Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Noel Coward Tells Marlene, "Snap Out of It, Girl"


The patient readers of this blog deserve their reputation for good manners, but all the same, the Siren has been sensing some faint, far-off clouds of discontent over the past six weeks. A certain bewilderment, you could say. There’s a sense of people restraining themselves from saying: “Siren, the last time I came calling you were talking about Mid-Atlantic accents and Gene Tierney’s overbite and in the comments people were complaining about Wendell Corey and everything was right as rain. Then, without warning, for a month it’s been crime and pink films and sex addicts and now you’re quoting Pauline Kael writing about Brian De Palma and Siren [a deep, ragged breath] I just don’t know who you are anymore.”

Fret not. Like Judy Holliday in It Should Happen to You, the Siren is the same as she’s always been, only in a different way. And to prove it, here is one of the Siren’s favorite letters of all time, reprinted in Maria Riva’s book about her mother, Marlene Dietrich.

By the end of 1956, Dietrich had been carrying on a five-year affair with Yul Brynner, which was starting to wind down in an acrid funk of infidelity, ennui and Dietrich’s endless dissections of her lover’s behavior and motives. She wrote her dear friend Noel Coward a letter about a transcontinental flight she had taken with Brynner. The lovers had been having some “where is this all going, don’t you love me anymore” encounters. She arranged to get herself on the same plane with Brynner and was despondent when he downed three drinks without talking to her. Later Dietrich took some sleeping-pill suppositories, which she called “Fernando Lamas,” because like Lamas' acting, they put her to sleep so quickly. She awoke (or so she thought, she acknowledges she might have dreamt it) to Brynner trying to climb into her berth, and she became distressed when he said “there’s too many people around” and climbed back out, that striking Marlene Dietrich as being no kind of obstacle to real desire.

Dietrich’s letter tapers off in a series of laments about her unhappiness, how can she perform in Las Vegas, etc. etc. It is, in short, one of those humorless messages only people clinging to a waning relationship can produce, a microanalysis of behavior that requires only momentary thought to understand. Astonishing, and comforting, isn’t it--Dietrich, a real Siren, not just one on the Internet, indulging in the kind of “why do you think he did that? what does it mean? what is he trying to tell me?” conversations that mere mortal women, and men, have all the time.

Coward wrote her back immediately, in the greatest rejoinder to such moaning that the Siren has ever read. So perfect is this response that when the Siren read it years ago, she marked the page and later re-read it several times when her own love life was demanding it. The Siren has handed the book, open to that page, to lovesick friends, and read the letter over the telephone, too.

Here it is, Coward’s advice on getting over “Curly” (his nickname for Brynner), punctuation, capitalization and spelling as in the original.



Oh, darling.

Your letter filled me with such a lot of emotions the predominant one being rage that you should allow yourself to be so humiliated and made so unhappy by a situation that really isn’t worthy of you. I loathe to think of you apologizing and begging forgiveness and humbling yourself. I don’t care if you did behave badly for a brief moment, considering all the devotion and loving you have given out during the last five years, you had a perfect right to. The only mistake was not to have behaved a great deal worse a long time ago. The aeroplane journey sounds a nightmare to me.

It is difficult for me to wag my finger at you from so very far away particularly as my heart aches for you but really darling you must pack up this nonsensical situation once and for all. It is really beneath your dignity, not your dignity as a famous artist and a glamourous star, but your dignity as a human, only too human, being. Curly is attractive, beguiling, tender and fascinating, but he is not the only man in the world who merits those delightful adjectives...Do please try to work out for yourself a little personal philosophy and DO NOT, repeat DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable. To hell with God damned ‘L’Amour.’ It always causes far more trouble than it is worth. Don’t run after it. Don’t court it. Keep it waiting off stage until you’re good and ready for it and even then treat it with the suspicious disdain that it deserves...I am sick to death of you waiting about in empty houses and apartments with your ears strained for the telephone to ring. Snap out of it, girl! A very brilliant writer once said (could it have been me?) ‘Life is for the living.’ Well that is all it is for, and living DOES NOT consist of staring in at other people’s windows and waiting for crumbs to be thrown to you. You’ve carried on this hole in corner, overcharged, romantic, unrealistic nonsense long enough.

