Marlene Dietrich and Erich Maria Remarque
For years it was unfashionable in Germany to worship Marlene Dietrich, the Berlin diva who escaped Nazi territory for the US and during the war years did the unthinkable by entertaining US troops. For years afterwards she was accused of anti-patriotism and lived in self-imposed exile in her Paris apartment with little contact with her homeland.
But in the past few years Germany has lovingly reclaimed her, and today she is one of the most potent symbols of Berlin. Nor has the tourist board failed to realise the potential she has to lure people to the capital. The wide range of events to commemorate her 100th birthday in December are barely over, but the city's cultural institutions are on a roll: the 10th anniversary of her death is looming, and so the party continues.
Under the title Marlene and Berlin, the city's cultural office has put on a string of events for those wishing to follow in the steps of the diva for the May 6 anniversary.
A walking tour takes in an array of places where Dietrich lived and made her mark, including the house of her birth in the southern district of Schöneberg, her school, the church in which she married, and the Deutsche Theater and Titania Palast where, in 1960, she appeared to German audiences for the first time after the war.
In the Blaue Engel restaurant on Gotenstrasse, a stone's throw from where Dietrich was born, diners are invited to partake of her favourite dishes in a set three-course menu, and to conclude, fans are taken to the musical Marlene in the Renaissance Theatre in which Judy Winter offers her interpretation of Germany's most famous femme fatale. The next tours take place on April 20 and 27, registration is on: 0049 30 44409 36, or check out www.berlin-tourism.de.
Meanwhile for those who wish to dig a little deeper, there is a whole range of Dietrich-dedicated books that have appeared in the past few months, among them, Ick will wat Feinet - Das Marlene Dietrich Kochbuch (I want something fine - the Marlene Dietrich Cookbook) by Georg A Weth, and Marlene Dietrich zum 100 Geburtstsag (Marlene Dietrich - a 100th birthday commemoration) by Maria Riva.
Their story began, according to Tell Me That You Love Me, as a black and white movie might have, on the Lido in Venice. It was September 1937 and Dietrich, recently separated from her lover Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, sat having lunch with Josef von Sternberg, the director who had first discovered her. In breezed Remarque, himself freshly separated from Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr.
Remarque's manners fascinated and enchanted Dietrich, as Maria Riva, Dietrich's daughter, recounts in her book My Mother Marlene. "You look far too young to have penned one of the greatest novels of our time," she told him. "Perhaps I only wrote it to hear your magical voice say these words," he elegantly replied.
Sensing his presence was fast becoming unnecessary, von Sternberg quietly excused himself. The two German celebrities talked until dawn. According to written and verbal accounts by Dietrich, in that crucial moment at the hotel door, Remarque fixed her with an earnest gaze. "I have to admit something - I'm impotent," he muttered anxiously.
The cool, calm Dietrich, never short of an answer, replied: "Oh, how wonderful!" Sensing that there were further depths to her character, Remarque added: "If it's so desired, I can of course be a totally enchanting little lesbienne."
"I was so happy!" Dietrich later told a biographer. "We would simply read and sleep, be tender - everything so wonderfully easy - God, how I loved this man!"
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