Just a Gigolo (1978 film)

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Just a Gigolo
Just a gigolo (1979).jpeg
Original film poster
Directed by David Hemmings
Produced by Rolf Thiele
Written by Ennio De Concini
Joshua Sinclair
Starring David Bowie
Sydne Rome
Kim Novak
Maria Schell
Curd Jürgens
Marlene Dietrich
Music by John Altman
Günther Fischer
Cinematography Charly Steinberger
Edited by Susi Jäger
Distributed by United Artists Classics
Release dates
  • 16 November 1978 (1978-11-16) (Germany)
  • 14 February 1979 (1979-02-14) (UK)
  • 1 May 1981 (1981-05-01) (US)
Running time
Germany 147 mins
UK 105 mins
USA98 mins
Country West Germany
Language English, German

Just a Gigolo (Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo) is a German 1978 film directed by David Hemmings and starring David Bowie. Set in post-World War I Berlin, it also featured Sydne Rome, Kim Novak and, in her last screen appearance, Marlene Dietrich. The hostile reception the film received led Bowie to quip that it was "my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one".[1]


A Prussian officer (David Bowie) returns home to Berlin following the end of the Great War. Unable to find employment elsewhere, he works as a gigolo in a brothel run by the Baroness (Marlene Dietrich). He is eventually killed in street fighting between Nazis and Communists. Both sides claim his body but the Nazis succeed in capturing it and bury him with honours, "a hero to a cause he did not support".[2]


Around the time of its release, David Hemmings said that Just a Gigolo was intended to be "highly ironic, tongue-in-cheek, about the period".[3] Marlene Dietrich was persuaded to come out of retirement to make the film, reportedly receiving $250,000 for two days' shooting.[4]

It was Bowie's first movie role after Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). As Roeg's film had played upon Bowie's earlier identification with science fiction and alienness,[5] so Just a Gigolo fitted his then-current interest in pre-war Berlin, pricked by meeting Christopher Isherwood,[2] whose Goodbye to Berlin had inspired the musical Cabaret. The city had also been the recording location for Bowie's latest studio album, "Heroes" (1977).

The singer has variously claimed that he took the role "as a favour to Hemmings",[6] who at the time was also planning to produce a documentary of Bowie's 1978 concert tour,[7] and because "Marlene Dietrich was dangled in front of me".[2] Actually, the two stars never met. Dietrich played her brief part in Paris, where she lived, with the result simply being cut into Bowie's scenes that were shot, along with the rest of the film, in Berlin.


The soundtrack of Just a Gigolo included jazz and cabaret standards performed by various acts including Pasadena Roof Orchestra, The Manhattan Transfer and the Village People. As well as appearing on screen, Sydne Rome sang a track called "Don't Let It Be Too Long", by David Hemmings and composer Günther Fischer, while Marlene Dietrich performed the song "Just a Gigolo".

Unlike his work on The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie did contribute a piece of music to the film; his so-called "Revolutionary Song" was co-written with musical director Jack Fishman and played by a band called The Rebels. It was released in Japan as a single, which later became something of a collectors item.[8]

Release and aftermath[edit]

The film opened in Berlin on 16 November 1978. It received poor reviews and was pulled from cinemas. Hemmings recut the picture for its UK premiere in Leicester Square on 14 February 1979 where, at an ostensibly black-tie affair, Bowie and his date wore kimonos. Reviews were again negative; the Sunday Mirror called the film "all show and no substance" and considered Bowie "completely miscast", while Time Out advised its readers to simply "overlook it".[2]

In an interview with NME in September 1980, Bowie was quoted as saying:[1]

Bowie's biographers have labelled the film "an active pain",[6] "an unadulterated flop",[3] and a "debacle".[7] Its reputation among mainstream critics generally remains low, Halliwell's calling it an "international misadventure... interminable... clumsily made",[9] while Leonard Maltin describes it as a "weird melodrama".[10] Allmovie's Hal Erickson has nevertheless given the film a 3-star rating.[11]

Just a Gigolo was released to DVD in 2004.


