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Ten years after Marlene Dietrich’s death, Berlin – the city of Dietrich’s birth which she shunned for most of her life – declared her an honorary citizen. On April 18, 2002, the city’s legislature bestowed honor on her as “an ambassador for a democratic, freedom-loving and humane Germany.” The declaration hoped this “would symbolize the city of Berlin’s reconciliation with her.”
Marlene Dietrich spent her last decade in her apartment on the avenue Montaigne in Paris, during which time she was not seen in public but was a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller. In 1984, Academy Award winning actor Maximilian Schell persuaded her to be interviewed for a documentary, but she did not appear on screen.
I’m worth more dead than alive.
Don’t cry for me after I’m gone.
Cry for me now.
In her later years, the glamorous star became an expert at preserving and promoting her legendary image with the help of body-sculpting undergarments, non-surgical temporary facelifts, expert makeup and wigs, and careful stage lighting.
Marlene Dietrich was fluent in German, English, and French. Dietrich, who was bisexual, quietly enjoyed the thriving gay scene of the time and drag balls of 1920s Berlin.
She also defied conventional gender roles through her boxing at Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir’s boxing studio in Berlin, which opened to women in the late 1920s. As Austrian writer Hedwig (Vicki) Baum recalls in her memoir, “I don’t know how the feminine element sneaked into those masculine realms [the boxing studio], but in any case, only three or four of us were tough enough to go through with it (Marlene Dietrich was one).”