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Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend

Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend

by Steven Bach

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A celebration of the life and times of one of the greatest female stars of all time.


A celebration of the life and times of one of the greatest female stars of all time.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The finest picture-star biography I have read." —Peter Bogdanovich, Los Angeles Times

"Dietrich will never have a more meticulous, eloquent, or sympathetic biographer." —Times Literary Supplement

"If you open it to the right pages in the right mood, you can practically hear the applause still ringing." —New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This massive, admiring biography refutes the notion that Marlene Dietrich's femme fatale image was wholly the invention of director Josef von Sternberg. Bach, a film producer and author of Final Cut, who studied with von Sternberg, portrays the latter as a megalomaniac whose amorous frustrations with the star he had created drove him to maintain that she was a puppet who danced to his strings. Bach rejects the standard comparisons with Garbo as he plumbs Dietrich's special blend of erotic power, irony and humor and limns a strong-willed woman whose innumerable sexual affairs satisfied a simple need for companionship. He divulges that Dietrich's sister Elisabeth, whose existence the actress denied, belonged, with Elisabeth's husband, to a group that entertained Nazis at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Strong on film and stage criticism but less intimately revealing than Donald Spoto's Blue Angel (Forecasts, July 13), this engrossing biography is especially good on Dietrich's early career, her valiant anti-Nazi efforts and her phoenixlike rebirth as a troubadour-actress. More than 100 photos, a filmography and a discography will also please fans. Author tour. (Oct.)
A hefty biography which draws depth from extensive interviews with Dietrich and from Bach's scholarly and professional work connected with the movie industry. Includes many photos of the star growing up, and some movie stills. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Gigantic chef-d'oeuvre: a 600-page life that puts Dietrich before us as no book has ever done and whose writing sets a new standard for celebrity biographies. Bach (Final Cut, 1985) spent six years researching and writing this life; talked with Dietrich (who deplored biographies that pitted her legend, and did not authorize this one); as a student, spent two years with Dietrich's most famous director, Josef von Sternberg, viewing with him all seven films Sternberg made with the actress; and had sole access to secret tapes of talks between Dietrich and Maximilian Schell made during Schell's creation in 1982 of the celebratory, fascinating Marlene: A Feature, when Dietrich was in her 80s. Two qualities distinguish Bach's work: He writes with superb intelligence and grace, without a single dull or merely journalistic passage. And, as a former producer (involved in Woody Allen's Manhattan and Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, among other films), his ideas on how Dietrich's effects were achieved through lighting, film stocks, dissolves, acting, singing techniques, etc., strengthen his every inquiry into her roles, not only in film but in cabaret, stage acting, song recording, and so on. Bach's history of the star's bisexuality, frank but tasteful, in no way demeans her legend. His Marlene stands before us at every moment—a teenager casting bedroom eyes at her violin teacher; using her voice, when acting or singing, as a suggestive musical instrument; showing her legs with innocent desirability; and gathering weight and light as she ages from childhood to blazing sexuality as the fastest girl in Berlin and, at last, into cantankerous, witty fragility. A great pearl.

Product Details

University of Minnesota Press
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6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Steven Bach, author of the best-selling Final Cut and Marlene Dietrich , teaches at Columbia University and Bennington College and divides his time between Europe and the United States.

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