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Blue Angel - The Life of Marlene Dietrich.

BLUE ANGEL--The Life of Marlene Dietrich by Donald S poto (Doubleday, 3 3 5 p.) is an astonishing book partly because, despite her much-publicized glamour, comparatively little was known about Marlene Dietrich, the German-born star, and her private life. Now, Spoto has provided an excellent biography, well-written and filled with a great deal of insight, along with a number of rude surprises.

Marlene was one of those Europeans who really made it big in Hollywood-- from The Blue Angel to Foreign Correspondent--and, obviously, she charmed a lot of people along the way, with both her intellectual capacities, her straightforwardness and her ability to mock her glamour image.

She was also something of a man-eater, and this is one of the blunt surprises Spoto provides in considerable detail. Marlene with John Wayne, with Jean Gabin, with George Raft, with Eddie Fisher, Generals Patton and Gavin, Frank Sinatra and--for good measure--with a couple of prominent women as well. In each case, Spoto's descriptions are quite graphic and convincing, and there are times when they are almost humorous, particularly considering the fact that, throughout all this, Dietrich was married as well, and her husband periodically hung around.

Still, it was quite an amazing career, punctuated by her splendid service to the troops during the war and, later, her multiple accidents, which would have "thrown" a less forceful personality. In each case, it happened while she was on-stage, which didn't diminish the pain and the discomfort.

The book is superbly researched (as are all of Spoto's biographies) and he properly emphasizes Dietrich's high morality in opposing the Nazi regime, which she fled though she could have remained in Germany. She knew everybody, from Hemingway to Erich Maria Remarque, and they all appreciated her vivacious and interesting personality. If she paid inadequate attention to her danghter, Riva (until much later, when she became a devoted grandmother), blame it on the demands of her career.

Marlene Dietrich, thanks to Spoto's skills, emerges from the book as a somewhat puzzling personality, a great star who eventually became something of a recluse in Paris. Still, she personified Hollywood glamour and the book catches that shimmering image.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Hift, Fred
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:358
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