December 27, 2017
Marlene Dietrich’s 116th Birthday
Born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Berlin on this day in 1901, Marlene Dietrich lit up the silver screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Dietrich rocketed to international fame from the moment she appeared in her breakout role as cabaret singer Lola-Lola in Germany’s first talking picture, Der Blaue Engel (1930) and its English version, The Blue Angel. The actress crossed the Atlantic soon after its premiere, continuing to work with Blue Angel director Josef von Sternberg in a string of memorable Hollywood films, including Morocco, Shanghai Express, and The Devil Is a Woman.
But Dietrich was more than a femme fatale with an unforgettable voice. Ever the risk-taker, she turned pat notions about femininity upside down, donning a tuxedo and top hat in her part as a sultry nightclub dancer in Morocco, and wearing men’s silk suits offscreen. A U.S. citizen as of 1939, she captivated World War II troops as a USO entertainer and was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom and French Légion d'Honneur for her wartime work.
Dietrich’s Doodle was illustrated by artist Sasha Steinberg who captured her mid-performance, suited up in her gender-bending tux and top hat. Steinberg, who is also a drag performer under the name Sasha Velour and winner of RuPaul's Drag Race (Season 9), counts Dietrich as a major influence in creating their drag alter ego.
“She was a wild original!” says Velour. “Despite the pressures of the time, she followed her own course, especially in terms of politics and gender. As a drag queen, that's particularly inspiring to me. Plus, she just had this power to her...in every role she's mysterious and strong, brilliant. That's what I aspire to be when I step on the stage.”
Happy 116th birthday, Marlene!
Here are some of Sasha's early drafts of the Doodle: