Read Blue Angel Online

Authors: Donald Spoto

Blue Angel

Praise for
Blue Angel

“A sterling biography—this author’s take rings true.” —
Liz Smith

“Balanced, discerning and sophisticated. You’ll never look at Dietrich or her films in quite the same way again.” —
The Boston Sunday Globe

“This is a fabulous book that tells it all. Disentangling a dazzling and complicated life with understanding, wit and insight, Spoto’s book towers far above petty Hollywood tomes. His is not only a great biography but a provocative appraisal of sex and culture as well.” —

“A strong read, one of Donald Spoto’s best biographies.” —
The Hollywood Reporter

“After a dozen books on Dietrich, Spoto’s fascinating biography is the fullest portrait of the actress and singer.” —
The San Francisco Chronicle

Blue Angel
evidences extensive research. . . . Spoto goes further than previous biographers in naming sexual partners. . . . Spoto also seems to have penetrated farther behind Dietrich’s public persona than have other writers.” —
Library Journal

“A singularly perceptive and well-written biography, skillfully interweaving Dietrich’s personal and professional lives.” —
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Spoto is a biographer extraordinaire.” —
The Guardian

“Few people can imagine the effect Dietrich had on public taste. Spoto’s book will do much to remedy this ignorance.” —
The Houston Post

“Real pleasure may be found in
Blue Angel;
it is a map through several layers of complexity and reveals more and more on each reading.” —
Los Angeles Weekly

Blue Angel
exhibits [Spoto’s] greatest strength . . . as a keen analyst of movies. His explications, often scene by scene, of Dietrich’s work with her mentor, Josef von Sternberg, and with Alfred Hitchcock are incisive and exciting.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“Spoto knows how to tell a lively story, and this one reflects the research and work that went into it.” —
Associated Press / Special Features

“More intelligently than most movie-star biographers, Spoto extends our knowledge of the fun-house-nightmare world of show business.” —
New York Magazine

“Spoto is no slapdash celebrity biographer out for a quick buck. He carries out detailed research and first-class detective work. Nearly all the material in Spoto’s book is new.” —
The Daily Mail

“Spoto intersperses Dietrich’s life with sober analyses of her film performances. This book offers affectionate, measured praise for a unique career and a heroic if self-centered life.” —
The Observer

“Spoto’s book is a fascinating analysis of Dietrich as ‘her own self-generated product’—a triumph of persistence, image-manipulation and self-promotion over dumpiness and limited talent. . . . He makes a shrewd chronicler of her polymorphously prodigious sex life.” —
Sight and Sound

“Spoto tells a moving tale.” —
Daily Telegraph


Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life

The Hidden Jesus: A Life

The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures

Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean

Falling in Love Again: Marlene Dietrich (A Photo-Essay)

The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams

Stanley Kramer, Film Maker

Marilyn Monroe: The Biography

Camerado: Hollywood and the American Man

Diana: The Last Year

The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor

Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman

Madcap: The Life of Preston Sturges

A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor

Laurence Olivier: A Biography

Lenya: A Life


“What Am I Bid for My Apple?,” © 1930, Famous Music Corporation.

“I Couldn’t Be Annoyed,” © 1932, Famous Music Corporation, renewed 1959, Famous Music Corporation.

“Johnny,” © 1933, Famous Music Corporation, copyright renewed and reassigned to Famous Music Corporation.

“Illusions,” © 1948, Famous Music Corporation, renewed 1975, Famous Music Corporation.

“Laziest Gal in Town,” © 1920, Harms, Inc., USA.

First Cooper Square Press edition 2000

This Cooper Square Press paperback edition of
Blue Angel
is an unabridged republication of the edition first published in New York in 1992. It is reprinted by arrangement with the author. Copyright © 1992 by Donald Spoto

Book design: Marysarah Quinn

Insert design by Anne Ling

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.

Published by Cooper Square Press,

An Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group

150 Fifth Avenue, Suite 911

New York, New York 10011

Distributed by National Book Network

The Doubleday edition of this book was catalogued as follows by the Library of Congress:

Spoto, Donald, 1941–

Blue angel : the life of Marlene Dietrich / Donald Spoto.—1st ed.
    p.  cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
 1. Dietrich, Marlene. 2. Entertainers—Germany—Biography. I. Title.

