Retrospective on the career of enigmatic screen diva Marlene Dietrich.



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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


Unrated | See all certifications »




| |

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 »


Features Just a Gigolo (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

A love letter, but it's recipient never hears it.
27 October 2011 | by (NYC) – See all my reviews

MARLENE (1984) is a documentary of one of the 20th cetury's most alluring women.

As I write this (late Oct, '11), we've just had the passing of APPLE CEO, Steve Jobs, and, these 2 different people have a lot in common:

They both were very controlling of their image.

Marlene was discovered, molded by director Josef von Sternberg. As the world, and media were quite different, Marlene was molded in different ways. Everything - from (supposedly) having her back molars removed, to the way she was lit - EVERYTHING was tightly controlled.

I say this, because when MARLENE's director (and one-time Dietrich co-star) Maximillian Schell approached Dietrich, she said yes (Ms. Dietrich had for the past 20 years, had become a virtual recluse - her only prior screen appearance - JUST A GIGOLO, had featured Ms. Dietrich behind both gauze, and diffusion filters on the lens - he felt he would 'direct.'

However, one of Ms. Dietrich's stipulations, was that she not be filmed

  • only allowing her voice to be recorded.

I can understand both Mr. Schell's disappointment with this arrangement, but, I also understand Ms. Dietrich's urge to control her image.

She wanted to till be perceived by her fans as she once was.

It's apparent to the viewer that Ms. Dietrich felt that at this point (1984) her life was, in essence - over.

Whether you agree or not, bear in mind that this is the view of a woman, who, from her teen years onward, hab been so controlled, that, as the years had passed, she was at a point in her life where (she felt) she could no longer 'create' the illusion of 'Marlene Dietrich.'

Let me give a quick background;

When film work became scarce, Marlene moved to the stage, where she did her incredible stage shows, but, even then - everything the public saw, was heavily controlled: lighting, the clothing (heavy under-boning, built in, to give Ms. Dietrich a 'va-va-voom' look.

I can't recall who said it, but, someone had seen one of her stage performances, where she appeared (well in to her 60's!) as the eternally gorgeous Marlene Dietrich.

He went backstage, and said he saw an 'old woman - ironing.'

That was Ms. Dietrich, sans the lighting, the makeup, the beautifully constructed gowns.

So, it is with bearing this in mind, that, by '84, Ms. Dietrich had long ago retired, from 'life,' - the artificially created, maintained 'Marlene Dietrich,' only allowing those most intimate to see her.

Having said this, I can understand both Mr. Schell's disappointment with this arrangement, but, I also understand Ms. Dietrich's urge to control her image.

She wanted to till be perceived by her fans as she once was.

What the end result is, is a dialogue between Ms. Dietrich and, Mr.Schell - as the two watch Marlene's films, and comment on them.

'Shhmutz,' (a German word meaning dirt) as well as 'kitsch' (tasteless), are two words that Ms. Dietrich uses to describe many of her best-loved, classic films.

I think a large part of this film is what's NOT seen - NOT heard.

The voice - still strong - is that of a woman, who sees herself, her life, as being one big performance, and, sadly, doesn't see the love, and adulation, but can only view her 'professional' self, and all it's imperfections, with a cold, clinical eye.

Mr. Schell, who is obviously a fan, as well as an actor/director - tries though MARLENE to subtly get Ms. Dietrich to open up, and see the love, but, sadly, that never happens.

As a fan of hers, I could laugh at her jokes, but, I still felt melancholic.

You wish: 'if only she knew.'

If only.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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