Drum Boogie” just fine in BALL OF FIRE. And why would Ann Sheridan need to be dubbed in SHINE ON HARVEST MOON.
Did Allen Jones really need to sing for Dennis Morgan in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD. I don’t think so.
Interesting too to find out that Mary Martin dubbed for Margaret Sullavan in SHOPWORN ANGEL, and for Gypsy Rose Lee in THE BATTLE OF BROADWAY.
Mark points out that the dubbing of Juanita Hall in SOUTH PACIFIC is the strangest – Juanita had played ‘Bloody Mary’ in “South Pacific” on Broadway in 900 performances! ( She was dubbed by Muriel Smith). The only explanation was that composer Richard Rodgers didn’t like Juanita’s voice.
The dubbers really do deserve to be recognised and that is what Mark Milano is doing. Someone like Trudy Stevens could sing for Vera- Ellen (WHITE CHRISTMAS) and then manage to sound like husky Lizabeth Scott in DEAD RECKONING. an art in itself.
Lizabeth Scott, Humphrey Bogart.DEAD RECKONING
I’ve written about movie dubbers twice before in the blog – ‘Martha Mears, Queen of the Dubbers’ in 2016, and a review of the BBC documentary, ‘Secret voices of Hollywood’ in 2013. Wish I’d known of Mark Milano!
Mark Milano’s HOLLYWOOD’S SECRETS EXPOSED: THE REAL VOICES OF DUBBED STARS was an online 90 minute event on 13th December, 2020 and can now be seen on You Tube.
……….A recommendation by Eddie Muller (‘The Czar of Noir’) is a 1950 comedy, THE GOOD HUMOR MAN, with Jack Carson, Lola Albright, Jean Wallace, George Reeves.
Has anyone seen it? No sign of it on Amazon.
I have seen only a few of Marlene Dietrich’s films and know little about her life and career. And yet, I was in Berlin a few years ago with my friend Alistair who has been a Dietrich fan since his teens.
I accompanied Alistair to the fabulous Dietrich Archive at the Film Museum.
When I thought about writing about this remarkable woman who was one of the biggest stars of Classic Hollywood, who better to answer my many questions than Alistair .
My thanks go to Alistair for most of what is in this post. His personal reminiscences have proved invaluable and so interesting.
I have already started catching up on Marlene’s films – well, I watched ANGEL , that’s a start!
Reading about Marlene’s life, watching documentaries and hearing Alistair’s opinions has been a fascinating experience.
Born in 1901 ( though she often said 1904), her full name was Maria Magdalena Dietrich, but she shortened her Christian name to Marlene. She married Rudi Sieber in 1922 and had a daughter, Maria in 1923.
Although she later said that The Blue Angel was her very first film, she had In fact made several silent films before 1930.
She was already on her way to the States when The Blue Angel (which had been filmed in German and English ) was released to great success in Europe. Paramount held up releasing The Blue Angel in America till after issuing Morocco there.
And Marlene immediately had the song which would be hers for the rest of her life – “Falling in Love Again”.
Director Josef von Sternberg had seen Marlene in a play in Berlin and had her audition for the role of Lola Lola.
In Hollywood, Marlene and von Sternberg made 6 films together for Paramount between 1930 and 1935.
When the collaboration started to decline in box office success, Marlene took a break from filming then returned with great success in a completely different role as saloon girl ‘Frenchy’ in Destry Rides Again in 1939.
She only made just over 20 more films in the next four decades, including three with John Wayne. And two with her old friend Billy Wilder – A Foreign Affair and Witness for the Prosecution, plus a Hitchcock film, Stage Fright.
Alistair talks of that special day in May,2013 in Berlin when we visited the Museum housing the Dietrich archive!
…..”Our first trip in the morning was to the Marlene Dietrich Textile Archive in Schichauweg in a warehouse unit belonging to the German Film Museum.
Barbara Schroter, who showed us around, kindly looked out some things she thought would be of interest – the ringmaster’s outfit worn by Marlene at Madison Square Garden; one of the dresses (and matching unterhosen – knickers to you and I ) from “Destry Rides Again”; a red blouse from “The Devil is a Woman”; a suit from “Witness for the Prosecution “; and assorted shoes, handbags, luggage etc.
Marlene never threw anything away. She was an inveterate hoarder and had even cut off designer labels from some of her costumes to avoid paying customs duty on them. But she kept all the labels in an envelope!
………In the afternoon we made our way to Potsdamer Platz for our appointment with Silke Ronneberg , head of the Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Filmmuseum there.
Like Barbara at the textile archive, she couldn’t have been more welcoming to a couple of Scottish film fans.
In a refrigerated storeroom we saw some of Marlene’s jewellery , including a brooch I recognised – a pair of legs in gold, one of which is in a cast. It was given to Marlene when she broke her leg during the making of “The Lady Is Willing.”