Stop it Stop it Stop it. Other people need you...Stop wasting your time on someone who only really says tender things to you when he’s drunk...

Unpack your sense of humor, and get on with living and ENJOY IT.

Incidentally, there is one fairly strong-minded type who will never let you down and who loves you very much indeed. Just try to guess who it is. X X X X. Those are not romantic kisses. They are un-romantic. Loving ‘Goose-Ex.’

Your devoted ‘Fernando de Lamas’


The Siren is sorry to report that when Dietrich read Riva the letter over the phone, and Riva gave it a hearty second, the great woman snapped, “Oh, you two Sagittarians! You always agree! Neither of you can understand how one man can a be a woman’s whole life!” Dietrich followed that up with an off-color description of Coward’s sexual activities and hung up.

Good advice is seldom appreciated at the time that it’s given. But Coward remained a friend to Dietrich a lot longer than Curly did. In 1973, when he made his last public appearance, Coward had Dietrich on his arm.

59 comments:

Karen said...

Oh my lord. I need more friends who give that kind of advice. That is for the AGES.

The Siren said...

Isn't it just? Doesn't it make you wish YOU had been friends with Noel Coward, not that we all didn't already?

Fiona said...

I never knew about the affair, and it's totally fascinating. Plus, now I want Noel Coward for a BFF.

The Siren said...

It also took me quite a while to get over the fact that and Brynner had BERTHS. Ah, the glory days of air travel.

Gloria said...

Adding to what has been said, Mr. Coward's is certainly a letter to kept!

I could right now read it aloud to a couple of friends, and I wish I had come across it at certain moments in the past, instead of learning it by myself the hard, slow way. It's the doggone truth: no-one should endure that kind of crap in the name of L'Amour

bitter69uk said...

I have the Maria Riva book but haven't read it in years -- but I needed to read Coward's words right this moment -- so thanks for that!

Trish said...

That's classic! Imagine having a BFF with a voice like his and a talent for calling it like it is.

Marlene and Yul Brynner? I'm with Sir Noel -- I don't think I like that combo..

Walter Biggins said...

That letter is WONDERFUL. I'm in the midst of a collapsing marriage, and have been needing that sort of tonic for a few months now.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Sir Noel was a great playwrite, a marvelous songwriter, a wonderful performer and One Tough Cookie.

That letter is pricelsss.

I've grwon to appreciate him in recent years tons more than I did when I was younger. To a large degree I owe this to Alan Bennett whose The History Boys is among other things a cryptogram in which John Osborne is taken to the woodshed and Sir Noel and Terence Rattigan (currently enjoying a long-overdue revival) are given their due.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Curly as photographed by the ever-naughty George Platt Lynes

The Siren said...

David E., oh my -- Folks, that link is decidedly NSFW but if you're away from work it is well worth the click.

Walter and Trish, it's a tonic, isn't it? Bitteruk, Riva's book is quite wonderful, but a lot darker than that letter suggests.

The Siren said...

Just clicked on David's link AGAIN -- no further explanation of Dietrich's obsession is needed.

Since we're on the photo topic, in case anyone is wondering, the new banner is Gloria Grahame with her Oscar, sent me by the one and only Yojimboen. For a while I thought about making that my new avatar but I could not bear to part with Joan.

Karen said...

Yes, I have clicked on David's link quite a few times, I must confess. And now it seems to be a little...warm in here.

You can't fault Dietrich's taste, that's for sure.

That Grahame photo is magnificent. My office mate says "That's what she would have looked like if Jimmy Stewart had never been born."