  1. ^ a b Angus MacKinnon (1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME (13 September 1980): pp.32–37
  2. ^ a b c d Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.539–540
  3. ^ a b Christopher Sandford (1996, 1997). Loving the Alien: pp.183–185
  4. ^ Just a Gigolo at BowieGoldenYears
  5. ^ Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.78
  6. ^ a b Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Ibid: p.100
  7. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.343
  8. ^ Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: p.173
  9. ^ John Walker (2005). Halliwell's Film, Video & DVD Guide 2006: p.591
  10. ^ Leonard Maltin (2006). Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide: p.697
  11. ^ Just a Gigolo at Allmovie

This story appears in the interview Joshua Sinclair gave Charlotte Chandler that appears in her new book, MARLENE, from page 228 to 258. Since this is a verbatim copy of the interview, the rights to the event and the content of this interview belong to Joshua Sinclair.


IN 1977, WHEN MARLENE was seventy-six, she agreed to play a small but extremely significant part in a major West German film, Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo, known as Just a Gigolo in English. The film, financed in part by the Berlin Senate, was to have an international cast, which included Curd Jürgens, Kim Novak, and Maria Schell. The part that Marlene ultimately played was originally intended for Trevor Howard and was to be shot in Berlin. Casting Marlene in what was originally planned to be a man’s part after she had been away from the screen for so many years was screenwriter Joshua Sinclair’s idea. I talked with him in Beverly Hills in 2010. Sinclair, who lives in Vienna, was passing through Los Angeles for a few days, and he told me the plot. Just a Gigolo (1978) Berlin of the 1920s. The map of post–World War I brings with it the realization that the fabled military might of Prussian Germany has been crushed for the first time in its history. This is an era of change, a time of upheaval, when the runaway inflation and poverty of the Weimar Republic are sowing the seeds of national socialism.

Paul Padodski (David Bowie) is a young Prussian aristocrat whose upbringing has led him to expect heroism, but instead he finds deceit when he returns to a Berlin that is vanquished in body and spirit. Paul is a lost soul in a city that has lost its soul. 

Having no skills other than those of commanding a military regiment, Paul drifts from job to job, failing in each and every relationship that comes his way, until he meets the Baroness von Semering (Marlene Dietrich). He discovers that there is one “military regimen” at which he can excel—as a gigolo at the Eden Bar. He hires himself out as a dancer to war widows who love to drown their sadness in champagne and rented companionship. When this depraved drudgery leads him to contemplate suicide, Paul is accidentally killed in street fighting between Nazis and communists. Having had no political affiliations whatsoever, his death is as meaningless as his life has become, yet in death Paul unwittingly finds the heroism he had sought.

