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Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 18:26 GMT
Germany honours Dietrich
 Ute Lemper
Actress Ute Lemper at Dietrich's grave
Germany has marked the 100th anniversary of Marlene Dietrich's birth with a tribute from the country's president.

Wreaths from Joannes Rau and the Berlin city authority were laid in a ceremony at Dietrich's grave at Freidenau cemetery in the German capital.

The Berlin mayor's chief of staff, Andre Schmitz, asked forgiveness for the hostile reception Dietrich received when she returned to the city in 1960, reflecting her support for the Allies in World War II.

"Dietrich was far ahead of many of her contemporaries," he said.

She had left Germany for the US in 1930, and performed for Allied troops during the war, calling Hitler "an idiot".

When she returned to Berlin 30 years later, pickets demanded she "go home" and she was dubbed a traitor.

Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola
Dietrich in The Blue Angel
Preisdent Rau sent a statement stressing her commitment to "democracy and freedom" during the Nazi era, while Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said she was "Germany's first international star".

Simple grave

Dietrich died in Paris at the age of 90 on 6 May 1992, having chosen Berlin as her final resting place.

Her body was brought back, and was buried beside her mother in a simple grave that bears only her Christian name.

She found fame in 1929, in Germany's first talking film, Josef von Sternberg's Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel).

Dietrich, playing the unfaithful singer Lola Lola, exuded sexual decadence and personified the ambiguities of the pre-Nazi, Weimar Germany.

On the day of The Blue Angel's première, she left Germany to seek her fortune in the US.

She became a worldwide star in the film Morocco, in which her character gave up everything to follow a foreign legionnaire played by Gary Cooper.

Dietrich's decade
Morocco (1930)
Dishonored (1931)
Shanghai Express (1932)
Blonde Venus (1932)
The Song of Songs (1933)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
The Devil is a Woman (1935)
Desire (1936)
Destry Rides Again (1939)
The Seven Sinners (1940)

The film also saw her kissing a woman in what has since been seen as the first lesbian gesture in commercial film.

The Nazi regime in Germany was trying to lure her back - but Dietrich declined, becoming a US citizen in 1937.

War efforts

America, France and Israel later awarded her medals for her efforts during the war.

She made her last stage appearance in 1974, and her last film was 1979's Just a Gigolo.

Her autobiography Nehmt Nur Mein Leben (Only Take My Life) was published in 1979, and a biographical film called Marlene by Maximilian Schell was made in 1983.

Marlene Dietrich
Venus in furs: Dietrich strikes a pose in 1972
Her former secretary, Norma Bosquet, told Reuters news agency on Thursday she believed Dietrich may have taken her own life with an overdose of sleeping pills because she did not want to leave her Paris flat for a clinic after suffering a stroke.

"I just can't belive someone who was so intelligent and lucid as she was at the time would accept to be taken out to the clinic knowing it was the end for her," she said.

The BBC's Rebecca Jones
"She rose to fame in Germany's first talking film"
See also:

08 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Dietrich back on big screen
17 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Dietrich 'in FBI spying offer'
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