DavidEhrenstein said...

That photo of Glora Grahame just goes to show how much hard work it took to "Put on the Star."

The Dietrich story is haunting to the degree that here was a woman whose entire icongraphic existence was devoted to projecting a persona of cool Absolute Mastery finding herself as undone by romance as Claire Danes' Angela Chase, befuddled in her passion for Jared Leto's Jordan Catelano on My So-Called Life

Yojimboen said...

I'm overjoyed GG has a found a place of honor in the masthead, and am pleased no end that others find it as amazing an image as I do. The picture just never stops talking to me.
What a dame!

The Siren said...

David, my favorite partner for Dietrich was Gabin, who really loved her. The pictures of them together during WW II -- my god, the romance and the star power, it just about throttles you even now. Brynner was charming, god knows I find him beautiful, but it wasn't an equal relationship.

Y., it's a great picture. I must be crazy because for a dame in a paint-stained workshirt, curlers and no makeup, I think Gloria looks pretty damn good. Great skin! And there's that expression: "Yeah, but I'm holding an OSCAR."

rcocean said...

Certainly a well written letter. However, telling someone to "Snap out of it" is appreciated about 1 time out of a 100.

Its like telling someone to "just stop feeling sorry for yourself" or "You'll lose weight if you just stopped eating so much". Easier said then done.

IRC, Webb was distraught over his mothers death and Noel told him to "snap out of it", without success.

The Siren said...

Well, I get a lot more out of the letter than "snap out of it," although it kind of ties into the thread digression below about headlines--I picked a cute quote that doesn't do it full justice.

Rachel said...

Not crazy at all, Siren. She looks utterly beautiful. I want more of this Gloria. Not that I love the Gloria Grahame of In a Lonely Place and Human Desire any less, but damn.

It's rather comforting to find a movie star exhibiting ordinary bad sense in a relationship and not the kind of deranged thinking that so many (including Gloria Grahame herself) were prone to.

rcocean said...

Has anyone commented that - assuming this is 1956 - that Marlene was 55 and Brynner was 36?

The Siren said...

Rachel, it's true, it's very humanizing.

Rcocean, nope, and I didn't back-check the ages but that sounds right. Marlene at any age was something way out of the common way, of course.

Vanwall said...

There shots of Dietrich's Tanya in "Touch of Evil" - especially in her farewell scene - where she looks like she's 30 years younger. Not many could do that.

Love the GG photo, there was a depth to her beauty in it.

Shamus said...

My God- Gloria Grahame and I scarcely recognized her (bending down head in shame).

On the subject of titles, it's funny Rachel should mention Human Desire: a project that was foisted on Lang. He disliked the final movie, but most of all, irritated by the title. Years later, he commented in one of his interviews- "I know of no desire except human desire." You have to agree that the adjective is pretty pointless, except maybe to distinguish it from the Borzage film.

Of course in HD, you see Gloria Grahame's legs first, and by the time the camera pans to catch her, you're floating off into outer space...like when you're listening to that "Southern" accent that won her that Oscar...(deep sigh)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Human Desire was a remake of La Bete Humaine -- one of my faorite Renoirs in which Simone Simon drives Jean Gabin mad with Jealous passion.

I agree that Dietrich and Gabin were better matched, Siren -- but only up to a point. When the war was over Gabin wanted to resume his career -- and being arm-candy for Marlene wasn't part of that. So it ended on a somewhat sour note.

The age spread for Marlene and Curly is of course an old story. And there've been countless movie versions of it: "Experienced" older woman falls for younger man in spite of herself. Just watching Anatole litvak's rendion of Francoise Sagan's "Aimez-vous Brahams?" -- Goodbye Again with Ingrid Bergman and Tony Perkins. Too plush for its own good but very watchable.

hallie_j said...

Wow Gloria Grahame looks more like Myrna Loy than Gloria Grahame without her face on.

