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Marlene: A Novel
     

Marlene: A Novel

by C. W. Gortner
 

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A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich—from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.

Raised in genteel poverty

Overview

A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich—from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.

Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.

For the beautiful, desirous Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.

But one day she returns to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2016-03-03
International movie star Marlene Dietrich relates her eventful story in a first-person fictional account. Maria Magdalene Dietrich, known as Marlene, was born to a distinguished but threadbare family in turn-of-the-20th-century Berlin, where her hardworking widowed mother instilled in her the motto Tu etwas—do something. This work ethic and constant struggle against insolvency in a defeated Germany propels young Marlene to a music conservatory, where, upon learning that she will never be a top-notch violinist, she promptly seduces her instructor, beginning a lifelong journey of balancing her middling talent with her overwhelming sexual charisma. Set loose in the cabaret world of the Weimar Republic, Marlene works her way up from the chorus to bit parts in the burgeoning German film world, marries a promising director, and then meets Josef von Sternberg, who makes her a star and takes her to Hollywood. Author Gortner (The Vatican Princess, 2015, etc.) skillfully evokes the cross-dressing, sexually fluid atmosphere of the seedy nightclubs that helped Marlene define her unique appeal; the scenes are lively and authentic, though overpopulated. When Marlene moves to Hollywood, the story becomes a litany of lovers—Gary Cooper, Mercedes de Acosta, and Jean Gabin—and interchangeable films in which Marlene plays a chanteuse or spy while coping with numerous domestic problems that are raised but never fully examined. It's only when Bette Davis badgers Marlene into joining the USO that the novel finds its heart. The scenes of Marlene entertaining the troops and visiting hospitals in Europe during the second world war are well-detailed and truly moving. An ambitious but occasionally overbroad account of the life of the German-American star whose life spanned continents, wars, and nearly an entire century.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062406071
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/13/2016
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
186,583
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

C. W. Gortner is the author of many bestselling historical novels—including Mademoiselle Chanel—which have been published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.

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