|Index||4 reviews in total|
I got within twenty feet of Marlene Dietrich while 'I Wish You Love'
was in rehearsal; her concert was produced by Bentwood Television, the
U.S. production company of Alexander Cohen, in whose London office I
was then employed. (Five years earlier, Cohen had staged Dietrich's
concert performance as one of his 'Nine O'Clock Theatre' offerings.) As
a mere staffer, I had no direct contact with Dietrich. I recall that
she didn't get along with Alex Cohen's dog.
At this late point in her life, Dietrich made very few public appearances; she was emaciated and had an extremely creped neck. For this live concert, later televised in Britain and Stateside, Dietrich looks magnificent ... but her allure is a triumph of engineering. She was trussed into a skin-tight outfit strategically padded to give her a shapely physique. Her bugle-beaded bodice is made of sheer fabric, through which is glimpsed what appears to be her decolletage, but which is actually a sheath of flesh-coloured latex concealing the sagging hills of legend. Her throat is firm and taut, with no rumour of wrinkle ... because the same latex sheath tightly encircles her turkey neck, and is kept in place with a sequined choker to conceal the join. Dietrich spends most of the evening stock-still at centre stage, permitting the camera to worship her ... largely because she can barely move in that tight cozzy. At no time in this concert is Dietrich seen from the rear, as that angle would have revealed the corset-like trusswork of her outfit.
The excellent music arrangements here are by Burt Bacharach. Before his songwriting career took off, Bacharach worked as Dietrich's arranger during the last years of her nightclub career. When Dietrich permitted Alex Cohen to lure her back into the limelight, she insisted that Bacharach be engaged as her arranger. Bacharach didn't need the work, but he complied for old time's sake, and does a superb job.
One of the songs which Dietrich performs here is Cole Porter's 'I Get a Kick Out of You'. Rather than sing Porter's original lyric -- 'I get no kick from cocaine' -- or the substitute which Frank Sinatra and others have used -- 'Some like the perfume from Spain' -- Dietrich warbles 'I think that smoking's insane'. Although it's not mentioned in the credits, I know that this lyric change was supplied for Dietrich by her longtime friend Noel Coward, at her personal request. (It was the last lyric Coward wrote; he died the year that this concert was filmed.) Considering how much nicotine Dietrich conspicuously inhaled over the decades, this particular lyric change was (shall we say) ironic.
Many of the numbers which Dietrich performs here are hits from her long film career. I was disappointed that she doesn't sing her 1950s novelty number 'He's Too Old to Cut the Mustard Anymore'. One song she does sing here, vivaciously, is her great Frank Loesser hit 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have'. When Dietrich performed this song in the movie 'Destry Rides Again', she did an amusing bit of business: using one hand to pull and release the skin of her own throat, producing a weird semi-yodel vibrato effect. In this concert, she doesn't repeat that business: she didn't dare, due to what I've mentioned about her neck.
Dietrich is firmly a pro here, holding her adoring audience in the palm of her hand. I enjoyed every number in this concert, with one exception. Late in the evening, Dietrich performs Pete Seeger's 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?'. I've enjoyed this poignant ballad when performed simply and unpretentiously by female vocalists less talented than Dietrich. For some reason, she performs her vocal arrangement with a bizarre conceit. Seeger's original lyric runs: 'Gone to young girls, every one. (Slight pause.) When will they ever learn?' Instead, Dietrich sings: 'Gone to young girls every one WHEN! (Long significant pause.) Will we ever learn?' She repeats this change -- bellowing 'WHEN!' too soon, and bunging it into the previous line -- in every verse of Seeger's lyric. Whatever she intended, it doesn't work. (Trivia note: Seeger's song was inspired by a passage in the Soviet novel 'And Quiet Flows the Don'.)
Although Dietrich put her unique stamp on many songs over her legendary career, there's no doubt as to which song defines her image more deeply than any other. As edited for UK and US television, this concert features frequent commercial breaks, each of them bridged with the music for 'Falling in Love Again' from 'The Blue Angel'. The constant repetition of that theme -- without Dietrich's smoky voice singing the words -- becomes annoying. About three-quarters of the way through this concert, Dietrich comments: "I sang a song in the film 'The Blue Angel'" ... and then, when her audience burst into applause, she mischievously smiles and adds: 'No, not THAT one.' She then proceeds to sing 'They Call Me Naughty Lola', her less successful song from that same landmark film.
