The Bisexual Anti-Fascist // Marlene Dietrich [CC]

The Bisexual Anti-Fascist // Marlene Dietrich [CC]


Hello lovely people and welcome… to another
sweetly ribald historical profile- it’s salacious in the purest way. If you’re a fan of vintage lesbians then
make sure you subscribe as literally every video I make has a vintage lesbian. Fact. And if you want to help choose the topic of
my next video I suggest you join the Kellgren-Fozard Club by clicking the join button below- so
much wonderfulness awaiting you there! Today we’re going to be talking about none
other than that goddess of stevie Boebi: big dick energy – thanks Stevie- Marlene Deitrich.
The Hollywood star whose career spanned nearly eighty years I could begin with where she was born, what
her childhood was like, how she rose to fame… but let’s be honest, we’re here for a
good gossip aren’t we? Let’s get scandalous with it! In July 1955 the Hollywood gossip magazine
Confidential audaciously printed an excessively lubricious expose on our dear Marlene, opening: “Marlene Dietrich and men are an old story!” – to be fair, she wasn’t particularly bothered
by rumours of any of her many affairs coming out so it was probably ‘old news’ even
before it happened. But according to Confidential magazine, these were just a smokescreen to
cover up: “Some sprightlier capers that would have
lifted the nation’s eyebrows all the way up its forehead. Because, in the millions of
words that have been written about Dietrich’s dalliances, you’ve never, until now, read
that some of them were not with men!” Dun dun dun! Welcome to Gay Hollywood’s worst kept secret! … largely because no one really seemed to
care enough about keeping said secret. They were really bad at it… I doubt any of even Confidential’s 1950s
readers were that shocked, I mean- look at her! That woman is coming to seduce you and
she doesn’t care about your gender! Marlene had built her career on enigmatic
sexual ambiguity and if you’re just learning who she is then buckle up, you’re in for
a ride! She started off as a stage and subsequently
a silent film star in the 1920s in Germany and immigrated to Hollywood in the 30s due
to the success of The Blue Angel, a UFA/Paramount Pictures production. Her success was helped by her glamorous persona
and “exotic” looks that took her to international acclaim and becoming one of the highest-paid
actresses of the era. She starred in such hits at Shanghai Express,
Desire and Morocco, which featured the first lesbian kiss scene in a Hollywood movie… in 1930! So who did Confidential Magazine think they were breaking this story to in
1955?! A little non bawdy background: Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born in Berlin,
Germany on December 27, 1901. Her mother, Wilhelmina, was from an affluent Berlin family
who owned a jewellery and clock-making firm whilst her father, Louis, was a police lieutenant.
She had a sister, Elisabeth, who was one year older and not a great human being. You’ll
know why by the end of the video… Her father is said to have instilled a military
work ethic in the family but he died when young Marie was just five years old. Aged
about 11, she combined her first two names to form the name “Marlene”. Dietrich attended
the Auguste-Viktoria Girls’ School from 1907 to 1917 where she was supposedly known for
her ‘bedroom eyes’ and having affairs with teachers- – god damn it, Marlene, this was supposed
to be the non-bawdy bit! Although… I’m pretty sure
there is only so far you can consent to a relationship with a teacher. Just saying. As a teenager she was interested in the violin,
the theatre and poetry but injured her wrist to the extent her dreams of being a concert
violinist were over. Instead she began working in the theatre as a chorus girl but didn’t
attract any particular attention until she landed her breakthrough film role of Lola
Lola, a cabaret singer who caused the downfall of a hitherto respectable schoolmaster. What is it with the school…? Nevermind. Director Josef von Sternberg thereafter took
credit for having “discovered” Marlene as on the strength of The Blue Angel’s international
success, and with promotion from von Sternberg, Marlene signed a contract with Paramount PIctures
and moved to Hollywood. The studio wanted a match to MGM’s Swedish star Greta Garbo-
who is a whole video in herself. And we’ll be hearing more about in a minute… Dietrich starred in six films directed by
von Sternberg at Paramount between 1930 and 1935 and they worked together to craft her
image as a glamorous and mysterious femme fatale. In perhaps their most famous collaboration,
the affore-mentioned Morocco, Marlene again played a cabaret singer and the film is best
remembered for its most provocative sequence in which she performs a song dressed in a
man’s white tie and kisses another woman. The film earned Dietrich her only Academy
Award nomination. So, yes, adding a little rainbow to your film
has always brought it Oscars attention. Marlene was well known in Hollywood for her
