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Marlene Dietrich dies in Paris

PARIS -- Marlene Dietrich, the legendary actress who starred oppositeHollywood's leading men after her role as a sultry nightclub singer in 'The Blue Angel,' died at her Paris home Wednesday at the age of 90, her grandson said.

The grandson, Pierre Riva, said the German-born actress died Wednesday afternoon, but gave no cause of death.

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'On the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, reclining in her living room and surrounded by photographs of her friends on the walls, Maria- Magdalena Dietrich died on a very beautiful spring day in Paris,' Riva said.

Dietrich was born in Berlin on Dec. 27, 1901. She made 'Blue Angel' in 1930, assuring her place in the legend of cinema.

The actress, who lived as a recluse in Paris since 1976, made about 20 films, including 'Morocco' in 1930, and 'Shanghai Express' in 1932.

She was an international symbol of European sex appeal for half a century, not only in motion pictures, but in the theater and on television.

Still, the promise many saw in her deep-set blue eyes, long blond hair and husky singing voice -- not to mention her famous legs -- was mostly an illusion, according to friends who said she had few real romances in her life.

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She was married to one man, a Czech named Rudolf Sieber, for 52 years.

Sieber, a chicken farmer in California's San Fernando Valley, died in 1974.

'He was the only man who ever understood me,' Dietrich once said.

Despite her worldwide reputation as a star of stage, screen and night clubs, Dietrich was a private woman who spent the last years of her life in a cluttered apartment on the fashionable Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

Friends said she was lonely, but like other great beauties, she was reluctant to be seen or photographed off guard as old age settled in. She preferred to keep in touch with close friends by telephone and by mail, typing the letters herself.

A naturalized American citizen, she always retained her foreign mannerisms and teutonic accent and her distinctive wardrobe of mannish suits and long billowing dresses.

Marlene Dietrich was born Maria Magdalena Dietrich on Dec. 27, 1901, in Weimar, Germany, the daughter of Louis Erich Otto Deitrich, an officer in the Royal Prussian police who died when she was a child.

She became interested in the theater as a teenager and attended Max Reinhardt's famed acting school in Berlin, later eking out a living as a film extra. She met and married Sieber, then an assistant film director, in Berlin in 1924. A daughter, Maria, was born in 1926.

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Dietrich moved from role to role but remained an obscure actress until 1929, just as she was thinking of giving up show business. That year she met Sternberg, who would become her mentor and direct her in seven films, including 'Blue Angel' -- in which she played a sultry nightclub singer opposite Emil Jannings.

That performance brought her -- and her long, elegant legs -- to the attention of Hollywood producers.

She came to the film capital to star opposite Hollywood's leading male actors -- including Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Ray Milland and Ronald Colman -- in such box-office hits as 'Morocco,' 'Dishonored,' 'Shanghai Express,' 'Blonde Venus,' 'Desire,' 'The Garden of Allah' and 'Destry Rides Again,' all in the 1930s. Her films in the 1940s included 'Seven Sinners,' 'Kismet,' 'Golden Earrings' and 'A Foreign Affair.'

In 1950 she went to England to star in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Stage Fright,' in which she sang 'The Laziest Gal in Town.'

After appearing in 'Around the World in Eighty Days' in 1956, she made one of her most durable movies, 'Witness For the Prosecution,' for director Billy Wilder, followed by Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil' in 1958.' Her last films were 'Judgment at Nuremberg' in 1961, 'Paris When It Sizzles' in 1964, and 'Just a Gigolo,' a 1978 David Bowie movie in which she sang the title song.

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Among the songs she made her own were 'Lili Marlene,' 'Falling in Love Again' and 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have.'

For many years she was linked professionally, and some said privately, with director Josef von Sternberg who directed many of her American triumphs. He was the first of many rumored romances, including one with French actor Jean Gabin. But Bernard Hall, former dance instructor to Dietrich and later a frequent companion, said her sexuality was a myth and her alleged love affairs mostly ill-informed gossip.

