Marlene Dietrich's personal items - including letters from Ernest Hemingway and one of her famous tuxedos - will be auctioned in just a few hours, sharing with the world for the first time the woman behind the enduring screen image. Openly bisexual and famously promiscuous - she had relationships with stars including John F Kennedy and John Wayne - Dietrich was one of the most controversial women of the early 20th century. But to her grandchildren, who have supplied the 250-plus lots for the sale, she was much more than that.
"Marlene, or Mass as we called her, was a force to be reckoned with," Dietrich's grandson David J Riva told us. "From my earliest memory of her until the last, she was nothing if not stalwart, tough and brilliant. Her romances were legendary, but the romances were more a fantasy for the immediate situation. To her family, she was the unyielding matriarch who felt that her sole duty was to earn money to support her mother, her sister and eventually all of us."
Struck by "how relevant she is today", Riva and his siblings were persuaded that her importance - not just to film but to fashion, too - was great enough to warrant the sale of her things. And, although difficult, Riva feels the decision to open up the treasure trove of her memorabilia to her fans was ultimately the correct one.
"To be honest, I hate to part with most of these things, but a friend recently reminded me that Marlene has so many new and old fans that it was pretty stupid to let some of these iconic items just sit in safety deposit boxes or even worse, in storage," Riva explained. "I have never felt that displaying these things was right, as her grandson it felt a little - if not a lot - pretentious. So, in fact, I wasn't enjoying them either. The best solution was to let them go to good homes where they can really be appreciated and not just gather dust.
Text by Lauren Milligan from vogue.com
Starting on March 19th 2014, items from this historical and cinematic icon will be open for bidding at auctionmystuff.com. Coinciding with the launch of this new online auction platform, the sale will include 250+ lots sold by three grandchildren of Marlene Dietrich.
Ted Lapidus Prescription Sunglasses
(L) Volupte Piano Compact. This compact dates to between 1948 and 1954. It was one of a number of novelty designs produced by Volupté and marketed as a “Collector’s Item”. (R) A Gold Cigarrette Lighter, 1950s/60s, French.
(L) A Marlene Dietrich Blue and Black Double Breasted Tuxedo. (R) Marlene Dietrich in Morocco.
"The story of how Dietrich’s iconic image was crafted... In Morocco, her first American film, Marlene Dietrich, plays the part of Amy Jolly. Throughout the film, she never wears a skirt, but hot pants. The true provocation, however, was to have Marlene Dietrich wear men’s clothes. The breaking of this taboo was inconceivable in Hollywood’s moral climate. In Morocco, Marlene Dietrich wears a black tailcoat, thus epitomizing an incalculable, artificial gender, equally attractive to both men and women. She is shown kissing a female visitor of the night- club when wearing a tuxedo, entirely laid-back and self- assured. It is hardly understandable nowadays what kind of turmoil was created then by this scene, even more so because Marlene Dietrich had always taken to appearing in men’s clothes outside the studios as well. From the very beginning of her stage career, Marlene had been known as a garçonne, a person who pursued what they desired, regardless of gender. The present tuxedo from later in her life is therefore an outstanding testimony to Marlene's provocative individuality and her take on the role of femme fatale." - Auctionmystuff Catalog.
(R) Marlene Dietrich wearing white tail and top hat at ball for foreign press, photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Berlin, Germany, 1929.
(L) 1930s. (R) Photo by Cecil Beaton, 1935.
(L) 1935. (R) 1937.
(L) 1937. (R) 1942.
(L) Photo by Edward Steichen. (R) Credit Unknown.
(L) Photo by Eugene Robert Richee, 1933. (R) Silver Screen Magazine, October, 1932.
(L) A studio still of Dietrich, 1933. (R) Marlene Dietrich in Schiaparelli, 1934.
(L) J. David Riva backstage with his grandmother Marlene Dietrich. (R) Photo by Edward Steichen, 1932.