gender norm-bashing: she dressed in men’s suits, notably hats and tails. What a look! And we all
know women in suits look amazing. Yes, I did just insert a picture of my wife
in a suit into this video. Tell me it doesn’t relate. You can’t! Also: you’re welcome. She’s a gift to the world. In an interview with The Observer in
1960, Marlene said, “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for
fashion, not for men. If I dressed for myself I wouldn’t bother at all. Clothes bore me.
I’d wear jeans. I adore jeans. I get them in a public store – men’s, of course; I
can’t wear women’s trousers. But I dress for the profession.” That is probably relatable to everyone who
is not me, because I refuse to believe in jeans. – What even is denim…? From the early 1950s until the mid-1970s Dietrich
worked almost exclusively as a cabaret artist, performing live in large theatres in major
cities worldwide. She would often perform the first part of her show in one of her body-hugging
dresses and then change to a top hat and tails for the second half of the performance. So
for the second half of the show she would sing songs usually associated with male singers. Not at all lady-loving(!) What secret did you think you were uncovering,
Confidential?! According to Diana McLellan, author of the
2000 book, The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood (which, yes, I have read all of): ‘Lesbian
affairs, it was widely felt, were good for you. They expanded your emotional range, nurtured
your amour propre, kept your skin clear and your eyes bright, burnished your acting skills,
and even… exerted a powerful androgynous magnetism through the camera’s lens, attracting
the unwitting desires of both men and women in the audience through the dim, smoky air
of the movie house.’ Sign me up! Marlene’s rather open approach to sexuality
is probably due to her native city of Berlin which had already established itself as a
crucible for gay identity by the time of her birth. The first gay magazine, Der Eigene Pronunciation buchered Translated The Self-Owning, had been published there five years earlier; the following year, the
physician Magnus Hirschfeld Pronunciation founded the Scientific- Humanitarian Committee, the first gay rights
organisation. The Berlin that Marlene lived in after the
first world war and before going to America was under the culturally progressive (and
a little decadent) Weimar Republic. This was the first time Germany had been a Republic
and they were trying a few new ideas like social welfare reforms, employment rights
and taking care of their disabled people. During the 20s and 30s, gay and lesbian love
achieved an extraordinary level of visibility in popular culture. One film, Mädchen in
Uniform, Uh… punctuation about a 14-year-old school girl who falls in love with her teacher- – why is it always a teacher? Even had the protagonist declare: “What
you call sin, I call the great spirit of love, which takes a thousand forms!” Unsurprisingly, Marlene had a lot of fun. Look at her. She knows fun. She started out as a chorus girl in a vaudeville
troupe while also enrolling at Turkish prizefighter boxers gym, which opened to
women in the 1920s. Of course. Her first stage success, the musical comedy
It’s In The Air, opened in Berlin in 1927; Dietrich sang a song called My Best Girl Friend
to her co-star Margot Lion, while they both sported corsages of violets. (which is a secret symbol of lesbianism) Around this time she met the wonderful Greta
Garbo and they had a love affair that essentially ruined Greta’s heart forever and thus when
they both landed in Hollywood years later they flat out refused to acknowledge the other’s
existence and denied any claims of having met each other ever. Even when they shared
lovers. Ice Queens be icy. More on that if I make a Garbo video though. Throughout her career, Dietrich had an unending
string of affairs, some short-lived, some lasting decades. They often overlapped and
were almost all known to her husband, to whom she was in the habit of passing the love letters
from her men, sometimes with biting comments. Her affairs that we know of included… wait
for it: Gary Cooper, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks
Jr., James Stewart, Erich Maria Remarque, Mercedes de Acosta, Ginette Spanier, Yul Brynner,
Errol Flynn, George Bernard Shaw, John F. Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, Michael Todd, Michael
Wilding, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra and potentially Edith Piaf but lesbians can
just be friends with other lesbians too. It doesn’t have to be sexual. In that one very specific case. Because she
was super sexual with her other lesbian friends! She used the term “sewing circle” to refer
to “the underground, closeted lesbian and bisexual film actresses and their relationships
in Hollywood” during the golden age from the 1910s to the 1950s” according to Alex
Madsen in the book The Sewing Circle: Hollywood’s Greatest Secret: Female Stars Who Loved Other
Women. I’m sold. Just from the title, I’m sold. Women in the Sewing Circle included: Ann Warner, wife of one of the Warner Brothers,
Lili Damita, wife of Errol Flynn, Claudette Colbert and Dolores del Rio who Marlene thought was the most beautiful woman in the world The Sewing Circle would meet at one another’s
houses for ‘lunch, conversation and possibilities’… but, like Tallulah Bankhead, you’d be kicked
out for making eyes at Greta Garbo. You had to pick one or the other! Now… I know I normally tell you that we
can’t be 100% sure about historical queerness unless it’s directly written about by the
person in question but… Yeah, we’re in the clear on this one. Marlene did have a husband and they did have
a child. She just didn’t live with him or go near him after a few years. She never divorced
him however and instead maintained him and his mistress on a nice little ranch. And that,
friends, is what we call a ‘lavender marriage’ Side note: a ‘lavender marriage’ is a
male-female marriage undertaken as a marriage of convenience to conceal the sexual orientation
of one or both partners- either homosexuality or bisexuality. – or pansexuality. But they didn’t have
that word. The term dates from the early 20th century
and is usually used to characterise marriages of celebrities, most often in the Hollywood
film industry although it’s actually a British term from the 1890s because we associated
lavender with homosexuality. Like the violets from earlier. I love purple flowers. Don’t hate it. Don’t hate it. Marlene’s daughter, Maria Riva, published
a tell-all memoir about her mother in 1992, (which was immediately dubbed Mommie Queerest).
In her book, Riva wrote that Dietrich weaponised sex in her affairs with men: ‘She didn’t actually
care much for ‘it’ – rather, it was a way of controlling and manipulating them.’ Her
affairs with women, on the other hand, were very warm: ‘She actually enjoyed the sex,
and the relationships were much more satisfying for her.’ Things you wish you didn’t know about your
mum. Numerous commentators have called her ‘bisexual’
but people at the time thought that she was just… not straight. “Not particularly bothered by gender, thanks” But that’s probably a bit long to put on
a flag. If you’re at this point thinking ‘wow,
she sounds cool.’ well hold on to your seats because we’re about to bring in some Nazis! During the 1930s Adolf Hitler came to prominence,
becoming ruler of Marlene’s native Germany. Recognising Box Office Gold when he saw it-
and the chance for some good PR- he attempted to lure her back to Germany, offering that
she could star in all the movies of her choice. Instead she remounced her German citizenship,
filed for US citizenship, sold war bonds, gave anti-Nazi radio broadcasts in German
and helped people escape the Holocaust for life in America. The Nazis banned all of her films. I doubt she cared. Marlene didn’t just sit in safety, she went
to the front lines to boost troop morale, performing for half a million allied troops
across North Africa and Western Europe. When asked why she had done this, in spite of the
obvious danger of being within a few kilometres of German lines, she replied, “out of decency”. Austrian-American filmmaker Billy Wilder later said that she was on the front lines
more than Eisenhower. For her humanitarian work during the war,
she received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium, and Israel. At the end of the war, Marlene reunited with
her sister Elisabeth (told you we’d talk about her again) and her sister’s husband
and son. They had stayed in the German city of Belsen throughout the war, running a cinema
for Nazi officers and officials who ran the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp so… Not great (!) Whilst Marlene vouched for her sister and
her brother-in-law, sheltering them from possible prosecution as Nazi collaborators, she then
omited the existence of her sister and her sister’s son from all accounts of her life,
completely disowning them and claiming to be an only child. Fair. Marlene left an iconic legacy to film, fashion
and queer identity in Hollywood, long after her death at the age of 90 in 1992. She was
loud and proud and, I think, pretty amazing. (She also outlived Confidential magazine and
their ‘outing’ of her was a bit of a flop since… no one was really surprised) What do you think? Did you know about Marlene
Dietrich? Which historical figure would you like me to profile next? Let me know in the
comments below! And don’t forget, my ‘Because: Gay’
merch is back and if you can’t see it on the shelf below then click the link in the
description! And if you were wondering whether I really
was going to make you wait until the end of the episode to mention my neck brace, the
answer is: yes. And the reason is: because it’s important that we normalise episodic
medical conditions and the usage of medical equipment. Also I have hypermobility and wearing this
is keeping my skull on straight which calms my migraines. Isn’t the world interesting? I know. Yeah. See you next time! [kiss]

