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Marlene (1984)

Retrospective on the career of enigmatic screen diva Marlene Dietrich.


Maximilian Schell

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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 Annie Albers ... Herself
Marlene Dietrich ... Herself (voice)
Bernard Hall Bernard Hall ... Himself
Maximilian Schell ... Himself
Marta Rakosnik Marta Rakosnik ... Herself
Patricia Schell Patricia Schell ... Herself
Ivana Spinell Ivana Spinell ... Herself
William von Stranz William von Stranz ... Himself


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 duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An astonishing visit


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West Germany


English | German | French

Release Date:

2 March 1984 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Lähikuvassa Marlene Dietrich See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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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 »


[Last line, to director Maximilian Shell about this film]
Marlene Dietrich: You never sell that in America.
See more »


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

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User Reviews

A revealing film about the most alluring actress in film history
6 June 2008 | by lombardo42See all my reviews

Today I watched a documentary on Marlene Dietrich titled 'Marlene'. It was produced in 1984 and directed by Dietrich's "Judgment at Nuremberg" co-star Maximilian Schell. I don't know how many of you know this, but Marlene agreed to do the film only if the director was in compliance with her wish not to be photographed, and because of this she does not appear in the film. But her Paris apartment is recreated to give the illusion that the actress is really there. Her voice, however, is used as the narration through the film, which is aided with various clips of her movies, concert performances and newsreel footage.

To begin with, Marlene shows little interest in this whole film -- it's obvious -- and even less interest in the discussion of her movies -- that's, sadly, even more obvious. I'm convinced now more than ever that she never enjoyed working on a movie. Still, it's nice to discover that she is able to remember her experiences with a lot of clarity, sometimes using the German word "kitsch" (worthless) to describe most of her film work; although I may disagree with her on some. Marlene also talks about other things besides her films. Her singing career and personal life are briefly discussed, as well as Jean Gabin, Ernest Hemingway, Josef von Sternberg and her marriage to Rudolph Sieber.

It's a strange documentary that you can't help but like. And not everything you would like to hear (even if you consider them important in her life) is mentioned a whole lot in this; such as the war years, where Marlene's tireless efforts to entertain the allied troops stationed at the front, seemed neglected. I remember hearing Schell saying to Marlene in the beginning of the film that he didn't want this to be a typical A-B-C from childhood to present interview. Well, perhaps it would've worked better had it been that way. Much of it was a mess -- not difficult to follow necessarily -- just may have been easier on Marlene's temper had there been some kind of order to the whole thing. Maybe.

It gets a little heated towards the end of the film. Schell seems to have angered Marlene at one point by pressing her for a comment on one of her movies. I don't know how serious it was after the tape stopped rolling, but she evidently wasn't amused. In the end, it becomes apparent to the viewer how cranky Dietrich is at this point in her life. You could argue that it might have something to do with her age, but I think it has more to do with the fact that she was an incredibly disciplined woman who favored manners and intelligence over such common habits like idle gossip and unpreparedness. In fact, her attitude during this film is so overwhelming to the point where it's just sad. She may sound bitter, but she's a woman worth listening to regardless. Watching this documentary gives Riva's book even more credibility, in my opinion, especially in the final years of Dietrich's life where you wonder if all those incidents you read about were true.

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