Marlene Dietrich: The Last Ten Years

Marlene DeitrichSource: Megan Mayhew Bergman in The New Yorker, December 26

First paragraph:

The actress Marlene Dietrich [who died in 1992 in Paris] spent the last ten years of her life bedridden, in her apartment on Avenue Montaigne, in Paris, refusing to see old acquaintances and avoiding photographers. In her biography of Dietrich, her only daughter, Maria Riva, wrote that her mother’s legs “withered. Her hair, chopped short haphazardly in drunken frenzies with cuticle scissors, was painted with dyes.” She surrounded herself with a hot plate, telephone, scotch – and books….


2 responses to “Marlene Dietrich: The Last Ten Years

  1. mike holliday

    Does the world benefit from knowing this? Would we not be better off remembering a vibrant, beautiful woman rather than this bleak picture of age induced physical and mental decay?
    What did Marlene Dietrich do, whom did she hurt, that her memory should be defiled in this way?
    And even if her only daughter wrote this, why on earth did you see fit to reprint it 30 years later?

  2. As disturbing and disillusioning this image of Marlene Dietrich may be to some, reality is more valuable than myth and fantasy. There’s often not much glamour in the real lives of those we idealize. Those whom we imprison on a pedestal as gods and goddesses are subject to all the frailties the rest of us must endure. It makes it easier to accept life’s challenges if we accept that truth (for them and for us). It is sad that Dietrich couldn’t escape the ravages of age and the indignities that go with not being able to live like we imagine a star “should”, but comforting to know that even when bedridden and perhaps drinking too much scotch, she surrounded herself with books. The contrast between the golden memories we have of her from the screen and the behind-the-scenes bleakness of her later life can comfort us: when it comes to the cycle of life, democracy rules. There are no exceptions which money or fame can buy!