MARLENE DIETRICH: Life and Legend by Steven Bach
Kirkus Star


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Gigantic chef-d'oeuvre: a 600-page life that puts Dietrich before us as no book has ever done and whose writing sets a new standard for celebrity biographies. Bach (Final/Cut, 1985) spent six years researching and writing this life; talked with Dietrich (who deplored biographies that pitted her legend, and did not authorize this one); as a student, spent two years with Dietrich's most famous director, Josef von Sternberg, viewing with him all seven films Sternberg made with the actress; and had sole access to secret tapes of talks between Dietrich and Maximilian Schell made during Schell's creation in 1982 of the celebratory, fascinating Marlene: A Feature, when Dietrich was in her 80s. Two qualities distinguish Bach's work: He writes with superb intelligence and grace, without a single dull or merely journalistic passage. And, as a former producer (involved in Woody Allen's Manhattan and Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, among other films), his ideas on how Dietrich's effects were achieved through lighting, film stocks, dissolves, acting, singing techniques, etc., strengthen his every inquiry into her roles, not only in film but in cabaret, stage acting, song recording, and so on. Bach's history of the star's bisexuality, frank but tasteful, in no way demeans her legend. His Marlene stands before us at every moment--a teenager casting bedroom eyes at her violin teacher; using her voice, when acting or singing, as a suggestive musical instrument; showing her legs with innocent desirability; and gathering weight and light as she ages from childhood to blazing sexuality as the fastest girl in Berlin and, at last, into cantankerous, witty fragility. A great pearl.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1992
ISBN: 0816675848
Page count: 600pp
Publisher: Morrow