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Remembering an icon of 20th century cinema

Marlene Dietrich starred in The Blue Angel, the film that made her famous Keystone Archive

The Swiss Film Library is paying tribute to film legend Marlene Dietrich with the screening of 25 of her films to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Hervé Dumont, head of the Lausanne-based library, says Dietrich was a cinema icon and a 20th century emblem. “She was one of the most beautiful women in European cinema.”

At the same time, “Marlene Dietrich is a completely artificial creation,” Dumont explained. “She never denied it, saying she owed everything to Josef von Sternberg, a Vienna film director who like her became American.”

Sternberg transformed the German-born cabaret star into the ultimate “femme fatale” – ambiguous, slightly perverse and infinitely seductive.

Dietrich took care to preserve this image behind extravagant costumes, and always remained mysterious and irresistible. She was never able to be herself – “her personal drama,” Dumont explained – and died alone in her Paris apartment.

Dietrich’s career

Marlene Dietrich was born on December 27, 1901 in Berlin-Schöneberg from a well-born Prussian family. She began her career in the 1920s by playing minor roles in cabarets, plays and films.

She married Rudolf Sieber (1897-1976) in 1923, and gave birth to Maria Elizabeth Sieber one year later.

Dietrich became famous for her part as Lola in “The Blue Angel” (1930), one of seven films she made with director Joseph von Sternberg. Later during the Second World War, Dietrich acted as an entertainer for American troops in North Africa and Europe.

Her last film performance was in “A Gigolo” in 1975. Dietrich died in Paris on May 6, 1992.

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