Shamus said...

And Lang himself thought that the Renoir movie (itself based on the Zola novel, 'course) was superior, incidentally, an opinion Renoir purportedly shared. Just sayin': Desire makes a good title for any movie where Grahame bares her carnal come-hither look, but the movie might have served better by a different adjective: Animal Desire, perhaps.

Rachel said...

Aside from the redunancy, I'm not wild about the title Human Desire because it helps complete the illusion that the story is really all about a sexy vamp who tempts a good man and then is abandoned to her fate (The casting and scripting of the American film is a bigger problem but the title doesn't help). Whereas the Renoir film had human desire, sure, but there was also the resentment of social class, destiny, psychosis, and a looming sense of tragedy . The American film suggests these things but feels more stifled and narrow by comparison.

I've heard some eloquent praises sung for Human Desire, but for me, the Renoir. No question.

The Siren said...

Everyone here must know my abiding passion for Fritz Lang, and I like Human Desire a *lot,* but yeah, I choose the Renoir too, and for once you wouldn't have to twist my arm to make me pick. Grahame is marvelous, but Glenn Ford is nobody's idea (I hope) of a great substitute for Jean Gabin.

Shamus said...

But Rachel, Lang's remakes are both masterpieces. If, as you say, Renoir's sweep is more broadly sociological, then Lang is obsessed with the mounting sense of entrapment after the crime is committed: he was the supreme master of paranoia.

One more thing: Hitchcock gets a lot of credit of the impudence of the final shot of North by Northwest, but Lang beat him to it. There is a shot here of camera-train moving into the darkness of tunnel- dissolve to gramophone, playing something appropriately post-coital when the camera next cuts to Ford and Gloria sweaty in each others arms. It was fantastic and I replayed the scene over and over, disbelievingly.

Trish said...

I was so busy looking at the uhh... I just assumed it was Coward! Will wonders never cease... It IS Yul Brynner!

Gloria Grahame, looking like she's painting a room the colour orange. Another reason to love her...

Glenn Ford: I just want to smack him. Or light a firecracker under his butt or anything to make him stop looking so bored...

Tom Block said...

Yeah, I've imagined Gloria Grahame in a lot of different ways, but never as an Oompa Loompa--I had to download that photo and color correct it. That is one amazing shot.

Noel Vera said...

Reading that made me wish I shared more of his talent, less of his first name.

Sleeping pill suppositories, huh?

Rachel said...

Shamus, I enjoyed Human Desire, but I think I saw it too soon after La Bete Humaine for it to shake the other film from my mind. I think Lang's direction and Grahame's performance are pretty close to faultless. Grahame in particular is so hauntingly sexy and wounded that she pretty much steals the film from Ford and Crawford and leaves it crumpled in a corner with her lingerie.

But Glenn Ford is still boring, Broderick Crawford is one-note, and the script feels a little patchy. Good noir but I say again, Renoir all the way.

In recompense for my critical words, I'll leave a link to Jennifer Baldwin's loving praise for Human Desire. Actually, I think I got the link to this piece from the Siren herself.

gmoke said...

Looked at the masthead and didn't recognize that beautiful woman, unmade up as she is. Thought it might be Rosie the Riveter holding up an Oscar for the short subject. To learn it's Gloria Grahame, always sex on wheels, was a shock. That's a beautiful woman and, in my eyes, more beautiful for not being powdered, dusted, and primped.

Saw a TBS documentary on Marlene Dietrich a little while back and the way she conducted herself during WWII and her violent antipathy to war from then on was brave and touching. Singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" in that skin-tight sequin dress with her small voice breaking speaks volumes. She was a great lady just for that.

Last movie I saw her in was "No Island in the Sky" where she plays a movie star, of course. She is, of course, magnificent, a very nuanced performance as she learns more about the boffin Mr Honey. We'll not see her like again.

Shamus said...

