Monday, November 13, 2006

La Vie en Rose

I remember it clearly albeit the exact date is lost, it was sometime in 1973.. I was 16. The commercials had billed it as a lifetime event. Curious I watched, and was mesmerized. A slim, sequined lady, old, singing unfamiliar songs of a bygone era. She did not have a strong lyrical voice like Barbra or Judy, but she had a way of communicating. Almost speech singing...remember George Burns in his last years? Words spoken more than sung.. a hint of a melody here and there.

An Evening With Marlene Dietrich. That CBS special ignited my now 33 year passion for this unique singer and actress. Finally, it is available on DVD with the German songs and several songs from the live concert in London that were not televised.

She was born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Marlene made her film debut in 1923. In 1929, she was given the role of "Lola" in "The Blue Angel", which was one of the first European sound films. Dietrich sang in several of her films including The Blue Angel, in which she sings "Falling In Love Again", along with "Lili Marlene" can be considered her theme song. During WWII she sang for Allied troops and was outspoken in her hatred of Hitler, despite his admiration for her.

From the 1950s to the mid-1970s Dietrich toured internationally as a successful cabaret performer. Her repertoire included songs from her films as well as popular songs of the day.

With Bert Bachrach as her arranger, her limited vocal range was enhanced to maximum dramatic effect. Spectacular gowns, tight fitting,slinky dresses, careful stage lighting and temporary mini-facelifts helped to preserve Dietrich's glamorous image well into old age. Later she began including a version of Pete Seeger's anti-war anthem Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, reigniting her anti war activities
This concert is tremendous. Even after 33 years it is amazing, moving and wonderful. Marlene shines, she is subtle, fragile beautiful.

However at 72 her timing and voice are not as strong as in many of her recordings. As I mentioned earlier, many of the songs are almost spoken. Yet, there are no performers like this anymore, and we are lesser people for it.

It was like being introduced to her magic all over again.

An Evening With Marlene Dietrich is available through and other DVD retailers.

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