We also got to see scripts, costume designs and stills. Silke had also looked out some of Marlene’s correspondence from her two Edinburgh one- woman shows in 1964 and 1965, which was very thoughtful of her.
Back in Silke’s office, we were shown some of Marlene’s home movies on a TV monitor.
One of the best days of my life!
(Alistair, I wish we could go again – I would appreciate it even more now!)
Marlene’s grave. Although she spent the last 13 years of her life in seclusion in Paris, she wanted to be buried in Berlin alongside her mother. She was a prolific letter writer and phone caller during these last years.
The gravestone inscription translates to “Here I stand at the marks to my days.” She was posthumously made an honorary citizen of Berlin in 2002.
Marlene’s vast memorabilia collection was purchased from her family by the city of Berlin in 1993 for $5 million .
The archive includes 300,000 pages of written material including 45,000 pages of correspondence and 16,500 photos ( including 6500 set and production stills.). And 350 posters!
Her private library contained 1800 titles including 355 signed copies.
Visitors to the collection are welcome ( in non- Covid times)- the website is deutsche- kinemathek-de. Silke Ronneborg can be contacted at sronneborg@deutsche-kinemathek-de
I found a quote from Marlene – “I dress for the image – clothes bore me.I’d wear jeans.”
“Marlene was a keen fashion trendsetter for most of her life- she was the one who popularised the wearing of trousers by ladies in the 1930s: and even in the 1960s she set many trends.”
How do you account for her longevity:
“She was savvy enough to know that once you reach a certain age, Hollywood pigeonholes you into character parts and when she was offered a chance to do a cabaret act at the Sahara hotel in Las Vegas, she jumped at the chance.
She was used to performing on stage from her early days in Berlin and also doing many troop concerts during World War II, so it was a seamless transition to recreate her act for a paying audience .
They loved her in Las Vegas and her original contract was extended. After that, she took her act all over the world until an accident in the 1970s in Australia ended that part of her career.”
Having become a U.S. citizen in 1939, when America entered the war, Marlene toured U.S.bases in 1942/43 and as part of the U.S.O, she went overseas and entertained the groups in Britain, France and finally Germany. She also did a lot of bond raising for the military effort.
In 1947, Marlene received the highest civilian honour in America, the Medal of Freedom.
Marlene had studied the violin when she was young, and while entertaining wartime troops, she played a very unusual instrument – the musical saw.
On seeing Marlene in person, Alistair remembered:
“I had seen and loved a couple of her films on BBC television in the early 1960s, notably THE SCARLET EMPRESS, and when I saw she was scheduled to appear at the 1964 Edinburgh Festival in a week of late-night engagements at the Lyceum Theatre, my best school friend,Richard and I, rushed out and got tickets.
We went to one performance and waited at the stage door for her to come out afterwards. I was also keen to see Burt Bacharach who was her accompanist and arranger at that time, as I loved (and still do!) his songs written with Hal David for Dionne Warwick.
She didn’t disappoint her many fans who were also waiting – she came out with Burt and graciously and patiently signed autographs and chatted to the crowd.
We were right at the front and had a great view of her and Burt – I asked her about ‘The Scarlet Empress’ and she seemed surprised that an 18 year old was so fascinated by it.
Richard and I were so star-struck that we went up nearly every night after that, to hang about at the stage door and see her come out. I managed to get three or four autographs over the week – if we only had had access to phones with cameras in those days!
Marlene was the first Hollywood star either of us had seen in person! She came back again the next year and we repeated the process again. Burt was there again – this time with his wife, Angie Dickinson. They made a lovely couple.
Are there any of her films that rarely get shown -or that you have never seen?
“ ‘Martin Roumagnac’ , her French film with her then lover, Jean Gabin is one that has escaped me so far, and many of her silents prior to ‘The Blue Angel’ are also rarely seen these days.And she denied their existence in many interviews over the years, claiming her film career started with ‘The Blue Angel’.
The wartime film ‘Follow The Boys’ offer us the opportunity to see Marlene get sawn in half by magician Orson Welles and isn’t shown often.
Hitler’s government wanted Marlene to return to Berlin but she refused and became an American citizen in 1939. Can you talk about her reception in Berlin when she finally returned there in 1960?
Many Berliners hated her when she went back there to perform . I get the feeling that they think she deserted them. There were protestors outside the theatre with banners. But later appearances in Germany were well received.”
Could you name five favourite Dietrich films:
”Scarlet Empress”: Josef von Sternberg’s visual style at its most decorative.”
”A Foreign Affair” – Billy Wilder’s Classic set in post-war Berlin : his wry humour at its most acerbic. I love the line Marlene speaks to costar Jean Arthur – “ Let’ s go to my apartment. It’s only a few ruins away.”
”Witness for the Prosecution “ is another Wilder gem , and although Marlene plays second fiddle to Charles Laughton, she acquits herself well in this Agatha Christie whodunnit.”
Witness for the Prosecution.
