ⓘ Marlene (1984 film)


ⓘ Marlene (1984 film)

Marlene, also known in Germany as Marlene Dietrich - Portrat eines Mythos, is a 1984 documentary film made by Maximilian Schell about the legendary film star Marlene Dietrich. It was made by Bayerischer Rundfunk and OKO-Film and released by Futura Film, Munich and Alive Films.


1. Background

Marlene Dietrich and Maximilian Schell had worked together on Judgment at Nuremberg in 1961. By the late 1970s Dietrich had become a virtual recluse in her Paris apartment on the Avenue Montaigne. However financial issues inspired her to develop a television documentary about her work. Her initial choice for a director, her friend Orson Welles, proved unavailable and after considering Welles friend and fan of hers, Peter Bogdanovich, she eventually agreed to have Schell direct. Primarily, it seems, because he spoke both German and English. In 1982, with Schell onboard she agreed to participate in what she intended to be a television documentary. Schell had other ideas and their sessions became a movie.

Dietrich did not wish to be photographed so the movie consists of an audio commentary and the visuals illustrate her career by showing film clips and stills from her films, as well as newsreel footage. She was contracted for "40 hours of talking" as she reminds Schell during one of their exchanges. The film consists of voice interviews between Schell and Dietrich in which she often ignores his questions, makes acerbic comments about, among other things, some of the books written about her life and films. She resists Schells attempts to criticize those she knew in her life asking him "Why must we say critical things?" During their discussions, she touches on the subjects of life and death, reality and illusion and the nature of stardom.


2. Film clips

The film contains clips from the following films:

  • Desire 1936
  • Dishonored 1931
  • Nights of Love 1930
  • Witness for the Prosecution 1957
  • Judgment at Nuremberg 1961
  • The Scarlet Empress 1934
  • The Devil is a Woman 1935
  • Citizen Kane 1941
  • Morocco 1930
  • Just a Gigolo 1979
  • The Blue Angel 1930
  • Touch of Evil 1958
  • Love Tragedy 1923
  • Stage Fright 1950
  • Blonde Venus 1932
  • Destry Rides Again 1939

3. Awards and nominations

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary 1986. It won the Best Production Award at the Bavarian Film Awards, the Outstanding Non-Feature Film at the German Film Awards and the Best Documentary Award from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA and the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards.

Marlene was rankled by the raw and vulnerable portrayal of her in the movie, thinking it would be an ordinary biography documentary, and she didnt speak to Schell for a year. However, she was won over by the glowing reviews of the film, and after it was nominated for an Academy Award she reconciled with him.