A Diva's War: Marlene Dietrich's glamorous female soldier

Lecture given on a conference at Goetheburg University on Female Authorship and Modernity


Diva or Star

            To speak about a Hollywood glamour star in the context of a conference on authorship and contemporary theory may at first seem odd. Afterall, we don't necessarily think of stars as authors, rather they are themselves authored – by the film studio, by the director and the camera man, by the script writer etc. They usually do not write the scripts they perform and only rarely direct themselves. At the same time, if we think of Barthes' claim that not the person writing a text should be foregrounded in our reading, but the way the text produces its own readability, we may begin to think about stardom as a form of modern authorship. I decided to take Marlene Dietrich as my case study in part because she features prominently in a chapter in the book on Hollywood and war I am currently writing, namely the one on frontline entertainment. While researching this I came to realize that it was precisely in her role as 'soldier in the Allied army' between 1944-45 that she both wrote her own script and directed herself in a grand cinematic performance she later claimed was the only useful thing she ever did. At the same time, her case also raises an issue I was thinking through in a book I wrote on divas. I was interested in those public persona who both support and supercede the star system, which after all is an economic enterprise, designed to sell films (as well as all the other merchandising manufactured in relation to particular films). The diva, thus my claim, embodies an accident in this star system because even while she embodies a highly constructed and self-consciously designed image, onto which diverse fantasies can be projected - be they personal or public - she also gives a real substance to this image. She is more than the image, bringing a charisma to it that elevates her to the status of classic tragedy heroine or religious martyr, precisely because she takes her celebrity to the limit. The divas I was concerned with in my book not only came from the margins of society but also move beyond the public world in which they have gained fame, are divine because they seem to have not ground beneath their feet.

            And it was precisely because she is so very much grounded in reality that Dietrich didn't make the cut. Indeed I used her as a glamour star to work out by contrast why the fragile vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe, whose life was indeed so tragically intertwined with an image that she always sought to shed, was the epitome of divadome. The diva, my claim, is equivalent to her role. She gives it her body, her spirit, her energy, her vitality. Which also means she can only live in and as the star body she has become. This visceral intensity distinguishes her from the ordinary marketable star because she becomes incalculable - thus my notion of her functioning as an 'accident' in the star system of ideologically informed merchandising. The diva is an author of her image in so far as she takes the norm to an extreme degree, not only adjusting herself to the prescribed image produced by a film studio, a theater or opera company, but also a political party. Rather she uses the pre-designed role to make it into something unique, radically insisting on a performance that conflates the imaginary with the real. It is in her work for USO - the American organization for troop entertainment - that Dietrich fits my description of the diva, writing for herself a part that transcends the role of the glamour star she had become known for in the 30s, even while using precisely this image to unequivocally supporting a particular political ideology, in her case the defeat of Nazi Germany. Her opposition to Hitler was from the beginning a very personal issue for her. So the question of authorship I want to explore is one in which a personal ethics writes itself into an economic and political product to bring forth the resilience of a unique voice in its double sense. The timbre of Dietrich's voice even more than her gaze has come to stand for what it means to assume the responsibility of political agency. Her voice also came to function as a nemesis not just to the Germans that it had indeed been possible to resist fascism, but for my argument even more importantly to the world that the horror of war should not be forgotten.

            To make clear the affective effect of her unique voice, and with it the self-image she designed to sustain a political narrative, it is, however, necessary to start at the beginning of her film career. Time does not permit me to go into her relationship with Joseph von Sternberg in great depth. Let me simply remind you that after discovering her for The Blue Angel, he completely transformed her into the perfect creature of his cinematic fantasy. He liked to call himself her Svengali, claiming that "Dietrich is me, and she knows it." This prompted a first generation of feminist film critics of whom Laura Mulvey is the most prominent, to speak about a sadistic relation between them. Morocco, the first film she made in Hollywood, came to stand for the way women in the classic studio system were reduced to objects of the gaze of men, notably the director and his stand in, the male star. The glamour star 'Dietrich' was discussed primarily as the paradigmatic example for the way the female star is the bearer of a look, passive in her assumption of a role designed for her; a fetishistic object produced for the visual pleasure of others. Mulvey has, as you also know, not only been challenged but has herself rethought her claim, offering a degree of agency to the female star.