Thanks for the link, Rachel. No, I love HD, mostly because it's so different from the other great Lang movies of that period. As his Hollywood career fizzled out, Lang began to favor intensely pared down sets with neutral lighting: the movies themselves became increasingly desolate and despairing. But what you remember most about these films is the highly mobile camera rather than any specific frame or composition. HD is different, somehow: compared to the others, the camera (in the non-train sequences) often stands at rest, letting the players move about, tableaux style. Also, Lang creates some careful compositions, in some respect even anticipating Sirk. It's a fascinating anomaly.

P.S. Do you how unfair you and the Siren are being in comparing Glenn Ford with the great Jean Gabin? C'mon: the movie doesn't stand a chance if you look at it that way.

Yojimboen said...

Always had a fondness for Glenn Ford. I can't recall a performance I didn't like.
For me, he was a dependable pro - every cent of his paycheck was up there on the screen. e.g. the other Lang/Ford/Grahame piece, The Big Heat, the definitive noir.

The Siren said...

Shamus, well, my lack of love for Glenn Ford is well-documented; the best I have ever been able to say about him is that he's adequate. No depth, no fire, no real charisma; a stalwart everyman with a decided mean streak. As for comparing him with Gabin--well, no, he doesn't stand a chance that way, but such is the nature of a remake. I'll point out that I actually like Algiers slightly better than Pepe le Moko, in some part because of the actor who replaced Gabin (the other part being the cinematographer). So it can be done.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Siren have you ever seen Casbah? Directed by John Berry it's a musical version of Pepe le Moko with Tony Martin as Pepe, Marta Toren and Yvonne de Carlo as the women in his life and Peter Lorre as usual in this story. Thesongs are by Harold Arlen and include the great "It Was Written in the Stars" and "Hooray For Love."

It's the last film Berry made before the blacklist sent him to Europe. He returned stateside briefly to shoot Claudine (the most non-exploitational "blacksploitation" froms of the 70's) He co-starred with Delphine Seyrig in Chantal Ackerman's musical The Golden 80s. His son Denis is an actor (he was in Rivette's L'Amour Fou) and director and was for several years married to Anna Karina.

John Berry's last was a film versio of Boesman and Lenawith Danny Glove and Angela Bassett. It was released posthumously as he died right after completing the editing. It's quite good.

Yojimboen said...

How can I resist?
A companion piece to Curly.

bitter69uk said...

DavidEhrenstein (I know you from Dennis Cooper’s blog, too!). I’ve never properly seen the film Casbah, just fragments on youtube of some musical numbers featuring the Katherine Dunham dance troupe – which included a very young, beautiful and instantly recognisable Eartha Kitt!

Re the nudie shot of Yul B: Thought the name George Platt Lynes sounded familiar. Am currently reading the awesome biography Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Sexual Renegade – and George Platt Lynes is a key figure in the book!

Siren: I have read Maria Riva’s book and it’s really fun, juicy and gossip-y stuff but boy, she’s very mean-spirited about her mother (determined to trash Dietrich’s mystique, I felt) and has some serious axes to grind. And her claim to have total recall of conversations Dietrich would have had with her husband or von Sternberg about the films they were working on, etc when she was a child seems pretty dodgy to me!Riva's also a poor judge of Dietrich's performances and films -- Rancho Notorious is a GREAT film!

Speaking of Lang: I'd be really curious to see Human Desire, as I love La Bete Humaine and would love to see Grahame directed by Lang -- I certainly wouldn't expect it to match the Renoir version, but it'd be fascinating to see a Hollywood take on the material. (Apparently there's a Hollywood version of another great Gabin film, Le Jour se Leve -- starring Henry Fonda).

DavidEhrenstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DavidEhrenstein said...

The Book to read about Platt Lynes is "Intimate Companions: A Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Lincoln Kirstein and Their Circle" by David Leddick. To put it very mildly indeed it's a gobsmacker.

