Happy 110th Birthday to the Inimitable Marlene Dietrich! What's Her Best Work?

Marlene Dietrich is one of the most talented, intelligent, and iconic actors of all time, and not just because everyone from Madeline Kahn to Madonna and Suzanne Vega has invoked her image with staggering results. The ferocious screen icon and cabaret star is the very definition of a vision, a cutting and defiant actress with gusto and guts galore. On the occasion of her 110th birthday, let's commemorate her finest work.

Though she garnered an Oscar nod for her turn in 1930's Morocco, there can be no mistaking Dietrich's amazing, beguiling work in 1957's Witness for the Prosecution. As the mysterious wife of an accused murderer (Tyrone Power, in his last role), Dietrich tears up the screen with dramatic testimonies, cryptic declarations, and the icy conviction of a Teutonic high priestess. Here's the climactic scene, wherein she reveals her entire plans to the dumbfounded Wilfred Robards (Charles Laughton).

What's your favorite Marlene moment?

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  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    Touch of Evil! That whole scene with Quinlan -- "Your future's all used up." Ouch. But so sensitive!

  • Charles says:

    "You should lay off those candy bars.... You're a mess, honey."

  • Charles says:

    Also, I remember getting more than a little excited watching her in "The Blue Angel" during a college film class. Other than that and "Touch of Evil," though, I can't say I'm very familiar with her work.

  • Patricia says:

    I loved her in all of the von Sternberg films, but especially in Shanghai Express and The Devil is a Woman. She was so sexy in Desire with Gary Cooper and you could feel the sparks fly with John Wayne in The Seven Sinners. I think her most subtle performance was in Knight Without Armor, she had amazing chemistry with Robert Donat.
    I just love Dietrich.

    • Charles says:

      When I heard on a PBS show that she and John Wayne had an affair, I just about fell out of my chair. It's hard for me to imagine them having been together.

      • Patricia says:

        He was a hunk. They were together off and on for a few years, but she couldn't get over the fact that he didn't like to read. She had been seeing Eric Maria Remarque and was soon seriously involved with the French actor Jean Gabin. John Wayne was too all-American for MD. She liked her men to be well read and culturally engaged.

  • Alan says:

    She was spectacular in "Destry Rides Again" -- funny, sexy, touching. Some of Jimmy Stewart's best work as well.

    • Patricia says:

      I agree. MD as Frenchy was one tough cookie, but with a heart of gold. She took a bullet for her man, Tom Destry.

  • Skippy says:

    It's hard to choose--her missteps were rare. I have an admitted affection for "The Scarlett Empress," which is one of those "so crazy I can't help but love it" movies. "Destry" is underrated. The ending of "Morocco" is classic. "Witness" is just all around great.

  • Barbara Clarke says:

    MD was a woman way ahead of her time. She understood quite a bit about human nature and what motivates people.
    She valued hard work, loyalty, dedication to the Allied war effort during WWII. She received much well deserved recognition for her selfless work with the American troops in Europe during the heavy fighting. Marlene Dietrich helped many Jews and others get to USA as Hitler was gaining power in Germany. Job well done, Marlene.

  • Karon says:

    Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again. Want more.

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