            In my discussion today I am less interested in what degree of self-expression can be found in Dietrich's performance, given both her charisma and the irony, with which she plays with the gazes of her audience, rendering them to a degree the passive admirers of her erotic play. Nor do I want to tarry with how von Sternberg may well himself quite self-consciously have sought to prompt a discussion of the female star as the bearer of a masculine look. Rather, given that I am preposterously (as Mieke Bal would say) thinking through Dietrich's work for USO in relation to her cinematic beginning I want simply to focus on the final moment in Morocco.

What we see is Dietrich exiting the film screen in more than one sense. In this final sequence, in which Amy Jolly relinquishes her rich lover in favor of the legionnaire Tom Brown, von Sternberg initially frames her architecturally as though to point to the way the camera frames her within the cinematic image. Then, as we see her take leave from Adolph Menjou and walk through the city gate into the open desert von Sternberg focuses on her legs, the shows she leaves behind her. She helps one of the women lead her goat, blending into the anonymous group of female camp followers, as she disappears behind the horizon of the desert. On the diegetic level she is shown to leave the glamorous life of the Moroccan nightclub. But on the extra-diegetic level one must note a more complex discrepancy. She is shown to relinquish precisely the glamour role that the film is meant to establish for her in Hollywood. Or put another way, Marlene Dietrich as von Sternberg's cinematic fantasy creature emerges in the public eye as split between an embodied glamour image and a resilient woman, willing to leave this behind and become anonymous, unseen and unheard, if she finds herself compelled to make this choice. Only in retrospect of course, does a third uncanny reading emerge. A bit more than a decade later she would make precisely this choice, sell some of her belongings to provide her family with enough money while she was gone, and join the Allied Forces in Europe, not, however, as an anonymous camp follower but rather as the glamorous Marlene Dietrich, quite literally bringing a touch of home to the boys abroad.

             I am tempted to say that in her highly idiosyncratic war effort Dietrich, quite self-consciously, chose to turn the theater of war into her theater, re-enacting certain aspects of her film roles in the real. Her star image was the material of an authorship, which produced an embodied narrative with a clear ideological aim, namely the arrest Nazi power in Europe. It is, therefore, important to remember that she not only worked for the Hollywood Canteen, which Bette Davis and John Garfield had opened up in Los Angeles, to entertain troops either being shipped oversees or returning from battle. While she was waiting for clearance with the war department, she was also energetically active in bond drives as well as camp shows in the U.S.A. And, in one of the last films she made before actually going abroad herself called Pittsburg, she makes a patriotic final speech about how in war personal feuds must be cast aside in favor of a common effort. I want to show you this brief scene from an otherwise minor film by Lewis Seiler, because it heralds precisely the Dietrich 'voice' her USO war effort was to thrive on. It also thrives off precisely the split between personal engagement and cinematic role (or natural and symbolic body if you like), which I am suggesting is the mark of her self-authorship. This is the pathos gesture - as you will see further on - which she will take on tour throughout her personal campaign against Nazi Germany, picking up on von Sternberg's design of the glamorous fantasy creature and moving beyond it by gesturing to a world beyond the one unfolding on screen; a world really at war. 

            As you can readily see, we have left the world of Pittsburg and are hearing Dietrich's energetic voice at a bond drive. It is the beginning of the compelling example for feminine self-authorship, aimed at supporting a war to end all wars and resiliently reminding the world of its horror, which she was to sustain for the rest of her life: the role of the simple soldier she designed and directed for herself in a cinematic narrative in the real that came to include all the troops, friends and enemies alike, turning the geography of the front lines into her privileged movie set.


Anecdotes as critical material

            Let us remember that the makeshift stages of USO camp shows oversees were sustained by an uncanny authenticity effect. Fully cognizant of the transience of the illusion, the entertainers transformed what was unequivocally out of the ordinary - a war zone in a foreign place - into a familiar site: Almost like they were at home and yet a mere reflection of home, erected against the shared knowledge that the brief interval was nothing other than a respite from battle. In this liminal site, the tangible contact with stars, emissaries from home, effected entertainment in its purest form. Because the audience responded with an intensity that dissolved the parameters of an ordinary stage show, what was enacted was more than just a perfectly choreographed dialog between those on stage and off. Beyond all shared patriotic narratives the collective passion that connected the performers and the troops was the sense of a need for entertainment in the face of an immanent danger no one could screen out. My point is that no star was as resiliently concentrated on the attention she gave to the troops, crowding around her stage, addicted to their gratitude even while satisfying their desire for her real life presence, than Marlene Dietrich.