It's obvious that Dietrich is saving her biggest hit for last. Sure enough, as her finale, Dietrich wistfully sings 'Falling in Love Again' (for what must have been the thousandth time in her career). The camera cuts to a montage of photos reflecting her long glamorous career and remarkable life. The audience give her a standing ovation, which she richly deserves.
Marlene Dietrich was one of a kind, and this concert 'I Wish You Love' probably conveys her mystique and her stardom more eloquently than any other single performance she ever gave, including 'The Blue Angel'. I'll rate this triumph 9 points out of 10.
I first saw Marlene as a child in 1968 with my parents. She was
appearing at the Lunt Fontaine on Broadway. I remember the overture
went on forever and then finally the curtains parted and there she was.
A big blond bouffant hairdo and that famous white fur coat. People were
screaming, applauding and gasping just at the sight of her. She then
did the show of her movie and nightclub hits. I remember being totally
mesmerized by her and not being sure why. Believe me the video of her
1973 show does her little justice, there was something about her that
totally intriguing. Her voice though it had little range along with her
sly smiles, sexy stance and hand gestures made her a total original on
stage. When she came to singing Lile Marlene I remember the audience
crying, I looked around and you saw tears streaming down faces and then
at the finale the whole place screaming and jumping to their feet.
People screamed bravo from the balcony. The audience for her TV concert
seemed so dead compared to how it was on Broadway. After the show there
were hundreds of people outside the theatre and Miss Dietrich, being a
star from the days of real stars loved every minute of it. She threw
kisses, stood for pictures and waved to the mobs.
I was lucky in 1974 as a teenager to see her one more time at Carnegie Hall. By then I had read about her and understood about her part in World War 2 and her tours singing for the soldiers. Although she was older she still was able to totally mesmerize the audience. I have never heard a more powerful rendition of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". The hair on my neck stood up, she totally riveted me for every second she was on stage.
Marlene was pure magic, plain and simple she was a star when there was such things. Sadly her art does not come across totally on records or films. I feel so lucky I can close my eyes and remember those two nights from long ago.
I never liked Marlene Dietrich, mainly due to her image, her films, and
her acting style. But when I first came across this show in the middle
1980's, when I was in my early twenties, and being a sucker for old
songs, old films, musicals and show stopping numbers, I thought I would
give it a go. I recorded it and was mesmerised by her presence, yes; of
course she hasn't got a great voice but there is something about the
passion, emotion and the feel that she brings to the songs that negate
her lack of singing talent, obviously some of this style would be out
of place today! However, I played the tape over and again until the wee
hours of the morning, sitting on the floor an inch from the TV to be as
close as I could, maybe I thought it would be like being there.
Unfortunately over the years I mislaid the tape, but always promised
myself that I would search out a copy one day, I eventually found it on
the internet and the DVD was delivered today. I love it! I have already
played certain songs over and over. 'Where have all the flowers gone',
'Boomerang', 'Lola', 'Das Lied Ist Aus', 'Marie Marie' amongst others
are beautifully presented. Furthermore I appreciate this show even more
this time round because I have taken my time to listen to all the songs
as opposed to when I was younger when I would just play one or two of
my favourite songs over and over and fast forward the rest.
Although I am not old fashioned in any sense, and I'm still relatively young, I love the fact that the audience are formally dressed and throw flowers on the stage in appreciation.
My old friend is back and we will never be parted again! No we'll never be parted again.
This was actually filmed at the then brand new New London Theatre in Drury Lane,not the Theatre Royal,two evenings were recorded,this is the weaker of the two versions,in the other one she seems much more relaxed and even looks better as well.Not the best representation of her stage act,but better than nothing at all.Apparently she hated the set which was designed,and at the last minute the company I worked for in London had to rustle up a cloth of the Rene Bouche sketch to be lowered at the end of the show.The alternate show which was available has slight differences,like the back projections on Lili Marlene and one other song,and the curtain calls went on forever,with a lot of teasing with the curtains,a much better show if you can find it.
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