On what would have been her 116th birthday, Marlene Dietrich is being celebrated as the Dec. 27, 2017 Google Doodle. Here’s everything to know about the singer/actress.
1. The early years. When she was 11 years old, Marie Magdalene Dietrich, who grew up in Germany, combined her first and middle name and started going by Marlene Dietrich. When she was a teenager, Marlene played violin and started becoming interested in theater and poetry. After she finished school, Marlene began making appearances as a chorus girl, and eventually made her film debut in 1923’s The Little Napoleon. After taking small roles on stage and on-screen throughout the 1920s, Marlene got her first big break in the movie The Blue Angel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, in 1930.
2. Success…and downfall…in the States. After The Blue Angel garnered international success, Marlene made her way to the U.S. and worked with Josef on a variety of films. She received an Oscar nomination for her role in Morocco in 1930. They worked on six movies together between 1930 and 1935, but then in the late 30s, Marlene decided to branch out on her own. Unfortunately, she started to see a decline in her success, as the movies she starred in were expensive to make and did not perform well at the box office. Marlene applied for U.S. citizenship in 1937, which she was granted in 1939.
3. Involvement in World War II. Marlene worked tirelessly to help Jews and refugees escape from Nazi Germany, even donating her entire profit from one movie to the cause. She received the Medal of Freedom in 1947 for her efforts during the war. Unfortunately, WWII also tore Marlene apart from her family — her sister and brother-in-law ran a movie theater that was frequented by Nazi officers, and although Marlene vouched for them so they could avoid prosecution, she eventually cut them from her life.
4. Life as a cabaret singer. In a few of her breakthrough roles, Marlene served as a cabaret singer, a job she took up full-time in from the 1950s-1970s. She performed in theaters all over the world. During this time, she recorded albums of her own, as well. Marlene also performed on Broadway in the late 1960s. Aside from just being remembered as a performer and entertainer, Marlene is also known as a fashion icon, and remembered for “following her own course” and not conforming to what was expected of society.
5. Family life and death. Marlene met Rudolf Sieber on the set of her 1923 film Tragodie der Liebe. They married in May 1923 and welcomed a daughter, Maria Elisabeth Sieber, on Dec. 13, 1924. Maria was Marlene’s only child. Marlene had a number of affairs throughout her career, most of which were known to her husband. Rudolf died from cancer in 1976. Meanwhile, Marlene suffered from cervical cancer herself, but survived, in the mid 1960s. In 1975, Marlene fell off stage and broke her thigh while performing, ending her career. She became dependent on painkillers and, sadly, spent the last decade of her life bedridden. She died of renal failure at 90 years old.
HollywoodLifers, what were you most surprised to learn about Marlene?