            A Captain in the American Army, she spent more time entertaining troops oversees than any other entertainer, ending up with three stripes on her uniform to indicate that she had been on the front lines for over ten months. Daughter of a Prussian Army officer, she had immigrated to the United States and out of her passionate hatred of Hitler become an American citizen in 1939. More than any other American entertainer, her dedication to the war effort was deeply personal, especially risky and, as I have already indicated, above all something she would recall throughout her post-war career. She was also recruited in 1944 by the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) so that her voice, familiar to German troops, might be used as a weapon to undermine their morale. For the Soldatensender-West, masquerading as a German radio station, Dietrich recorded popular American songs in German, boosting the American way of life. Most famous, however, was her version of the marching song "Lili Marlene," which she would be associated with for the rest of her life. A soul-wrenching tune about a lonely soldier, pining for his girl at home whom he fears he has lost, the song was ultimately forbidden by Goebbels, because it made German soldiers feel melancholic and lose faith in the war. For her participation in these 'black propaganda' programs, undertaking musical warfare to move the enemy to surrender, Hitler had the actress, who had staunchly refused to return to Germany and make films for the Third Reich, placed on his infamous death list.

            From April 1944 to July 1945 she was at all the locations in the European theater of war, doing front line entertainment for the USO until, attached to Patton's Third Army, she was able to be part of the first US troops to occupy Germany at Aachen. As David Riva admits, the motivation behind making his film Marlene. In her Own Song, was to unravel what he had discovered to be the key to understanding his grandmother's passion as a performer. To the end of her career, Dietrich not only maintained that her front-line entertainment was her defining musical moment. She would also not let others forget this war. His film, therefore, begins with her introduction to "Lili Marlene" during one of her late concerts, at the New London Theater in 1973. A song close to my heart, she says, which she sang during the war. That she has changed the length of her tour to three long years indicates the mythic status that her war effort took on in the narratives she wrote about herself - her own autobiographies but also the interviews she gave to explain herself. But what this introduction also indicates is how the route of her singing is also the route the Allied campaign took. One can thus surmise: This melancholy marching song is, indeed, her signature song because in the legend this media savvy celebrity forged for herself, her singing and what she came to call 'her war,' are irrevocably spliced together. Her capacity to move her audience was tied to her moving with the U.S. invading forces through Europe, much as Amy Joli had done in Sternberg's narrative. But her movement also entails a transformation of the front line into a very particular stage for affectively moving her audience. Indeed, it is worth noting that in contrast to another famous USO veteran, Bob Hope, Dietrich would leave behind the film crew and reporters, so that little film footage of her camp shows exists. The documents we have are primarily photographs, often taken by the GIs themselves.

            For the boys she came out to entertain, she was more than a star turned into a real flesh and blood person. In part she was there simply to guarantee with her bodily presence the goal she was after in embarking on America's musical warfare, namely to bring a war she found atrocious yet also just to an end as soon as possible. In one of the few newsreels that has been preserved of her camp tours, she walks onto the makeshift wooden stage, recently recovered from pneumonia and thus unable to sing.

What I am interested is the way the manner in which she reads her script transforms her message into a poignant speech act, resonant of the tone of her final speech in Pittsburg. What she is after is assuring her enrapt audience that they can all look forward to a speedy victory." The final words she utters, "Goodbye, good luck, Godspeed," looking up at this point from her script, bespeak a compelling humility. Well over forty when she joined the USO, she offers with maternal gentleness her familiar voice as an apotropaic gift to shield, encourage, but also move the young men and women sitting in front of her into action. At the same time, her idiosyncratic equation of military and musical entertainment meant not only bringing glamour to rugged makeshift camp stages. Rather she broke down the boundaries between stage and audience completely when she insisted on going as far out as possible to the front line with her entertainment, indeed staying with the troops, so as to be with them as they advanced. Taking the USO mandate of real live entertainment to an extreme, she opposed the organized entertainment that flew Hollywood stars in and out of camps, with a press team in tandem. Instead, she wanted to be a soldier like them. As 'Buck' Dawson, one of the veterans interviewed by David Riva, remembers fondly, "she just stayed with us and stayed so, eventually, she became an integral part of our fabric, part of the whole war. We all felt very strongly about her being one of the group."