100 thoughts on “The Bisexual Anti-Fascist // Marlene Dietrich [CC]

  1. I feel so at home watching your videos with all the historical and queer content. I'm loving this episodes with historical figures such as Anne Lister, Queen Anne and now Dietrich. (The one about Mary Stuart was great too!)

    It would be great to have a Greta Garbo video, but I was about to suggest a Joan Crawford one too. I was dying to see you make a reference about her when you showed "The Sewing Circle" book cover (in which she is included) and couldn't stop laughing when you mentioned the "Mommie Queerest" reference. I know Crawford it's a controversial figure, but I think her story and possible Queerness would make a lovely video. Thanks for keep posting and have a beautiful day. ♥

  2. My first Marlene Dietrich movie was Witness For the Prosecution and as great as that movie is I clearly need a more Marlene Dietrich role

  3. hello! i was wondering where you got that neck brace? i cannot for the life of me find one that isn’t super intense and expensive where i am, and am thinking about just shipping one? would super appreciate it!

  4. I love that you matched your brace to your dress, honestly what a fashion icon!!! Also yes please do a video on Greta Garbo! I love these vintage lesbian histories you tell

  5. To add a different name, Claudette 'I'm not a lesbian, but I've lived closely with a woman for at least 25 years' Colbert would be my pick. But yes, Garbo would be fun. Lavender Marriage, Laughton/Lanchester, oh please!

  6. I did notice your neck brace, I didn't think it was a scarf. I appreciate you not hiding your disability aids & showing them front & center, literally.

  7. Okay am I the only one who thinks Marlene looks like gay Willy Wonka in the thumbnail?
    Just me?
    Okay…
    Imma go cry and eat rainbow candy now

  8. I love Marlena. I work in a theatre where we rent out costumes to the public and often we have women struggling to find something for a prom or costume party who just don't feel right in a dress. Then I show them pictures of Marlene and our tuxedo and suit collection. The revelation, to the young ones especially, that there was a woman like them, that there is another way to look glam. She's such an inspiration.

  9. This was fascinating! And I totally paused when you mentioned the books, and promptly requested them from my local library.

  10. Please please please please please make a Greta Garbo video Q^Q I love her and I want more people to love her too

  11. My grandparents love her, but can't wrap their heads around the idea of lesbians having sex and enjoying it.😅👍

    I still live in Germany, going to marry my girlfriend and working as illustrator and speak in schools about Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Endometriosis and bullying.

    (I am amazed she just died 12 days before I was born. )

    And it is good she went to America.
    Open homosexuals were persecuted, put into KZ's and executed or worst of undergoing violence, sexual assault, ruthless medical experiments. If you were lucky, Nazis beating you up into bloody pulp on the ground.
    Thank you for the video!
    If you ever need help with German language, message me, I give you a number.