”Stage Fright”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is another Marlene favourite of mine. It seems to capture the grim post-war British atmosphere well.”
”Shanghai Express”, Von Sternberg’s ‘Grand Hotel’ on wheels. There are some excellent performances in this, including Louise Closser Hale’s frosty landlady, complete with pooch in basket: Anna May Wong as a Chinese courtesan, and of course,Marlene as ‘Shanghai Lily’. She even manages to make woooden Clive Brook look interesting.”
Her only Oscar nomination was for MOROCCO. Any other deserving roles?
“Witness for the Prosecution”, “Judgement at Nuremberg”, “Desire” are a few I think she excels in.”
I listened to Marlene’s “Desert Island Discs” ( thanks, Alistair) from 1965 when she was appearing at the Queen’s Theatre in London.
Here are some of her comments ,spoken very matter of factly:
”Making films is a very difficult task. It was hard work all along the line…”
”I’m not a singer. I need the words very much to give expression to the song.” “I never listen to my own records.”
”I loved Edinburgh. I carry with me a little bunch of white Heather that I received there, that the people of Scotland brought me. I take it with me wherever I go.”
(Someone described Marlene’s voice as a “husky whisky tenor”!)
This post really only scratches the surface of Marlene Dietrich’s life. Alistair has 22 books about her – and indicated there are more! He recommends the biography by Steven Bach.
Marlene never divorced Rudolph Sieber . Alistair commented: “I think it was convenient for her to be married but it didn’t interfere in any way with her own liaisons.” (Of which there were many!)
I discovered this unusual little film on You Tube. At 66 minutes it felt more like a TV drama. With one main set , a small cast and dialogue heavy, it couldn’t have cost much to make – though it stars Laraine Day, Franchot Tone , Agnes Moorehead, Dane Clark , Bruce Bennett.
It has the kind of opening I like. You join the plot and realise that there is quite a back story.
Laraine Day is Jane Bandle, in her kitchen, cooking a meal and looking like a happy suburban housewife. Then Franchot Tone as Dennis Williams appears and it becomes obvious they are involved in affair whilst both are married to other people.
Dennis is there to tell her that her husband Fred (Bruce Bennett) knows about them, having hired a detective.
Dennis’ s first words to Jane are: “It’s alright. I parked down the street. We’re in a jam and we’ve got to decide what to do.”
But he has already decided – their 6 week affair is over.
But Jane doesn’t catch on right away, saying : ”We can be open with them and make a clean break.”
All he can say is ,”Persuade your husband not to make a scandal.”
Melodramatically, Jane responds: “I can’t stop loving you. I’d rather be dead. This is a nightmare.”
A nightmare indeed for Jane, but it is only just beginning . Before long there is an accident and cover up; her brother in law, Dane Clark as Bill Bandle turns up, having arranged a little nightmare of his own for Jane whom he despises for rejecting him and marrying his brother.
That accident I mentioned – Jane has tried to kill herself and when Dennis tries to stop her, he winds up being stabbed and falling down in the utility room next to her kitchen.
in a total state of shock, she shuts the door and washes her hands.
So, with a body in the house, the evil brother arrives and tells her he has invited Dennis and his wife to come to the house at 5.30 pm (when Jane’s husband is due home!
The stage is set as Agnes Moorehead as Dennis’s wife Katharine arrives. And then Jane’s husband Fred. They await the missing Dennis.
Bill gloats to Jane: “They’re all gonna be here at 5.30…. now I’m backstage on the curtain cue corner and I am watching the four of you put on the neatest show you ever saw.”
The door bell rings and Bill continues: “Overture, curtain going up.”
This plot may sound ripe melodrama but honestly the small cast are all so good and the story is gripping.
A nice change for Agnes Moorehead as the dignified wife , Katharine, who has had enough of her husband’s affairs. She sets Jane straight: “You see this has happened before – twice. But this time he’s going to realise I know.” I’m supposed to hate you but I don’t – I think you’re a fool.”
Poor Laraine Day has little,to do except look stunned and shocked. Katharine has some sympathy, saying: “Have you any way of earning your own living?”
And then Jane’s husband Fred (Bruce Bennett) comes home, bringing with him a brand new 10” television!
Bill take him outside to tell him what’s going on.( It was Bill who hired a detective.)
Dane Clark has the biggest role and delivers well as the brother who harbours a hatred for his sister in law .
Maybe the best line in the film, as they all wait for Dennis, Jane says, “I’ve been trying to tell you. He’s here. He’s been here all the time.”
As I am writing this, I realise it all sounds ridiculous , but it works!
There is a great twist in the last ten minutes.
And amazingly, Franchot Tone disappears after the first 15 mins of the film! One wonders why he took the role.
I wish it was on dvd, and hope it remains on You Tube for a while.
This darkish photo is the last dramatic shot in the film. For all Bill’s machinations, it isn’t a happy ending for him.