Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Germany/USA, 2001. APG, ApolloMedia Distribution, Associated Producers Group Inc., D&K Productions Inc., Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Gemini Film, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg, Talent Network Media GmbH, Turner Classic Movies, United Artists. Screenplay by Karin Kearns. Cinematography by Adolfo Bartoli, Christine Burrill, Uli Kudicke. Produced by Karin Kearns, H.W. Pausch, David Riva. Music by Gernot Rothenbach. Production Design by Birgit Schulz. Film Editing by William Haugse, Katharina Schmidt.
This deeply affecting documentary shows a side of the awe-inspiring Marlene Dietrich that most of us have never seen before. Based on the book by her daughter Maria Riva, the film (directed by Riva’s son David) gives plenty of information as to Dietrich’s younger years and early career, but really focuses on what she considered to be the most important part of her life: her efforts during World War II. Dietrich toured Europe extensively during the war, entertaining troops and (unbeknownst to most) even spending a lot of time as a volunteer in various medical facilities as well. After that she referred to returning back to the movie business as prostitution; even during her concert years she was only ever really thrilled when veterans would be in the audience of her shows, and she welcomed them all with equal enthusiasm. Featuring rare footage, interviews with Maria Riva as well as other friends and colleagues, the film is more personal than any other documentary has ever been on its subject (including Maximilian Schell‘s). A taped conversation between Dietrich and her mother just following the war, when they were communicating across continents, is moving enough to induce tears. Narrated by (David Riva’s ex-fiancee) Jamie Lee Curtis.