Saturday, 14 July 2012

Marlene Dietrich in Berlin

Marlene Dietrich  (27.12.1901 –06.05.1992) is acknowledged as one of the greatest female film stars of all time. If you've come to this page, you probably knew that already. If you didn't, take time out to read more about Marlene Dietrich's life and achievements.

This page is about her beginnings in Berlin, and her final resting place at Friedenau, and specifically how to find them.

Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born on 27 December 1901 in an apartment in Leberstraße 65, Tempelhof-Schöneburg. This isn't too far from Südkreuz Bahnhof and easily walk-able, or get bus 106 direction Seestr. or bus 204 direction direction Zoologischer Garten from outside Südkreuz Bahnhof. Both buses share a stop at the intersection Leberstr./Leuthener Straße. Number 65 is a mid-row four-storey apartment block with a red door.

Leberstraße 65, birthplace of Marlene Dietrich
Either side of the entrance door is a plaque to the memory of Dietrich. The one on the left is this one:

The plaque is made of KPM porcelain and was put here as part of a program of memorial plaques (Gedenkentafel) installed across Berlin for the city's 750th anniversary. The heading 'Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind' is the German title of the well-known folk song 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone', which Dietrich often performed in German, English, and French (as "Qui peut dire où vont les fleurs?").

The bronze plaque on the other side of the door has a rather unflattering portrait of Dietrich and announces the apartment block to be her birthplace (Geburtshaus), together with the names of some of her films. The portrait is actually from a 1937 Cecil Beaton photograph of Dietrich.

The films noted are (clockwise):
  • Die Blonde Venus (1932) with Cary Grant.
  • Destry Rides Again (1939) with James Stewart, including her hit song 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have'.
  • A Foreign Affair (1948) directed by Billy Wilder and filmed in occupied Berlin.
  • Der Blaue Engel (1930) which first brought her international fame and in which she sang 'Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt'. Don't know the song? Of course you do! Dietrich made it her signature tune and recorded it in English as 'Falling In Love Again (Can't Help It)'.
  • Marokko (1930), her first American film, with Gary Cooper which you can watch in full in German here .
  • Shangai Express (1932), memorable for its stylistic black-and-white chiaroscuro. If you have an image in your mind of Dietrich, it is likely to be of her face in strong light and dark shadows.
  • Angel (1937), whose lukewarm reception caused Paramount and Marlene Dietrich to come to a parting of the ways.
Marlene Dietrich was strongly anti-Nazi. She resisted offers of ludicrous amounts of money to lure her back to Berlin and the Babelsberg film studios, and she became an American citizen in 1939 and worked for the US war effort. It is ironic then that at the other end of her life in 1989 (after German reunification) she made an appeal that was broadcast on BBC Radio to save the Babelsberg studios.

Dietrich died on 6th May 1992 at the age of 90 in Paris. A service was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris before 3,500 mourners and a crowd of well-wishers outside. In accordance with her wishes, her body was returned to Berlin and interred at Städtischer Friedhof III, Friedenau, close to her mother's grave. To the end she considered herself a part of Berlin, as the title of her autobiography claimed 'Ich bin, Gott sei Dank, Berlinerin.'

Dietrich lies in peace less than three kilometres from her birthplace on Leberstraße (called Sedanstraße then). You can walk to the Friedenau cemetery from there if you want, otherwise take an S-Bahn around the Ring to Bundesplatz and head down Südwestkorso to Stubenrauchstraße. Marlene Dietrich's grave is in the NW part of the cemetery.

Marlene Dietrich's grave

Hier steh ich an den Marken meiner Tage
'Here I stand at the milestone of my days'
Stärker als der Tod ist die Liebe
'Love is stronger than death'

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these images! I was never fond of that profile photo myself--or any Beaton photos of Dietrich, for that matter. I imagine that he was experimenting with different ways to light her, but it resulted in many shots of a seemingly sickly Marlene.


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