Marlene Dietrich

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Marlene Dietrich
Marie Magdalene Dietrich
BirthplaceSchöneberg, German Empire

Dietrich, Marlene

Dietrich, Marlene (märlāˈnə dēˈtrĭkh), 1901–92, German-American film actress and singer, b. Berlin. Dietrich began her career as a violinist. She then studied drama, appearing on the stage in Vienna and Berlin before her great film success as the femme fatale Lola in The Blue Angel (1930). In the late 1930s, she modified her image to play more light-hearted characters and proved herself an excellent farceur. Her other films included Shanghai Express (1932), Destry Rides Again (1939), Foreign Affair (1948), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). After World War II she appeared internationally in concerts, in cabarets, and on television.


See biographies by S. Bach (1992) and D. Spoto (1992).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dietrich, Marlene


(pseudonym of Maria Magdalene von Losch). Born Dec. 27, 1904, in Berlin. American actress; German by birth.

Dietrich studied at the Musical Academy and at M. Reinhardt’s School of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. She made her debut in theater and in motion pictures in 1922. Her first major role was in the film The Blue Angel (1930, based on a novel by H. Mann). In 1930 she went to Hollywood and appeared in the role of a vamp in the exotic films of the director J. von Sternberg: Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), and The Devil Is a Woman (1935); she became one of the most popular stars of American motion pictures in the 1930’s. During World War II (1939-45), Dietrich took an active part in antifascist propaganda and appeared as a singer before American troops. In films of the postwar period she returned to her former roles. In the 1950’s, with her transition to roles of older heroines, she proved herself a gifted actress, creating brilliant, complex characters in the films Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Judgment at Nuremberg (1962), and others. She is also famous as a stage singer.


Griffith, R. Marlene Dietrich. New York, 1959.
Kobal, J. Marlene Dietrich. London-New York, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dietrich, (Maria Magdalene) Marlene

(1901–92) film actress, singer; born in Berlin, Germany. Abandoning an early ambition to be a violinist, she became a chorus girl, then studied acting; by 1923 she had launched her career in German films. She gained international attention in The Blue Angel (1930) and moved to Hollywood with its director, Josef von Sternberg, who starred her in six films that enforced her persona of enigmatic sexuality. Eventually she moved on to a variety of admired roles in dramas and comedies. Resisting requests by the Nazis to return to Germany, she became a U.S. citizen in 1939 and during World War II made extensive tours, often into combat zones, to entertain Allied troops. After the war, she began a new career as a singer, gaining a new following with her husky, sophisticated renditions. Linked romantically with many men, but married only once (in 1924, to Rudolf Sieber), she spent her last years in Paris.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.