Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich

Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich

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by Donald Spoto
     
 

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In a career that spanned six decades, as a star of stage and screen, Marlene Dietrich created an unforgettable image. She was an international icon.

But that public persona masked the very private woman we meet in this biography. Spoto's story follows Dietrich from pre-war Berlin to Hollywood, which made her a star, to the nightclub stages of the 1950s and '60s,

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Overview

In a career that spanned six decades, as a star of stage and screen, Marlene Dietrich created an unforgettable image. She was an international icon.

But that public persona masked the very private woman we meet in this biography. Spoto's story follows Dietrich from pre-war Berlin to Hollywood, which made her a star, to the nightclub stages of the 1950s and '60s, where she polished the legend.

From an unorthodox 52-year marriage to self-imposed seclusion, from her penchant for men's clothing to a lusty appetite for both sexes (Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Maurice Chevalier and George Raft), BLUE ANGEL reveals Dietrich in all her idiosyncratic glory.

"The fabulous book that tells it all. . .a great biography, a provocative appraisal." (Cosmopolitan)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) dedicated her energies to maintaining the Garbo-like image of a mysterious, alluring, remote creature, a glamour-queen role crafted by her mentor and sometime lover, director Josef von Sternberg. But the earthy German-born actress we meet in Spoto's marvelous, elegantly written biography was ``entirely a woman of the moment''--a sexual libertine with lovers of both sexes, a frequent cross-dresser, a neglectful mother who condescended to her troubled daughter, an astrology addict, a `` Hausfrau who put a towel around her head'' and constantly ``complained about almost everything.'' Spoto ( Laurence Olivier ) tells how Dietrich wrapped herself in illusions and deceptions, denying the existence of her sister and obscuring the details of her long marriage to Rudolf Sieber, a man she rarely saw. She paid the price, Spoto writes, through emotional imbalance, loneliness, decades of self-imposed isolation and ``a spiritual vacuum at the core of herself.'' He also details her many sexual conquests, among them Yul Brynner, Eddie Fisher, John Wayne and Gen. George Patton. An empathetic, demystifying portrait, heartbreakingly beautiful and sad, this biography blends astute film criticism with backstage and bedroom lore. Photos. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Having previously published a photo-essay on Dietrich ( Falling in Love Again: Marlene Dietrich , Little, Brown, 1985. o.p.), Spoto has now completed a full-scale biography of the star of screen and stage. Blue Angel evidences extensive research, as did Spoto's recent Laurence Olivier: A Biography ( LJ 2/15/92) and his books on Alfred Hitchcock. News of Dietrich's bisexuality isn't likely to astound knowledgeable film buffs, but Spoto goes further than previous biographers in naming sexual partners (usually without citing his sources). Spoto also seems to have penetrated farther behind Dietrich's public persona than have other writers; he is taken with her, but not taken in. A good choice for most public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.-- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
Spoto's second book on Dietrich (Falling in Love Again, 1985—not reviewed), minus the sexual fantasy and foot-slogging style that marred his recent Laurence Olivier (p. 42). Spoto captures well the high kitsch of the twilight of the German aristocracy into which Maria Madgelene Dietrich (1901-92) was born. Her mother drilled the spontaneously honest child never to show her feelings—the birth of the actress's famous mask of alluring remoteness. Ten years of violin lessons trained her for the musical side of her career (her violin teacher deflowered her, she told Billy Wilder) and for some of her funniest and even moving scenes under the direction of Josef von Sternberg, the Svengali who—in The Blue Angel—turned Dietrich into a goddess after many roles in drama school and German silents. The skill, emotional depth, and richness of the actress's finest work (Judgment at Nuremberg) were overshadowed by the sheer emission of star-power in such "rapturously photographed" early films as The Devil is a Woman—her own favorite picture—because she was then, Spoto points out, at her most beautiful. Dietrich married early and never divorced (though she remained parted from, if friendly with, her husband) and became a doting mother and grandmother. In private, she was nothing like the insolent indifference of her screen image, but was an intelligent, ambitious creature who was addicted to lengthy long-distance calls and who died a reclusive, wealthy alcoholic. Her lovers included Gary Cooper, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra—and on and on. Spoto's best biography—warm, well balanced, restrained. (B&w photos—75—notseen.)

Review Of Higher Education
With great care and subtlety, Donald Spoto has produced a complete biography, well written, perceptive and carefully researched.
The New York Times
Incisive and exciting, Blue Angel exhibits Spoto's greatest strenghts.
The Times
Exquisite! With considerable skill and exhaustive, painstaking research, Spoto gives us a biography we have to take seriously.
The Times (UK)
Exquisite! With considerable skill and exhaustive, painstaking research, Spoto gives us a biography we have to take seriously.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385425537
Publisher:
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/1992
Pages:
335

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