MARLENE: The Life of Marlene Dietrich by Charles Higham

MARLENE: The Life of Marlene Dietrich

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Higham's mass-productive pace has gotten so frenetic (eight books in five years) that now he's not so much hack-writing as hack-assembling. Thus, Marlene's story--plump Berlin jazz baby to Hollywood star to one-woman show--is told by stringing together quote after quote from friends and colleagues (via new interviews or old memoirs), with almost no attempt to weigh veracity, avoid repetition, reconcile contradictions, or cut through hype. The rationale? Dietrich's ""complexities are infinite."" And Higham's connecting material is saturated with worshipful hyperbole (Marlene as Florence Nightingale, Marlene as Mother Courage, her ""flawless taste""), gratuitous vilification of Blue Angel director-Svengali ("". . . typical of yon Sternberg's perversity that he should want to reduce Marlene to histrionic as well as professional prostitution""), and a shocking fabric of evasively vague language and factual error: in one sentence, Marlene is on a US train, next sentence ""Hitler approached her with the gift of a Christmas tree"" (where? when? how?); the essential plot point of Witness for the Prosecution is reversed; a flurry of casual, unexplored references to Marlene's bisexual image and nature. Admittedly, some of the quoted anecdotes are intriguing, and the cast of lovers and buddies--Jean Gabin, Erich Maria Remarque, Butt Bacharach, Noel Coward--is glitteringly international But this is a sloppy, gooey cut-and-paste job that perfectonist Marlene--however pleased she may be by its reverent: approach--should greet with a LolaLola sneer.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1977
Publisher: Norton