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Marlene Dietrich Paperback – January 18, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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From Library Journal

As Marlene, the German-born Maria Magdalena Dietrich (1901-92) was a charismatic movie actress of the 1930s and 1940s. Like Greta Garbo, Dietrich symbolizes glamour and mystery. There are numerous books about the legend, including the star's own Marlene ( LJ 4/1/89). Riva, Dietrich's daughter, here adds her account. As anticipated, Riva's perspective is unique and affecting. Using her mother's diary, radiograms, and letters, she gives proper weight to Dietrich's youth, her experience on the Berlin stage, her collaboration with director Josef Von Sternberg (e.g., The Blue Angel , 1930; Morocco , 1930), and her latter-day triumphs on stage and as a chanteuse. There are arresting tales here (father and stepfather killed in World War I; a stint entertaining U.S. troops during the Battle of the Bulge; affairs with legends of the screen and other arts) that give the reader a true grasp of both biographer and subject. Recommended for public libraries and film collections.Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92. --Kim Holston, American Inst. for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, Malvern, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Gossipy...Elabroately detailed...Greatly entertaining...Riva leaves no sequin unturned."
Marlene Deitrich was considered one of the most glamorous stars of her day. A determined perfectionist with an incredible ego, her beauty, her style, her sense of the outrageous, made her a star. In this candid, illuminating, and detailed biography full of photographs, her only daughter Maria Riva, tells the incredible, fascinating, story of the star's life and career, loves and hates, hits and misses, as only a daughter can.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 789 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345386450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345386458
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on November 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this astonishingly honest biography of Marlene Dietrich from birth to age 73, her daughter Maria Riva reveals the truth about her mother as it contrasts with the sometimes embellished stories of the Dietrich legend. She does this with love, a sense of understanding of the needs of this complex woman, and with a surprising humor which is never deprecating. The resulting biography shows Dietrich in an almost heroic light--but not for the actions which have become part of her show-biz mystique. Her real life and her real commitments, many of which are far less celebrated, often prove to be more remarkable than the stories promulgated by the press.

Dietrich began keeping diaries and journals at age ten, and her daughter uses these and her personal knowledge to show Dietrich's life in three phases. The first part includes her family background, childhood, acting studies, early career, and decision to pursue a film career in Hollywood, and also incorporates her marriage to Rudolf Sieber (which lasted fifty years) and the birth of her daughter. In Part II, her decision to become an American citizen, help actively with the American war effort, and work tirelessly for the USO in America, Europe, and Africa shows a commitment to helping others that belies her cold, sexy image. In Part III, her postwar career in Las Vegas and on tour, despite her undiagnosed health problems, reveal her dedication to remaining a "goddess" on stage and in the public imagination.

Throughout the biography, Riva's honesty, including her awareness of her mother's faults, is always tempered by her respect for Dietrich's integrity and her commitment to entertaining--Dietrich, she says, was "the embodiment of other people's dreams.
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Format: Paperback
"Marlene Dietrich", a massive, tell-all biography by her daughter, Maria Riva, is a fascinating read about a fascinating subject. Ms. Riva had been writing this book for years, and it was understood by all (including her legendary mother) that it not be published until after her death. A "Mommie Dearest" book? Not really. Riva is in awe of her mother, and does have some affection for her, although it sounds as if Dietrich DARED people to love her. She was a very strong-willed woman, infinitely German in this respect, stubborn, opinionated, and even somewhat delusional. However, well into her seventies, she once peered at herself in her full-length mirror before going onstage, and uttered, "Look at her-isn't she frightening?" The woman had more than a little self-perspective to utter a remark like that. She probably just wouldn't tolerate it coming from someone else. Screen legends are human, even though they may not think so. They are flawed, under pressure to "deliver the goods" and "never grow old", and, in the case of an aging star legendary for her glamorous beauty, "never to become ugly". Miss Dietrich was VERY aware of this, and ultimately trapped by this. But back to the book. It is almost exhaustive in its detail, particularly Ms. Riva's fascination with her mother's self-discipline, scrutinous eye for detail and beauty, and opinions on everything, is fascinating to myself, as well as millions of others. Her disdain for her parents' treatment of "Tami" is well-grounded-they didn't sound like the most sympathetic souls when it came to "personal issues", so who is to say that she is an "ungrateful, self-pitying daughter"?Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Maria Riva's conversational style of writing makes this page-turner a very easy read. The author's honesty and compassion comes through over and over again. She clearly has mixed emotions about her famous mother, but in my opinion she did a yeoman's job in giving an objective account of her mother's life. Another plus is the way she anchors her narrative with brief, relevant references to historical events, such as the depression and events leading to World War II. The background information about Hollywood in the 30's, 40's and 50's is also nearly as fascinating as Marlene Dietrich herself.
While it's hard to believe that anyone can write nearly 800 pages about a Hollywood moviestar, Maria Riva has done it with intelligence and style. I feel as though I knew Marlene Dietrich personally and wish I could get to know her daugher better.
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I don't know how many times I've read this book, but each time I find something new. No "Mommy Dearest" biography here (though many would argue), it is in fact a surprisingly objective look at the life of an screen idol and her impact on her only child.
Maria Riva takes apart the image of Dietrich and scatters the pieces for all to see: the dreamy-eyed daughter of war, the struggling stage actress, the faithful wife and mother, the awestruck protogeé of a tyrannical yet dependant director, the sexual manipulator of men and women, the screen seductress, the box office poison, the war veteran, the Las Vegas star, the alcoholic, the senile shut-in, the legend that lives on after her death...
...but I digress.
I find this book to be a bittersweet memoir of a mother who was a star to all and only all-too-human to few. Definitely worth at least one or two read-throughs.
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