Tuesday, November 11, 2014


These days, I'm with Marlene here...purely lazy...

I suppose still being in the final throes of what's proved to be an annoyingly persistent bronchitis is one good reason, but really even for the most sluggish among us (a cadre that definitely includes little old me), there are limits.  I think it's time to drop my swansdown evening coat and get back to whatever it is that approaches reality in these parts.

While enjoying my poor health, I've been leafing through Dietrich's daughter's book about her mother; it's a disconcerting, uneven, at times riveting and at times ludicrous chronicle of what must indeed been a most singular and frequently unnerving relationship.  It's certainly not for anyone who wants to retain much in the way of illusions about the great star's private life or general disposition, and while not really a Mommie Dearest-style trashing, it's still not exactly what you'd call flattering.  Still, even Maria Riva readily concedes that at her best, the woman she called Massy (for whoever was less a Mom or Mummy than Dietrich?) was matchlessly marvelous.

Here, in 1972, she's arguably more than a little past her prime, not so much singing as echoing the magic that once seemed so effortless - but she's still pretty remarkable.  All the more so when, thanks to Riva, you know that by this time the singer was in ruinously poor health, suffering the ravages of circulatory and other problems that would within a few years put her permanently to bed in her Paris apartment (a self-imposed exile that was in addition the result of decades of self-dosing with a staggering array of pharmaceuticals legitimate and otherwise, as well as cascades of alcohol - it's really a testimony to her Teutonic constitution that she can stand, let alone perform).

Today, of course, is Armistice Day, and a momentous anniversary; perhaps we here in the U.S. won't really feel the pull of the centennial until '17, when it will have been a hundred years since the Yanks went Over There, or in '18, when it will be a century since the War to End All Wars ended.

It makes sense to let Marlene have the last word - as if she'd have it any other way.

Here, in '62, she is in fact in her prime, and this performance is a primer in contained hysteria, minimalist drama stretched to the breaking point. I've always been amazed by Burt Bachrach's arrangement for this number - so perfect for Dietrich and, somehow, in its ever-rising pizzicato, so moving on its own.

Sag wo die Soldaten sind, indeed.  As I wrote when I first ran this clip, on Decoration Day in 2009 (and doesn't time fly?):  quiet, children - Mama's testifyin'...


  1. I hope you're feeling better. Take your cough syrup and Marlene but not too much of either!

    1. Well, as of today I'm off the syrup, but you're quite right about the dangers of too much Dietrich - more than a sensible dose and you find yourself prone to disdainful, hooded-lidded glances, incomprehensible Teutonic double entrendres, and unfortunate tendencies toward artfully placed sequins. Not flattering for a gentleman of my age and build...

  2. "...a testimony to her Teutonic constitution that she can stand, let alone perform." As far as I can gather, Massy was sewn into that reinforced frock to facilitate that tiresome "standing" business. Another remedy I probably wouldn't recommend. Jx

  3. Glad to hear you're on the mend.

    The first clip is awesome. She's fabulous, she knows it, the audience knows it, she knows they know it and is secure in their adoration. Plus she really wants to entertain them in her signature way. It's a real testament to knowing what you've got and how to relate to your audience.