  12. at the start of her career, marlene also worked with claire waldoff, the famous lesbian singer who was very popular in 1920s berlin. marlene has said that claire was the one who introduced her to lesbianism, and her first female partner. 1920s berlin was the lgbt capital of europe, right alongside paris, and it was also known as one of the first 'sin cities' for its many gay and lesbian bars, brothels and speakeasies, right up until the nazi party won the election and took it upon themselves to 'clean up the city'.

  13. So I hadn't even noticed the neck brace until you mention it at the very end. Well done! Although I don't think you can take a lot of credit for normalizing, as you were talking about every bisexual femme's de facto grandmother ;)!

  14. “ If you like vintage lesbians then make sure you subscribe, because literally every video I make has a vintage lesbian FACT

    AND HOLY CRAP I DIDNT KNOW U WERE LESBIAN! and yesssss you definitely rock the vintage lifestyle!

  15. You referring to Marlene Dietrich as just Marlene is super weird, I have the same name xD And a native English speaker pronouncing it so well is very rare, I almost feel honored. You have my utmost gratitude for that beautiful pronunciation 😀

  16. Oh TY! I am Hypermobile (as well as other medical issues) and I get migraines often and my Rheumatologist never said it could be related. I will try a neck brace. TY! I usually walk around with a ice pack tied tight to my forehead by a robe belt.

  17. i'd love to see a video about james barry, the doctor who performed the first successful c-section and was a trans man!

  18. Hey jessica, love your videos! I think Edith Piaf would be a great profile to do. hope your move is going well!

  19. UUUHMMMM actually…. Marlene and her husband had a very loving relationship and felt deep appreciation for each other. They were supporting each other's love lives and were great confidantes in heart ship too. Rudolf Sieber answer if would ask why Marlene is not settling down at the ranch with him (and his lover): “Why should she retire? She keeps getting better all the time. I went to Las Vegas twice to see her show at the Sahara and was as proud of her as I was 35 years ago, when she was just beginning. Now she’s appearing in Paris again, and how they love her there! Am I still in love with her? More than ever.” before her death, in her oldest age, she called him her best friend. I think the relationship went so much deeper and had such a mutual understanding in free love in the time they lived in. Only calling it a "cover up" would be selling it too short 🙂
    I love her so much! thanks for making this wonderful video <3

  20. Okay so I just discovered your channel and OH MY GOODNESS my gay little heart, I adore you and your content so much, absolute icon omg ✨💖✨ Officially my new favorite Youtuber

  21. Marlene was great ^^ and the "ch" in Dietrich is more like in the english "which", but not exactly the same xD I don't know how to explain that. Greetings from germany! xD

  22. I´m german and I really love Marlene Dietrich. Here is an article where Marlene was asked how lesbian love is. Now it is really proved that she was bisexual.😊
    https://www.welt.de/kultur/kino/article107263271/Marlene-wie-ist-das-mit-der-lesbischen-Liebe.html

  23. The way you insert "LOOK AT MY WIFE, SHE IS THE BEST AND MOST WONDERFUL" into your videos always delights me and warms the cockles of my weary heart 😛
    <3<3<3

  24. There's no evidence of the Dietrich-Garbo affair, as much as we'd all like to believe it. Garbo acted heartbroken for most of her life but it was very likely due to a mixture of manic-depression, the death of a fellow Swede when she was making silents at MGM and homesickness. I know you're doing it lightheartedly but it's not really fair to do so in an introduction to either woman and really undermines a proper understanding of Greta's life, especially for people who might be able to relate to her mental condition (she definitely makes me feel less alone). Louise Brooks alleged that Garbo seduced her in her autobiography, which is worth talking about.

  25. This skips the best thing about dietrich which is that she came up to her boyfriend at the time and said "what if i seduce hitler and straight up murder him in bed". I mean not the best plan ever bit you gotta admire the intent

  26. I would love to see a video about Katherine Hepburn. In Scottie Bower's book, Full Service, he talks about some of Kate's lady loving preferences and her personal style. She wore pants! You know what that means in those days…she was a LESBIAN! (Gasp)

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