            Upon arriving in Africa, she very quickly exchanged her USO outfit for an array of army, air force and paratrooper uniforms, ultimately even replacing the mandatory USO arm patch with one of the 82nd Airborne, her favorite division. Let us look at a series of photographs that document Dietrich's glamorous interpretation of the role of simple soldier she had chosen for herself:

Initially we still see her in her USO outfit, then a jeep that bears her name, already clearly part of the troops, no longer just on stage. There are photographs of her hanging out with the generals, as though she were part of the strategy team. But we sense this is also a personal romance, especially in the one with Gen. Gavin, who had been the youngest commanding officer at the Battle of the Bulge and personally responsible for getting her out of the front lines that suddenly, and so unexpectedly, flared up in the Ardennes Forest. More iconic are images of her actual camp shows, indicating makeshift dressing rooms and stages. On one of these photographs she wrote "Two trucks and some boards - best stage ever. Even a dressing room!" One small woman commanding the attention of thousands of troops. And there is one particularly poignant photograph of her sitting on a bunk bed. On her left foot, firmly placed on the bare wooden ground, she is wearing a combat boot, while with both hands she is clasping her right leg, in the process of putting on a high healed shoe. In so doing, she self-consciously reveals her perfectly shaped foot and calves, endowing a simple war moment with screen magic. In contrast to the charm of her presence at the Hollywood Canteen, however, Dietrich's glamour at the front lines was a mobile force, moving with her to transform every site she visited into her own personal heterotopia. While some of the photographs I have already shown document her friendship with the celebrated generals of the European invasion, it is above all the ones showing her roughing it with 'her boys,' which have entered our collective image repertoire of WWII. We not only see her standing on a makeshift stage in a silver lamé dress or sitting with her musical saw between her elegantly exposed legs. We also see her poised on a jeep which bears her name, in front of her tent, using her upturned GI Joe helmet as her wash basin, with a shovel in her hand digging her own foxhole, behind a machine gun or on top of a tank surrounded by GIs. We see her signing the cast of an injured soldier, simply spending time with them, then moving with them into Germany, and - again most poignantly - placing herself in a queue of people she subtitled "Displaced Persons," writing herself into their script, or discovering there a narrative for her own life. The cover of the LP she brought out after the war with the songs she had recorded in German for OSS commemorates her role of simple soldier. And then there is the quintessential Dietrich war photograph is one made by a G.I. in Berlin at the end of the war. Wearing her Eisenhower battle jacket, with badges, pins and campaign ribbons she has collected along the same route that she was singing "Lili Marlene," she is beaming lovingly at the boy behind the camera.

            Indeed, aware that her most effective weapon in fighting the Nazi regime was her presence on the front lines, undertaking more than mere entertainment, Dietrich thought of herself first and foremost as a soldier in her own right. If one of the purposes of war is to produce a magical spectacle, capturing soldiers by enticement, Dietrich knew how to put this military art to use in a very particular way. Utterly approachable, she came to share her aura as a star with the GIs, and, in so doing, turned the horror of war at the frontlines into a personal movie set she was asking them to be part of. One might say, as the director of this personal military spectacle, she chose them as her beloved chorus line. The poignancy of her entertainment, bleeding into the fabric of war's reality, is that in her role as simple solder, Dietrich made the soldiers she came in touch with part of her glamour narrative. Let's look at a part of the montage sequence in David Riva's film that pieces together images and witness reports about her front line entertainment. By touching the GIs – literally and affectively – she found a way to blend into the war zone as though she were one of the guys, even though, or precisely because they all knew she wasn't. And if Marlene had a way of captivating all the guys by spending all that time with the troops, on what was both a common and a very uncommon basis, the captivation was, of course, a mutual exchange. If she was their glamour dream come true, they allowed her to fulfill her hope for a rapid victory against the Nazi regime.


