Marlene und die Suche nach Liebe von Christopher W. Gortner
Denkt man an Marlene, fallen einem sofort Der blaue Engel ein und man hat das dazugehörige Lied im Ohr. Die Schauspielerin, die von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt war, konnte auf ein bewegtes Leben zurückgreifen. Christopher W. Gortner schildert die einzelnen Stationen in der Romanbiografie Marlene und die Suche nach Liebe.
Geboren wurde „die Dietrich“ 1901 in Berlin. Ihr leiblicher Vater verstarb früh und die Mutter war gezwungen, in den Haushalten wohlhabender Familien tätig zu sein. Sie legte Wert darauf, dass ihre beiden Töchter eine exzellente Ausbildung erhielten. Schon in der Schule war Marlene eine Einzelgängerin, die wissbegierig schien und sich vor allem an der französischen Sprache interessiert zeigte. Ihre Französischlehrerin wurde zu ihrer ersten Vertrauten. Kurz vor Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges ziehen die Dietrichs nach Dessau, wo die Mutter den Adeligen Edouard von Losch heiratet. Marlene wurde als Konzertgeigerin ausgebildet, bis eine Sehnenscheidentzündung den Traum von der Solistin platzen ließ. So wurde die Schauspielerei immer wichtiger, obwohl ihre Mutter dies unschicklich fand.
Die Kariere begann schleppend. Während der Dreharbeiten zur Komödie Tragödie der Liebe lernt Marlene ihren Ehemann Rudi Sieber kennen. Ein Jahr nach der Hochzeit kommt ihre Tochter Maria zur Welt. Die klassische Hausfrau und Mutter gehört allerdings nicht in Marlenes Repertoire. Ihre Angebote reichen bis zu den Paramount Pictures, die ihr den großen Durchbruch bescheren. Sie erhält einen Siebenjahresvertrag, der genau in die Zeit des politischen Umbruchs in ihrer Heimat fällt. Dietrich beobachtet besorgt die Entwicklung in Deutschland und nimmt eine klare Haltung gegen das NS-Regime ein. Sie legt die Staatsbürgerschaft ab und fährt sogar an die Front, um die amerikanischen Soldaten zu motivieren.
Gortner beschreibt dieses ausgefüllte Leben bildhaft und lässt damit die Legende, die 1992 in Paris starb, erneut lebendig werden. Grandiose schauspielerische Leistung ist hier mit Lebenslust und Freigeist gepaart. Zahlreiche Affären mit nicht minder prominenten Namen geben ihr das Image eines Bad-Girls. Sie trat in Herrenanzügen auf, als dies noch verpönt war. Der von ihr bevorzugte Hosenschnitt bekam dann sogar ihren Namen. Marlene lebte nicht nach den gesellschaftlichen Regeln und blieb sich ein ganzes Leben treu. Der Roman ist eine Homage an ihre glanzvolle Hollywoodzeit. Er liest sich bemerkenswert leicht und ist auf der anderen Seite so gehaltvoll. Für mich ist er ein absoluter Lesetipp, nicht nur für Kineasten.
C. W. Gortner hat mir ein paar Fragen beantwortet, wie die Idee zu diesem Buch entstand. Thematisch passte es zu einem seiner vorherigen Werke Mademoiselle Chanel. Von der Weimarer Republik und den 30-er Jahren ist er fasziniert, sodass Marlene nur eine logische Konsequenz war. Entdeckt hat er dabei eine mutige, sich über Regeln hinwegsetzende und vor allem freiheitsliebende Frau. Das vollständige Interview lest ihr in Englischer Sprache.
When did you get in contact for the first time with the diva?
I’ve been aware of Marlene Dietrich since childhood, having seen several of her films while growing up. My father used to say, “No gentleman ever wore a tuxedo like Dietrich.” But it hadn’t occurred to me to write a novel about her until I published MADEMOISELLE CHANEL. In my original manuscript, Chanel meets Marlene during Coco’s brief time in Hollywood, and though that particular scene ended up getting cut for the book’s final version, Dietrich made an impression on me – and on my editor, who suggested that I consider writing about her next. The challenge for me at first was to find the arc in her life that I could fictionalize. She lived a long, very eventful life, but novels have a limited amount of words, so I had to research her thoroughly in order to discover the beginning and end to my novel about her.
How long have you got the idea to a novel like this?
I had long-hoped to write about both 1930s Hollywood and 1930s Berlin, before the rise of the Nazis. I just hadn’t come across the right subject. The Weimar-era in Germany is one of my favourite periods of history, an explosion of artistic license and creativity forged by the destitution of WWI. 1930s Hollywood has also always fascinated me. Marlene Dietrich found fame in both worlds; she epitomized the bohemian allure and flair of Weimar Berlin, as well as the polished glamour of Hollywood. She was the perfect character through which to explore both places and their consequences. She not only thrived in them, she survived.