Platt Lynes was a famous portrait and ballet photographer of the 30's and 40's who also --at the request of a certain Dr. Kinsey -- phtotgraphed his erotic fantasies. As you might imagine these pictures didn't become available for public view until recent years. But when they were still under wraps -- and a cache of them could be found in the Prints and Photographs department of the metorpolitan Msueum of Art (where I worked in the early 70's.) I well remember upper-crust esthete taking his boytoy Robert Mapplethorpe to see them. Mapplethorpe then went about ripping Platt Lynes off -- which was to be expected given his Art-Hustler nature.

Platt Lynes, expired of lung cancer in 1955. But not before one last fling with the boyfriend of a very famous writer.

But Don went back to Chris anyway.

In his heyday Platt Lynes roamed the globe partying with a group of extravantly gorgeos men -- and one extravagantly non-gorgeous one: Francois Reichenbach. The heir to the Guerlain perfume fortune, Rechenbach won the Oscar for his documentary Artur Rubsentein: Love of Life, and made a number of other films of note -- soem sober-mined, others cinema verite freakouts (such as the ill-starred, Marty Scorsese edited, Medicine Ball Caravan) My favorite of his works isn't really his. It's F For Fake which Orson Welles created out of footage Reichenbach had shot of art forger Elmyr de Hory and woudl-be Howard Hughes "biographer" Clifford Irving. He is also the subject of the film I consider to be the greatest ever made.

When he was dying (of you know what) his friend screenwirter (and later writer-director) Danielle Thompson came to see him in the hospital. He told he as he didn't have much longer to live he was making plans for his funeral. To those of us wo saw great numbers of our friends expire in the 80's and 90's it's a common scene. We keep going to the hospital and vsiiting them that we begin to forget that their time is limited -- until they remind us themselves. So Reichenback told Thompson that he wanted to be buried in the family plot in Limoges -- the largest cemetery in Eurpoe. "Oh but Francois," Thompson said "All you your friends are in Paris -- Limoges is so far to go." To whcih Reichenbach replied

"Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train"

Yojimboen said...

Took me a while to find it, but even in this cheap-ish Belgian poster GG takes your breath away.
(And I still like Glenn Ford.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Super poster.

Gloria seems to be striking a Rita Hayworth pose in it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-Topic.

Well not entirely because it involves an unhappy love affair.

Latest FaBlog: All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming

Gareth said...

For those interested or able to access it via that mechanism, Casbah is on Netflix Instant. the quality is reasonable, at least on my stream.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Great new banner image, Siren.

Karen said...

Boy HOWDY.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-Topic but. . .

Beyond Gobsmacked by the film I saw at a sneak preview yesterday afternoon.
In the Land of Blood and Honey is a stark and truly shocking drama of the Bosnian Civil War of the 1990's. This was genocide on a massive scale that was rigorously ignored by the west. At one point we hear Clinton's Secretary of State Madeline Albright saying the U.S. "didn't have a dog in this fight."

UGH!

What we see here is the story of what happened ot a particular woman, played by an actress I've never seen or heard of before -- Zana Marjanovic. She is asolutely world-class. So is her leading man Goran Kostic. He plays a Bosnian soldier who in the opening scene is romancing her at a dance. Then a bomb goes off. Months pass and a convoy arrives at our heroine's apartment block. Everyone is ordered out. All the men are executed. The belongings of all the women are confiscated. Anyone who balks is shot in the head. Several of the women are chosen to be raped (anally of course) in front of their friends. This is all about degredation and humiliation.

The soldier our heroine knew is now a commander. He discovers she's been rounded up and takes her aside to use her as his own personal servant. He renews their relationship on a romantic level -- which she seems to accept. But what she feels is in this situation beside the point as she's a prisoner. His father, played by the only name actor in the cast Rade Serbedzija (best recalled as the costume chop owner in Eyes Wide Shut) insists she's nothing more than a "Muslim Whore" and that his son "should finish with this." Needless to say it ends badly for all. But that's not the point of the film. The point is to expose MASS GENOCIDE that was DELIBERATELY IGNORED.