PN2658.D5S59   1992


[B]                                                                                         92-11031

ISBN: 978-0-8154-1061-4

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48–1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America.

for Kirtley Thiesmeyer,
with gratitude deep and true

“Iron shapes iron, and friend shapes friend.”



draft of a biography of Tennessee Williams, I decided to prepare a short book on the career of Marlene Dietrich. Published the following year under the title
Falling in Love Again
, it was never intended to be a complete life story but rather a reflective essay with photos on her various film roles. But during the research I was fascinated by the life behind the work, and so I began to dig deeper. Thus
Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich
has taken shape over eight years, even as other books were begun and published.

Biographers (perhaps preeminently among practitioners of the writer’s craft) owe much to the practical assistance of others. En route to publication, throughout Europe and America, I was the fortunate recipient of kind and generous help from friends and from strangers who quickly became friends.

Crucial interviews relative to the life of Marlene Dietrich were granted by the late Rupert Allan, Robert Anderson, Pierre Barillet, Leonard Blair, Vivien Byerley, Barrie Chase, Alexander H. Cohen,
Robert Colbaugh, Frederick Combs, the late Cheryl Crawford, Laurence Evans, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Dean Goodman, Ethel Grand, the late Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Horner, Jean Howard, Hilary Knight, Stanley Kramer, Stefan Lorant, Jean Louis, Col. Barney Oldfield, USAF (Ret.), the late Lotta Palfi-Andor, Eileen Palmer, Hildy Parks, Cesar Romero, Maximilian Schell, Nicholas von Sternberg, Peter White and Billy Wilder.

Librarians and archivists round the world were without exception unfailingly helpful as I pored through documents. Especial gratitude is due Angela Singleton, at the British Broadcasting Service/Data Enquiry Service; the staff at the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center; Alan Braun and Gladys Irvis at the library of the American Film Institute; the staff of the British Film Institute; and the personnel of the Berlinische Galerie (Berlin), the Deutsches Literaturarchiv/Schiller Nationalmuseum, the Süddeutscher Verlag (Munich), the Serkis Film-archiv, Berlin, and the Akademie der Künste Berlin.

Once again, Marvin Eisenman, one of the world’s most knowledgeable film archivists, enabled me to see Dietrich films that were otherwise virtually impossible to locate. His gracious help was invaluable.

Karin Brettauer very generously gave me access to (and permission to quote) important family papers, the unpublished memoirs of her aunt, Grete Mosheim. These lively documents by a noted German actress who knew and worked with Dietrich in the 1920s were, I soon discovered, indispensable for a fuller understanding of my subject’s early life and career.

Assistance in translating from the German various particularly formidable papers, letters and documents was cheerfully and patiently provided by Dr. Jon Zimmermann, professor of German at the California State University at Fullerton; by Henriette Fremont; and by Annemarie Moore and Nicholas Vazsonyi.

In Honolulu, Kim Reineman provided warmly supportive hospitality at his home, where I wrote portions of this book; he also read several chapters of the first draft and made incisive suggestions.

Irene Mahoney, who is a highly respected biographer, playwright and historian (and a dear friend for over forty years), urged
me to reconsider some vital matters after she read the first several chapters; her counsel was well taken. When she then had to resume her own several projects round the world, another gifted writer gave me generous and tangible proof of his abiding friendship: the playwright, producer and screenwriter Mart Crowley read the completed first draft of my typescript, raised many important issues for my deliberation, corrected several important matters of fact and in more ways than I can detail improved both the content and tone of
Blue Angel
. And Douglas Alexander, my editorial assistant since 1988, again applied his considerable critical skills to every stage of the book’s research, and his comments as I was writing it. I salute his keen mind and abiding loyalty.

At Doubleday, I was fortunate indeed to have Shaye Areheart for my editor, for she is a keen-eyed, dexterous and prudent guide through the thickets of a book’s final preparation for publication. Shaye also became a good friend, and I am enormously grateful for her wit, her intelligence and her confidence in me and my work. Her associates, Bruce Tracy and Scott Moyers, cheerfully dispatched numerous everyday matters, always facilitating the author’s tasks and thus his life.

Other books

A Regency Invitation to the House Party of the Season by Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland, Elizabeth Rolls
Paper Chains by Nicola Moriarty
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
The Wright Brother by Marie Hall
Seducing Liselle by Marie E. Blossom
Disconnected by Daniel, Bethany