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Marlene (1984)

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Retrospective on the career of enigmatic screen diva Marlene Dietrich.


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Title: Marlene (1984)

Marlene (1984) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Annie Albers ...
Herself (voice)
Bernard Hall ...
Marta Rakosnik ...
Patricia Schell ...
Ivana Spinell ...
William von Stranz ...


Acclaimed, award-winning filmmaker Maximillian Schell reconstructs the life and career of the enigmatic film diva. This is accomplished through use of archival footage and commentary from the actress recorded at her home. Schell's job was complicated by the aging actresses's stipulation that her face not be photographed directly. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

2 March 1984 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Lähikuvassa Marlene Dietrich  »

Box Office


$852,676 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Director Maximilian Schell got Marlene Dietrich to agree to appear in this documentary only on the stipulation that she not be photographed as she looked at the time. Instead, we only hear her in interviews. See more »


The documentary states that "Dietrich" was the maiden name of Marlene's mother. This is completely untrue. Wilhelmina Dietrich was born Wilhelmina Felsing. Dietrich was the name of Marlene's biological father, Louis Dietrich, after whose death Wilhelmina married Eduard von Losch, who thereby became Marlene's stepfather. See more »


Marlene Dietrich: I wasn't erotic. I was nothing.
See more »


Featured in Stars of the Silver Screen: Marlene Dietrich (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Movie Icon Unfolds Her Phenomenon, Human Phenomenon to Us
4 December 2011 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

"You won't believe it but the lady is extremely funny" (Maximilian Schell on Marlene Dietrich)

September 1982, the Paris apartment of Marlene Dietrich...contracted for "40 hours of talking," the 81 year-old movie star at last agreed to take part in the documentary about her phenomenon. Mixed feelings, various expectations, surprises or disappointments: contradictory emotions turn up in viewers of this! Ms Dietrich reluctantly talks to Maximilian Schell, the most successful actor of German background in Hollywood. The two know each other thanks to their collaboration in the historic JUDGEMENT OF NUREMBERG 21 years earlier under the direction of Billy Wilder. Both became the expiating conscience for the post war period in motion picture industry. And both Marlene and Maximilian know that. Yet, after all these years, what pays off is getting to know the legendary movie star and encourage her to talk about MARLENE naturally. At this point she is too modest, aging, reclusive, very much to the point in her answers and too practical to praise her own heyday. Just talk. However, it appears that this little may appear too much for a great movie star. If people expect Ms Dietrich to reveal much of herself, they had better put aside this illusion. Nevertheless, among many of the documentaries, MARLENE stands on its own being a must see for her fans. Why?

Because of its wonderfully specific style! As a matter of fact, all the aspects that have been criticized about the movie are its main pluses. Critical viewers are usually too much closed within the world of 'clear, linear presentation.' When something sophisticated comes, they tend to misinterpret. Soon we realize that it is not a conventional documentary about a celebrity but an absorbing chain of interaction, sometimes contradictory, impolite, absurd, quarrelsome interaction seemingly unendurable for an ordinary 'watcher.' It is all like a puzzle of hardly any information and viewers may easily be confused where the talks lead us. But isn't every human being a sort of puzzle which may only be harmed by 'conventions?'

Considering Marlene's undeniably strong personality, along with the director Maximilian Schell, we try to figure out the personality, the phenomenon of the silver screen star who obstinately does not let anyone into her private life which has always been, as she puts it, 'completely separated from her professional life.'

This time, she deliberately fails to do what the director says. The fact we do not see their faces but only hear their voices supplies us with inevitable imagination and empathy. To a greater extent, we are with Mr. Schell whose pursuits and patience influence us and make us look forward to the climactic encounter with the star's personality. Despite its chaotic moments and highly unconventional style of a documentary, the whole puzzle becomes meaningful only with the patience of the director and the patience of the viewers. Therefore, MARLENE meets such radical and extreme impressions. Here Ms Dietrich is hardly clear to understand, a hardly likable creature who smiles at everyone, accepts every view and nods like a politically correct 'parrot' She is not 'exciting' forget it! (that is not what she was contracted to be). She is honest about the hard work that the 'snotty kid' inevitably needed for the success; she is no dreamer with sentimental, 'kitschy' feelings; she is not fond of past; she is no 'amateur improviser' but a very practical woman who seems to have known the business as hardly anyone has. Most importantly, she is herself at the grave of her career and the twilight of her life...still before... revealing to us the timelessly high standards in art and style.

That is why, Schell's MARLENE being least conventional makes it a documentary she truly deserved (paradoxically so reluctant from her side). But let me highlight one more thing that appears of highest importance when you see this documentary. That is Ms Dietrich's striking modesty and practical attitude when she reacts to Schell's 'comments' on her films and certain scenes.

Alfred Hitchcock, having worked with Marlene Dietrich on his STAGE FRIGHT, said a very simple, yet an extremely meaning sentence about her: "She is a professional." Here lies the key to understanding her persona. Although she is sometimes so pretentious while talking to Mr. Schell, her ideas are deeply rooted in her very professional attitude. She is not happy about being shown the things she had done. Consider her notes on certain people she had collaborated with, in particular Orson Welles, Burt Bacharach, Fritz Lang and, foremost, Josef Von Sternberg. Moreover, her 'interpretation' of the scenes she had played, including the ones in MOROCCO, DISHONEST and THE SCARLETT EMPRESS are purely constructive and objective with the healthy distance and criticism. With this true professionalism comes her modesty: "I was an actress. I made films. Period." Elsewhere, she denies her sex appeal and erotic magnetism evoked in certain films. Enigmatic?...Complexed?....Reclusive?....Sad? ....

"...I meant no harm!" We meant no harm! Our curiosity has led us all to a dangerous spot, to the encounter with melancholy and emotions. Nevertheless, Ferdiand Freiligrath's poem allows us all for a genuine tear, something all human beings, no matter if great cinema stars or simple viewers, deserve. A moment of Human Phenomenon for humans who should 'love as long as love they can.'

No 'blind idolatry' but a very realistic glimpse of Marlene who had her significant moment in the cinema history and won world acclaim. 8/10

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