Her relationship with such celebrities as Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper and Erich Maria Remarque, friends said, came into this category.

Strongly anti-Nazi, Dietrich became a naturalized American citizen in 1939 and refused to return to Germany. When the United States entered World War II, she became one of the first stars to entertain troops at the front and sang 'Lili Marlene,' which would become her trademark.

She appeared in more than 500 shows for troops in Africa, Greenland, Italy, France, England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg and Labrador.

When her postwar career did not measure up to the old glamour days, she turned to nightclubs and concerts.

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In 1958, she electrified Las Vegas when she appeared in a see-through dress on stage. She did not look 57. She wore the same outfit in subsequent appearances, including a trip to the Soviet Union in 1959.

She wrote a book titled 'Marlene Dietrich's ABCs' in 1962, a philosophy of life that she said was responsible for her successas a performer.

The same year, she appeared on a stage in Berlin for the first time since leaving Germany in 1930 for Hollywood. Some Germans regarded her as a traitor for entertaining American troops, but she won a standing ovation.

In 1972 she toured the United States, Europe, South Africa and Australia, singing in concert halls. She wrote her autobiography, 'Marlene,' in German and it was serialized in the magazine Der Stern.

Dietrich never announced her retirement. Hall said he believed she never recovered her nerve after tripping over a cable backstage in Australia and breaking her hip. This necessitated a major operation, after which she seemed resigned to remaining in her apartment.

Although Dietrich was believed to be wealthy -- she was a high earner who lived thriftily -- she hinted to disbelieving friends, who knew about her jewel collection, that she worried about bills. She had a maid, but she dyed her own hair blond, and manicured her own nails.

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In 1986, Dietrich was the subject of a film, 'Marlene,' by Maximilian Schell, the Austrian-born actor-director, which played at theaters in the United States.

The actress agreed to be interviewed for the picture, but refused to be seen except in old footage. The camera occasionally cut to a salon in Dietrich's Paris apartment as seen from a hallway, and Dietrich was heard answering Schell's questions. This naturally raised a viewer's expectations that she would at least be glimpsed. She wasn't.

'On the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, reclining in her living room and surrounded by photographs of her friends on the walls, Maria- Magdalena Dietrich died on a very beautiful spring day in Paris,' Riva said.

Dietrich was born in Berlin on Dec. 27, 1901. She made 'Blue Angel' in 1930, assuring her place in the legend of cinema.

The actress, who lived as a recluse in Paris since 1976, made about 20 films, including Morocco in 1930, and 'Shanghai Express' in 1932.NEWLN: more

xxx in 1932.

She was an international symbol of European sex appeal for half a century, not only in motion pictures, but in the theater and on television.

Advertisement

Still, the promise many saw in her deep-set blue eyes, long blond hair and husky singing voice -- not to mention her famous legs -- was mostly an illusion, according to friends who said she had few real romances in her life.

She was married to one man, a Czech named Rudolf Sieber, for 52 years.

Sieber, a chicken farmer in California's San Fernando Valley, died in 1974.

'He was the only man who ever understood me,' Dietrich once said.

Despite her worldwide reputation as a star of stage, screen and night clubs, Dietrich was a private woman who spent the last years of her life in a cluttered apartment on the fashionable Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

Friends said she was lonely, but like other great beauties, she was reluctant to be seen or photographed off guard as old age settled in. She preferred to keep in touch with close friends by telephone and by mail, typing the letters herself.

A naturalized American citizen, she always retained her foreign mannerisms and teutonic accent and her distinctive wardrobe of mannish suits and long billowing dresses.

Marlene Dietrich was born Maria Magdalena Dietrich on Dec. 27, 1901, in Weimar, Germany, the daughter of Louis Erich Otto Deitrich, an officer in the Royal Prussian police who died when she was a child.NEWLN: more

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xxx a child.