What surprised you the most when scrutinizing Marlene’s life?
I was most surprised by her personal ideal of freedom. Marlene refused to be defined by the era’s restrictions on women, even if Hollywood tried to box her into a particular type-casting as the femme fatale. Her open bisexuality, her open marriage, her overturning of gender expectations not only in her appearance but also in her work – no one had ever done anything like it before her. Her lasting legacy influenced important subsequent performers like David Bowie, Madonna, and Grace Jones. I also found myself deeply admiring of her efforts during WWII. We see the war now with the benefit of hindsight: we know what the Nazis did and what they intended to do if they won the war. But at the time, very few were aware of how savage Hitler’s regime would turn out to be; he gained a lot of support at the start from influential figures, including in the U.S., England, and France. Marlene, however, was never deceived or swayed by his rhetoric. She detested what the Nazi Party stood for and she defied them at every turn, even put her life at risk during the war to support Allied efforts to defeat her own country. She was branded a traitor by Germany. The Nazis put a bounty on her head. Any other movie star of her magnitude would have retreated, stayed in the U.S. to keep herself safe. Marlene did not. She threw herself into the thick of it; she went to war with her sequins and voice. She was one of the first civilians to enter Berlin after Hitler fell. She went to a recently liberated concentration camp. She saw the horrors. She refused to look away or pretend it hadn’t happened. She faced it, both as a human being and as a German. How can you not fall in love with her? She was heroic.
She was a power-lady but also fragile. In your opinion: What was the biggest lack she had / what did she miss the most?
I think she never found lasting love on her life. But I don’t know if she’d consider that a lack or something she was missing. Marlene could certainly be narcissistic and selfish. Her career always came first, before her husband and her child. She was so intent on becoming famous, she made sacrifices along the way that she might have regretted later. But my sense of her was that regret wasn’t a quality she indulged. She made choices and she lived with them, for better or worse. Perhaps her deepest fragility was that in creating an image of herself that made her world-famous, she became defined and ultimately imprisoned by it. She couldn’t break free of the very persona she had created: the Dietrich we still recognize today, with her sultry eyes, her tuxedo and cigarette. She must have found it nearly impossible to be an ordinary person with vulnerable needs. Fame became her ball and chain.
What do you think was the impulsion of her passion?
Marlene was exceptional, given where she came from and how she was raised. She was undeniably an artist, but she didn’t begin that way. She first tried to be a concert violinist because her mother pushed her to it, until she discovered her talent wasn’t good enough to attain that level. Then she used what she had: her magnetic charisma, those astonishing legs, her smoky voice, and above all else, her searing ambition to become more than what was expected of her. For many artists, passion stems from the unavoidable need to create. Painters paint because they cannot do anything else; they must paint. Writers write for the same reason. So do musicians. And actors. In Marlene’s case, acting offered an escape from the ordinary, a way out of a routine life. She found the outlet in which she could express her many facets because the camera adored her. I think Marlene could have succeeded in today’s world as many things, but in her era, she had few opportunities, so she seized the one that opened up for her. I don’t think she wanted to be an actress at first, nor that she had a particular passion for acting. I think she found the passion for it once she started acting and realized what it could give her. Marlene’s passion was to be herself. To be someone. That was what compelled her.
Was her political attitude a part of her character or was she a heroine?
I stated she was heroic previously, and I stand by it. I think her political views were an integral part of her character. Marlene never judged others unless they were cruel. She was very much “Live and let live.” The Nazis disgusted her. She came to fame in the heated arena of Berlin’s drag clubs; she had homosexual friends and associates in the theatre and in the cinema; she met and worked with Jewish professionals who believed in her. Marlene Dietrich was never a prude and she was never anti-Semitic; she didn’t believe people should be judged by their race, religion, sexuality, or the colour of their skin. She simply believed we should love one another – and she loved very freely. To some, she might come across as a hedonist, promiscuous and even amoral. But to me, she was a woman who believed in our human right to be who we are. She knew love comes in many shapes and forms, and as long as we don’t hurt others, there’s no reason to judge. Of all the characters I’ve written about, Marlene is closest to my heart because she reflects a lot of what I too believe.
Christopher W. Gortner wuchs in Südspanien auf. In Kalifornien lehrte er an der Universität Geschichte mit einem Fokus auf starke Frauen inder Historie. In Marlene Dietrich erkannt er eine so „stürmische wie unkonventionelle und mutige Frau“, dass er einfach über sie schreiben musste. Er lebt in San Francisco. Mehr Informationen zum Autor unter http://www.cwgortner.com. (Quelle: Aufbau Verlag; Foto: Homepage Autor)