Nemesis Dietrich

            As you just heard, to the end of her life she would speak of her army days with an ambivalent reverence, recalling in an interview with Swedish television in 1971, "it was a hard time, it wasn't easy, but it was wonderful." Dietrich's interpretation of the allied soldier was not only her favorite role as well as her most emotionally effective performance. Rather, her bitter hatred of the Third Reich along with her staunch loyalty to the GIs would remain with her all her life. As Maria Riva, who had herself worked for USO in Europe, recalls, "My mother had never quite gotten over what she had seen in the war, and I don't think anyone who was in the war, or in any war, ever gets over it…Wherever you go and whatever happens in your life, you sort of relate to that. And for her, this was extremely important." Annoyed with an American peace-time culture willing once again to turn war veterans into forgotten men, Dietrich resiliently cast herself in the role of a veteran celebrity, who insisted on remembering them. Her daughter describes the tremendous mutual devotion between Dietrich and the ex-GIs she continued to call 'my boys' during her concerts in Las Vegas. It was a love affair sustained well after the war was over "between thousands and thousands of young American boys and one woman who wanted to do it." By singing again the songs she had sung for them in the war, she reminded them that she had wanted to be a soldier with them, and in so doing reenacted their bond.

            Yet the nostalgia this final version of her own personal take on the military spectacle invoked was also mixed with critique. She continued singing her WWII songs to be remembered in relation to her work for USO but also because she wanted to remind people of all that had come to be lost and destroyed by war. Her rendition of "Where have all the flowers gone" came to reflect her anger and frustration at the thought that the second world war, too, may not have been fought to end all wars. Burt Bacharach, who wrote the orchestration for her, remembers that she liked the pizzicato he wrote for he violins, encouraging him "Yes, make them more like gunshots." As she would insist in her interviews after the war, her musical warfare was undertaken because she found war ridiculous, not least of all because it keeps repeating itself. Recollecting on stage her role as front line entertainer was a ploy to use the memory of the devastation of the past war to prevent future wars. At the same time, by continuing to sing those songs which had been a soundtrack to the Allied invasion, she insisted that her audience stay in tune with the unfinished business of WWII. Taking her show on tour to Europe and Israel, her Lily Marlene – in its uncanny composite of a German Nazi song, used first as black anti-Nazi radio propaganda and then as the voice of Allied victory – continued to haunt the stages of the world as a real live reminder of the remains of war in peacetime.

            In the postwar years we thus find another take on the curious splice between personality and star image, which I am reading as a mark of her self-authorship. While it is true that she made very few films in the 50s and 60s, not least of all because the new post-war taste in female stars did not correspond to her type, her two most important parts are in films that cast not only cast her as a German in post-war Germany, but equally explicitly pit her role against her public persona. Precisely because she continued to sing her war songs, reminding people of the horror of war,  even while also insisting on the idea of a just war, Billy Wilder cast her as a night club singer in A Foreign Affair in 1948. Her Erika is a ruthless survivor, who used to be the lover of an important Nazi officer, but is now illegally consorting with American soldiers. Dietrich was particularly furious at Wilder for including a sequence, in which a film is shown that documents her former alliance with the Nazi Party. Compelling for him, one can only surmise, was the discrepancy that the audience would immediately have recognized between the actual war-time Marlene Dietrich they all knew from newsreels and radio broadcasts, and the fabricated documentary film, imagining what a different Dietrich, who had had no moral compunctions to stay in Germany would have looked like. But the scene  I have chosen to show you is her final song number, because its rhetorical gesture supports Dietrich's insistence on not forgetting the war. It is precisely when Erika reached the line her song that claim that phantoms of the past won't return, that her former lover enters the nightclub.

            The phantoms of the past do return, especially when Dietrich sings her former war songs on international concert stages. It is in contrast to this image, as known to the audience of A Foreign Affair as the newsreels appealing to them to support that war effort, that her performance of what she never was, namely a Nazi, draws its affective power. In Wilder's bitter comedy the singer Erika is juxtaposed next to G.I.s pulling guns, showing the two sides of a postwar reality - an insistence on retribution for past crimes and a desire for forgetting, in the diverse languages of the parties involved. In Stanley Kramer's Judgment in Nuremberg we find an even more sinister enactment of the struggle between a desire to forget the war and the moral necessity to remember Nazi crimes against humanity. Marlene Dietrich accepted the role of the widow Mrs. Bertholt, whose husband has already been tried and executed by the American military government. In the film, which pits the prosecution's commitment to disclosing the enmeshment between justice and war during the Third Reich against a military and political interest group seeking to forge a shared political future with its former foes. Her conversations with Spencer Tracy's Judge Haywood are meant to convince him that not all Germans were monsters, insisting (in what by the early 60s had become a cultural cliché) that most civilians were ignorant of the atrocities committed by their leaders.