She became interested in the theater as a teenager and attended Max Reinhardt's famed acting school in Berlin, later eking out a living as a film extra. She met and married Sieber, then an assistant film director, in Berlin in 1924. A daughter, Maria, was born in 1926.

In later years, Maria became an actress in her own right, using the stage name Maria Riva. She also gave birth to three grandchildren for her mother, John Michael, John Peter and John Paul.

Dietrich moved from role to role to become a star in European films, the most successful of which was 'The Blue Angel' -- in which she played a sultry nightclub singerormance brought her -- and her long, elegant legs -- to the attention of Hollywood producers.

She came to the film capital to star opposite Hollywood's leading male actors in such box-office hits as 'Morocco,' 'Dishonored,' 'Shanghai Express,' 'Blonde Venus,' 'Desire,' 'The Garden of Allah' and 'Destry Rides Again,' all in the 1930s. Her films in the 1940s included 'Seven Sinners,' 'Kismet,' 'Golden Earrings' and 'A Foreign Affair.'

In 1950 she went to England to star in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Stage Fright,' in which she sang 'The Laziest Gal in Town.'

Advertisement

After appearing in 'Around the World in Eighty Days' in 1956, she made one of her most durable movies, 'Witness For the Prosecution,' for director Billy Wilder, followed by Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil' in 1958.' Her last films were 'Judgment at Nuremberg' in 1961, 'Paris When It Sizzles' in 1964, and 'Just a Gigolo,' a 1978 David Bowie movie in which she sang the title song.

Among the songs she made her own were 'Lili Marlene,' 'Falling in Love Again' and 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have.'NEWLN: more

For many years she was linked professionally, and some said privately, with director Josef von Sternberg who directed many of her American triumphs. He was the first of many rumored romances, including one with French actor Jean Gabin. But Bernard Hall, former dance instructor to Dietrich and later a frequent companion, said her sexuality was a myth and her alleged love affairs mostly ill-informed gossip.

Her relationship with such celebrities as Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper and Erich Maria Remarque, friends said, came into this category.

Dietrich became an American citizen in 1939. When the United States entered World War II, she became one of the first stars to entertain troops at the front. She appeared in more than 500 shows for troops in Africa, Greenland, Italy, France, England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg and Labrador.

Advertisement

When her postwar career did not measure up to the old glamour days, she turned to nightclubs and concerts.

In 1958, she electrified Las Vegas when she appeared in a see-through dress on stage. She did not look 57. She wore the same outfit in subsequent appearances, including a trip to the Soviet Union in 1959.

She wrote a book titled 'Marlene Dietrich's ABCs' in 1962, a philosophy of life that she said was responsible for her success as a performer.

The same year, she appeared on a stage in Berlin for the first time since leaving Germany in 1930 for Hollywood. Some Germans regarded her as a traitor for entertaining American troops, but she won a standing ovation.

In 1972 she toured the United States, Europe, South Africa and Australia, singing in concert halls. She wrote her autobiography, 'Marlene,' in German and it was serialized in the magazine Der Stern.

Dietrich never announced her retirement. Hall said he believed she never recovered her nerve after tripping over a cable backstage in Australia and breaking her hip. This necessitated a major operation, after which she seemed resigned to remaining in her apartment.

Although Dietrich was believed to be wealthy -- she was a high earner who lived thriftily -- she hinted to disbelieving friends, who knew about her jewel collection, that she worried about bills. She had a maid, but she dyed her own hair blond, and manicured her own nails.

Advertisement

In 1986, Dietrich was the subject of a film, 'Marlene,' by Maximilian Schell, the Austrian-born actor-director, which played at theaters in the United States.

The actress agreed to be interviewed for the picture, but refused to be seen except in old footage. The camera occasionally cut to a salon in Dietrich's Paris apartment as seen from a hallway, and Dietrich was heard answering Schell's questions. This naturally raised a viewer's expectations that she would at least be glimpsed. She wasn't.

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