Did you know?Dietrich's mother was from a well-to-do Berlin family who owned a clockmaking firm and her father was a police lieutenant. As a child, she was nicknamed "Lena" and "Lene." When she was 11, she contracted her two first names to form the then-novel name of "Marlene."
-----Born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Schöneberg, a district of Berlin, Germany, Marlene Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself. In 1920s Berlin, she acted on the stage and in silent films.
As a teenager she studied the violin and became interested in theatre and poetry as a teenager. Her dreams of becoming a concert violinist were cut short after injuring her wrist.
In 1921, Dietrich auditioned unsuccessfully for theatrical director and impresario Max Reinhardt's drama academy; however, she soon found herself working in his theatres as a chorus girl and playing small roles in dramas. She made her film debut playing a bit part in the 1922 film, So sind die Männer.
She met her future husband, Rudolf Sieber, on the set of another film made that year, Tragödie der Liebe.
Dietrich continued to work on stage and in film both in Berlin and Vienna throughout the 1920s, including Frank Wedekind's Pandora's Box, William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah and Misalliance.
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It was in musicals and revues, such as Broadway, Es Liegt in der Luft and Zwei Krawatten, however, that she attracted the most attention. By the late 1920s, Dietrich was also playing sizable parts on screen, including Café Elektric, Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame and Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen.
In 1929, Dietrich landed the breakthrough role of Lola-Lola, a cabaret singer who causes the downfall of a hitherto respected schoolmaster, in UFA's production, The Blue Angel. Her performance as Lola-Lola brought her international fame and a contract with Paramount Pictures in the U.S.
The film was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who thereafter took credit for having "discovered" Dietrich. The film is also noteworthy for having introduced Dietrich's signature song "Falling in Love Again."
Dietrich became a U.S. citizen in 1939. During World War II, she was a high-profile frontline entertainer.
Although she still made occasional films in the post-war years, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a successful show performer.
In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female star of all time.