In one scene we see her singing 'Lili Marlene,' as part of her effort to diffuse the horrific evidence brought forth by the prosecution by suggesting that a clear line of demarcation can be drawn between the common German people and all former political ideology. To do so, she gives an interpretative translation of the original German lyrics. Yet the sympathy she seeks to invoke for the survivors stands in poignant contrast to the motivation behind Dietrich's singing of this song after the war, as you have already seen, as well as her life-long insistence on referencing her opposition to Nazi Germany in the interviews she gave after the war.

Again we can only surmise that Kramer's choice of actress is ironic, banking on the difference between the public knowledge of his star's passionate involvement in American troop entertainment and the role he asked her to perform, seeking to make the Judge see other Germans primarily as fellow human beings, who have suffered personal deprivations. Indeed, the close-up of face tells a different story, because at this moment we see not a fictional Nazi officer's widow, but Marlene Dietrich. The appeal for compassion she is making on the diegetic level of the film is contrasted with the contradictory political engagement she had become famous for by the time Judgment at Nuremburg was released in 1961. Self-consciously casting herself as the eye-witness who could testify that Germans very definitely had a choice in supporting (or opposing) Hitler, Marlene Dietrich unequivocally shares Kramer's conviction that to avert one's gaze from the past does not put an end to its haunting.

 That Dietrich very definitely wanted to be part of the phantoms of the past that insist on returning, was not, however, restricted to her performance of the American Lili Marlene on stage, recalling the Allied campaign along with her own war effort. Rather, one year after Judgment at Nuremberg a documentary on the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler, directed by Louis Clyde Stoumen was released. As Maria Riva notes in the biography of her mother, Marlene Dietrich accepted the role of narrator so as to give her idiosyncratic voice - again in more than one sense to the script. Black Fox, which uses Goethe's parable "Reinecke Fox" as the template for Hitler's rise to power, and interweaves images by Gustav Doré with newsreel material, won the academy award for best documentary feature in 1962. If we look at the beginning, it is billed as a story "told by Marlene Dietrich." I want to show you two scenes from this film. The first, the opening sequence, not only but uses Dietrich's war to explicitly counter the myth that Germans were terrorized into passive submission. If the film begins with an insistence that Germans are collectively responsible for Nazi atrocities precisely because they were everything but passive and unknowing players, the end of the film takes the question of responsibility to a different level. The final sequence end with the same location as Judgment in Nuremberg. Yet spoken in her voice, the charges against the war criminals take on an idiosyncratic note. She endows the films indictment with the authority of her own engagement during the war, which is precisely where I would locate her authorship in this project. In this particular case we have only her disembodied voice, and as such the most radical of her self-performances. We no longer have any tension between pre-designed gestures and the self-designed scripts. The appropriation of her image for the pleasure of another's gaze is not even an issue. Instead, we are compelled to listen, as the her voice interprets the images for us. She insists on the real referent beyond the images, insists that one not only can not forget, but that one must not avert ones gaze. One must revisit the images of past violence.

            Throughout her life she insisted that her work as an entertainer during WWII was the only important thing she had ever done. In recognition not just for service rendered but also for bravery shown at the front lines, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the American government and the French Officier de la Legion d'Honneur. If one of the few newsreels of her USO camp shows captures her wishing Godspeed to the men and women of the 5th Army, one of the few documentary films of her concerts after the war shows her taking farewell from her audience at the end of her last performance in Paris. With a voice that hardly rises above a whisper, she confesses, hesitating slightly as she utters each of her words, that she needs to tell them why parting from them makes her cry: "I admired your courage during the war." Her final words, "and I love you, good-bye" are accompanied not with a beaming maternal gaze, promising a speedy victory, but with a sober tenacity, mournful but never sentimental, commemorating mutual gratitude. In Marlene Dietrich's ABC we find under the entry 'war' the note, "If you haven't been in it, don't talk about it."[1] If you have, however, been in the war and returned, this experience may be the only thing you need to talk about, even if you do so by singing or by narrating. In Marlene Dietrich's case it is also an example for resilient self-authorship in the face of political catastrophe.

[1] See Marlene Dietrich, Marlene Dietrich's ABC, New York: Doubleday 1961, p. 151.