Kind of like the way way Penn State ignored child rape.


And now the Big News. This film was written and directed by Angelina Jolie.

I always knew she had a lot on th eball, especially from what Don Bachardy has told me about her. But never to this extent. The most glamorous woman in the world is As Serious As A Heart Attack. She is a Major Filmmaker at the very start of what I expect will be a long career.

Not to be missed under any circumstances.

Trish said...

I've read that she filmed a Bosnian language version as well. True, David?

Yojimboen said...

I’m curious, chère Madame, in the Marlene tête-à-tête banner above, is the other tête Mercedes de Acosta? It does look like Mercedes. (David E, thoughts?)

If it is her, the photo would have been taken around the time Mercedes was sleeping with Marlene and Garbo (though on alternate evenings, it should be said).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Looks like Luise Rainer to me.

And yes Trish, it's in Bosnian.

The Siren said...

Gentleman, the woman engrossed in conversation with Marlene is, so far as I know, Ann Warner, the glamourous second wife of Jack.

Trish said...

Ann Warner? I was betting on Kay Francis...

The Siren said...

Nope, Warner! They are at the Trocadero, according to one site. How cool is that?

bitter69uk said...

Yep – definitely Ann Warner in that pic, a close friend of Dietrich’s (and maybe even part of what Kenneth Anger called Dietrich’s “sewing circle!”). Such a glamrous shot. To me the definitive Dietrich biography is Steven Bach’s. I can remember a British TV documentary about Dietrich screened shortly after her death (it may well have been the Southbank Show. You can probably find it on Youtube). I’ve always remembered it opened with Maria Riva growling, “The thing to remember about Dietrich is her life was a tragedy from start to finish.” Such an odd statement: yeah, Dietrich’s final years as a housebound, reclusive and alcoholic invalid in Paris probably weren’t much fun, but she lived to see 91 and does that last period of her life cancel out one of the all-time great, era-spanning show business careers and a truly decadent and hedonistic jet set life in which well into her 60s she was still regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful women and able to seduce every man and woman (even straight, married women decades her junior!) she took a fancy to? Who wouldn’t want that kind of “tragic” life? The only thing Riva is an authority on is what it was like to have Dietrich for a mother. Anyway -- rant over!

The Siren said...

Bitteruk, I also liked the Bach biography. Riva was ten different kinds of bitter although she does seem to have had her reasons. The thing that made me like the book, aside from the fact that she can write (which B.D. Hyman and Christina Crawford cannot) was that she did have a bead on the work it took for Dietrich to be Dietrich, and respect for a lot of that work. Hyman and Crawford had zero feel for their mother's talent, zero. Riva did have odd taste in Dietrich performances. I seem to remember Molly Haskell did a great review of the bio when it came out. It's a good companion to a view of Dietrich, but it's no substitute for a more dispassionate biography. And yeah, I don't see Dietrich's life as a tragedy. I loved Maximilian Schell's documentary; Dietrich was one hell of a handful right up to the end! And good for her.

Yojimboen said...

I happily stand corrected.
Ann Page Warner it is. Here they are again:
Same crowd, different night.

(Ann Warner; Lili Damita; MD: Jack Warner; Errol Flynn.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

In her biography there are two things Maria Riva singles out for praise -- Brian Aherne and her mother's taste in luggage.

Her book is FAR more devestating than "Mommie Dearest." Crawford was a borderline psychopath with her kids. Dietrich was most definitely not. She was, hoever, supremely self-obsessed. And Maria zeroes in laike a laser on every aspect of that self-obsession.

But this doesn't tak away one bit from the power of the mythical figure known as Marlene Dietrich -- who continues to enchant and fascinate.