AKA Maria Magdalena Dietrich von LoschHer biological father was an Army Officer who passed when she was only 11 years old.
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Location of death: Paris, France
Cause of death: Kidney failure
Remains: Buried, Friedhof III, Berlin-Friedenau, Germany
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
I know of Marlene Dietrich from stories handed down by the men in my life. Grandfathers to sons to fathers - and I was told she was a rare breed of woman. I didn't know what that exactly meant then, but I do now. Some people choose to remember or best know Dietrich for her fantastic legs; her low, raspy sensual voice, and her trademark cross-gender wardrobe. Albeit, I grew up thinking she is so much more.
I have also learned about her admirable acts of bravery to stay in the forefront with the Army during World War II. I believe to this day Hitler would have loved to put a slug in her head if he had the chance. She was wooed by the Nazis and could play both fields at war if she wanted to.
Stories have it that she braved sleeping in dirt, scrubbing floors, making hot soup and even took a bath with water from a U.S.soldier's helmet, just like any regular soldier at war. Then she would be up and about to perform for them, to keep their morale high. She was, as most people who remember her fondly, "magical." But not unlike any of our species, she is said to be more an image; larger than life, than real. And I quote her: "I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men. "
Such is stuff that legends are made of; a continuing conflict between what is and what is not; what was and what was not.
A most endearing quality of the Dietrich myth is that undefinable "love-friendship" affair she had with Ernest Hemingway*. (*Yes my dear Virginia, the same Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 1954, the same Ernest, no less). It is believed, as substantiated in the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, where letters between the "Kraut" and her "Papa" reside; (Dietrich was fondly called Kraut by Hemingway and she fondly called him Papa.)
Here is an excerpt of something Hemingway wrote to Dietrich:
However, they claim their love is mere deep friendship, nothing beyond it. When asked about what really was going on, Hemingway once quipped:"I love you and I hold you tight and kiss you hard.I can't say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home. I fall in love with you bad and you're always in love with some jerk."
"'The thing about the Kraut and me, is that we have been in love since 1934, when we first met on the Ile de France, but we've never been to bed. Amazing but true. Victims of un-synchronized passion.'"I can only smile and look at the description, "victims of un-synchronized passion" as words only a great writer like Hemingway can aptly and perfectly say.
I admire the legendary Dietrich for a lot of reasons; for what she stood for and acted upon, that women of my generation would be too nervous and too risk-averse to dare embrace. She had courage and spunk and talent and beauty. Indeed rare and so few have risen to the same level of mystery and magic that she did. One of Dietrich's quotes about being a woman is among my list of favourites:
"To be completely woman you need a master, and in him a compass for your life. You need a man you can look up to and respect. If you dethrone him it's no wonder that you are discontented, and discontented women are not loved for long."But nothing comes close to being described in your life and in death, by the man who can say the most beautiful things in words.
"If she had nothing more than her voice," said her friend, Ernest Hemingway, "she could break your heart with it."And the legend that is Marlene Dietrich lives on. Happy 4th of July!