“If you’re going to make motion pictures like it’s a nine-to-five job,” Sinclair told me, “if you’re not going to think to do the impossible or dare to do the impossible, then I think you might as well do something else for a living. For me, being involved in films was a venture into the impossible.” An American, Sinclair had been a doctor specializing in tropical diseases who also had a doctorate in comparative theology so he could, he hoped, follow in the footsteps of Albert Schweitzer. Then he found out he couldn’t function in the heat of India, and he decided he didn’t want to be a missionary, “but I had to have a mission, so I went back to what I’d always done, writing.” Born into a family of writers, he said he started writing and acting in movies when he was growing up in Rome. “I was in The Garden of the Finzi-Contini, and I wrote some of my own dialogue. I worked with De Sica, and that same summer I worked with Joe Losey. What I loved about motion pictures was the adventure into the unknown. I decided I would take writing motion pictures seriously. “I wrote some films while I was in college. One of them was Lili Marleen, a Fassbinder film which was successful. I had done a couple of westerns. I’ve never told this story before. “When I was studying in Rome, my father’s friend Rolf Thiele called me from Munich and said he had a script he wanted me to read and tell him what I thought. It was a script in Italian by Ennio de Concini, who had won an Academy Award for Divorce, Italian Style. Thiele was a producer in Munich who had been a noted German director. I was one of the few people he knew who could read Italian and knew something about writing. I read it. “I said, ‘It’s a good script and it’s written by Ennio de Concini, one of the greatest writers alive.’ It was the adaptation of Die Himmel Hat Viele Farben, which is the story of Lale Andersen. She was a very famous singer during the Third Reich who was in love with a Jew. I said, ‘It’s a good story, but there are some things that I might suggest.’ He flew me into Munich, and we had dinner together. “I started to tell him how I would do it and ended up changing quite a lot of the movie. I figured that was the end of it. But Rolf was going through a bad period in his life. He’d just turned seventy and wasn’t well. He’d married a woman who was only twenty-eight years old, and that’s a good way for any man of his age to die of many heart attacks quickly. So I tried to tell him that maybe the film was not such a good idea. “I became his confidant. He said, ‘How do you think we should make this movie? Who do you think should be in it?’ “I said, ‘I think the Lale Andersen character should be Diane Keaton.’ The script was sent to Diane Keaton. This was 1977, and she liked it, but the funding of the film changed. It was funded entirely out of Berlin. “I went back to the university. On the summer break, Rolf would call me every now and then on the house phones in the dorm, or write me a letter. He said, ‘Can you meet me in London to look for the director of the film?’ He thought an English director would be right. “So, I said, ‘Sure. If you pay the way, I’ll meet you in London.’ “We met in London and stayed at the Grosvenor, and he had a terrible attack of kidney stones. We checked him into a hospital and I said, ‘I’m going back.’ “He said, ‘Oh, no, you’re not. You’re producing the movie.’ “I said, ‘I wouldn’t know how to produce a movie if my life depended on it.’ “ ‘Well, first go out and look for a director.’ “I knew some people in London, and I ended up talking to David Hemmings, who was drinking beer in a pub. He liked the script. I went back to Rolf in the hospital and said David Hemmings will direct it. He said, ‘Well, now let’s get some more people on it.’ “ ‘Who?’ “ ‘I don’t know. Go out and find some actors.’ “A friend knew Richard Johnson very well, so I went to see Richard at the National. He had just turned down James Bond. I said, ‘I have a script, and I’d like to give it to you for your opinion about who should be in it.’ We didn’t know about casting directors. After he read it, he said, ‘You should give it to Kim.’ Kim Novak had been his wife. So we sent the script to Kim, and she said she would do it. “Richard said, ‘There’s a role in here, the colonel of the Eden Bar, that would be very good for Trevor Howard.’ In the movie, when the Prussian soldiers come back from World War I having lost the war, they have nothing more to live for. All these Prussian soldiers, and this really happened, turn into gigolos at the Eden Bar in Berlin. This was Berlin, the Weimar Republic, when everybody was starving in the twenties. Richard gave the script to Trevor, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to play the colonel.’ “We went back to Berlin, and for me that was the end of the movie. Rolf felt better, and I said, ‘I’m glad I could help. I’m just the writer. Maybe someday you can give me some money for all the work I’ve done, and goodbye.’ “He said, ‘You’ve got to help out on other things.’ “I was about to leave Berlin to go back to school. That evening, I talked to some people in Berlin, and I walked down the Kufürstendamm. The Wall was still up. I went past the Eden Bar and all these places, and I looked at them, and I felt just a little bit into the city. “I wondered what the city was really like back in the twenties. I had written about it, but I hadn’t really known it. I had seen a lot of photographs. But there I was, there in Berlin, and I walked the same streets that had such good and bad history. “I went by the Eden Bar, and I saw a dancer there who reminded me of Dietrich, because she had the tuxedo on. Right out of The Blue Angel. “I went back all excited with my inspiration. I said, ‘The person to play the head of the Eden Bar who runs the gigolos is Marlene Dietrich!’ She was living in Paris at the time on Avenue Montaigne. “Rolf just looked at me as if I’d just said tomorrow morning there’ll be three suns instead of one. ‘That’s impossible.’ “I said, ‘No, we’ve got to try it.’ “He said, ‘Look, you’re asking Marlene Dietrich to come out of retirement, after seventeen years, to sing in a movie after twenty-five years of not doing it, to come and work on a German production, which she swore she would never do again, in Germany, which she swore she’d never visit again. Forget it. “ ‘She has just turned down Billy Wilder. I don’t know if that registers with you. You’re a kid. She’s not going to do another movie. And she’ll never do a movie that has to do with Germany.’ “ ‘You can’t even photograph the woman. She’s disappeared from the face of the earth. She lives like a hermit on Avenue Montaigne. She’ll never get in front of a camera again. She said that, and she means it. She’s seventy-six.’ “I went up to my room, with my tail between my legs. Then I called him and said, ‘Can I try? I’ve got another two weeks before I have to be back and start classes. Can you finance me if I try to get Dietrich?’ He thought about it, and I knew he was thinking, ‘The kid’s crazy. But why not? As long as it doesn’t cost me much.’ “I called up a friend of mine who was in London. That was the only contact I had in the film business. I asked him, ‘Do you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Marlene Dietrich?’ I think he laughed, maybe, twenty minutes. “He said, ‘Are you drunk? What do you need her for?’ “ ‘I want her to do a movie.’ “It was so absurd that he said, ‘I’ll see what I can come up with.’ “He called me the next morning, in Berlin, and said, ‘Look, Eddy Marouani in Paris handles all of her music, recordings, and everything else. So, Eddy Marouani may be the one you’re looking for.’ “I called Eddy Marouani in Paris and said, ‘I would like Marlene Dietrich to be in the movie we’re doing in Berlin.’ So, Eddy, with his beautiful French accent, said, ‘Who are you?’ “ ‘I’m a guy who wrote a script called Just a Gigolo, and we have David Hemmings directing, we’ve got Kim Novak attached, and other people.’ At the time, we had Kim, we had Sydney Rome, and Curd Jürgens, who Rolf brought. “He said, ‘Can you come and visit me here? She lives in Paris.’ “Rolf said, ‘Okay, go to Paris.’ “I went to Paris, stayed at L’Hôtel, because that’s where Oscar Wilde died. I figured as long as I’m committing suicide, I might as well stay where Oscar Wilde died. “I went to see Eddy, near Champs-Elysées. He was a big record manager and publicist at the time, and he handled Marlene Dietrich. “He sort of inspected me when I walked in, to see what kind of weirdo I was. He said, ‘Do you have money for this movie?’ which is of course what everybody asks right away. “I said, ‘We have the money coming from Berlin.’ In those days, it was film fund money. “He said, ‘All I can do is ask Terry Miller, but he’s retired. Terry Miller handled her movie career. Now she hasn’t had a movie career in something like seventeen years. But you can ask him. I only handle her music.’ Terry Miller lived in Lagos, Portugal. “I went to Lisbon, then down to Lagos. Miller lived three miles down the road. I didn’t have any money for cabs or anything else. It was pouring rain, and I walked through the rain, drenched, up to Terry Miller’s house. I couldn’t call him because he didn’t have a telephone. I knocked on his door. “He opens the door and sees this kid there, drenched, with drops running down his nose, and he says, ‘What can I do for you?’ He probably thought I was a homeless person. “I said, ‘Are you Terry Miller, who manages Marlene Dietrich?’ “ ‘Yes, I managed Marlene Dietrich.’ “I said, ‘I would like her to be in my next film.’ And he laughed and laughed and laughed. I was still in the rain. He finally said, ‘Come in, kid.’ “Fortunately, he had a wife who was more compassionate. She said, ‘Look, you could spend the night here, but you have to leave tomorrow, because what you’re asking is impossible.’ “I said, ‘Fine.’ I went to bed thinking, ‘I should have listened to everybody who said this is impossible.’ “The next morning, it was a beautiful day. The beach, sea, wonderful. Everybody was happier that day. Terry, who was in his seventies, hated the film business, wanted to get as far away from it as possible after forty years in it. He said, ‘Look, kid, as long as you’ve come all this way, give me the script and I’ll send it to her, and the worst that can happen is she’ll have a laugh, and that’ll be the end of that. Or she’ll throw it away or she’ll use it for a doorstop.’ “I said, ‘There’s only one problem. I haven’t written a role for her yet in the movie. I have the movie, but there’s no role for her, because I never thought of Marlene Dietrich playing a part in it. I just had the idea. I know it’s a problem, but I haven’t written her part.’ “So he’s looking at me again a little bit like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. He said, ‘Well, you’ve come all this way in the rain. What am I gonna send her?’ “I said, ‘Look, get me paper. Do you have something to write with? A pen?’ “ ‘I have a typewriter,’ and he produced a Remington that looked like it was used by Hemingway when he was just starting out. “He put this Remington there, and I said, ‘Do you have any paper?’ “He said, ‘I’m retired. I don’t want paper.’ “ ‘Well, you must have something I could write on, because if you give me something, I’ll write her whole role now.’ I could say that, because it was in my head. “ ‘But the only thing I have is toilet paper.’ “I said, ‘Okay.’ So he gave me a roll of toilet paper. I put it on the front of the table, in the sun of Portugal, threaded the toilet paper inside this 1920 Remington, and started to type. Fortunately it was heavy, not like the soft American kind, but it was still weird. You could see it was toilet paper. “Three or four hours later, the wife, who was compassionate, kept bringing me sandwiches and lemonade, feeling very sorry for this kid who was making a fool of himself on their terrace in Portugal. “I finished it. We folded the toilet paper and put it inside the script, and Terry wrote a note to Eddy Marouani saying, ‘Pass this on to Dietrich, but transcribe.’ Terry expected Marouani in Paris to type it out and put it inside the screenplay on the pages indicated, and she would read that. “I left there and went back to the United States. The script with the toilet paper in it went to Paris. Eddy, being a practical joker, didn’t transcribe it, left the toilet paper in, and sent the script with the toilet paper inside it with the role of Dietrich on the roll of toilet paper to Dietrich herself, with a little note, ‘They sent this. I think it’s a joke, but it’s my duty to pass it on to you.’ “Dietrich got the script, written on toilet paper. Thinking the business was all toilet paper anyway, she thought it was very funny. She had a great sense of humor. She thought it was very original. Everybody else had been sending her what only looked like scripts. Now somebody was finally admitting what they were really sending. So she actually read it. “She read the script, including the stuff I typed on the toilet paper. “Eddy Marouani called me in the United States. I was at the University of Virginia then. He said, ‘There’s interest from Madame Dietrich. She would like you to call her.’ This was like a voice from an angel. Because, for me, all these people, Bette Davis, Mae West, Ingrid Bergman, the people people written about, they’re icons. They’re the people who were so important in my life as a kid growing up, watching the old movies playing on television downstairs in the basement. I used to watch Million Dollar Movie when I was, like, three. I love these movies. “In the meantime, by the way, Trevor Howard was waiting to find out if he should sign or not. Rolf Thiele kept saying, ‘We’ve got Trevor Howard. We’re gonna lose Trevor Howard just because you’re crazy enough to think Dietrich’s gonna do this movie. Let me sign the contract with him before it’s too late, because we have to start shooting in three months.’ “I said, ‘Give me more time.’ “When I got the call from Eddy Marouani saying she’s interested, he gave me the phone number, and I started calling Paris from Virginia. I said, ‘Rolf, you’re gonna have to send me some money because I need a lot of quarters here.’ “So I called Avenue Montaigne and I kept getting this lady answering the phone in French, and I would say, ‘Madame Dietrich, par favore.’ And she would say, ‘Non, Madame Dietrich is not here.’ “I said, ‘This is a practical joke they’re playing on me. She’s probably not interested at all. They’re just making fun of me. “So I called back Eddy, and I said, ‘Eddy, she is telling me there’s nobody there. This maid keeps answering.’ “And he says, ‘Marlene Dietrich doesn’t have a maid! She lives alone.’ “I’m thinking: Was there something strange about this maid’s accent? It’s Dietrich. I’m talking to Dietrich who’s telling me she’s not home. “So I called again, and I heard this same voice, and I didn’t ask for Madame Dietrich. I said, ‘Madame Dietrich.’ This caught her off guard, and she said, ‘Oui.’ “ ‘I’m Joshua Sinclair. I’m calling about the film Just a Gigolo.’ Click. She hung up. “It was like trying to cast a butterfly. It was impossible to reach her. She was there. Right before she hung up, I could hear the breathing, like she was thinking about it, and then she hung up. “I heard nothing more from anybody. After about a month, it was Christmas vacation, and Rolf sent me a letter saying, ‘We’re signing Trevor Howard.’ I said, ‘Wait. Let me check with Eddy. I haven’t heard from him in a month.’ “He says, ‘We all know you’re crazy. I’m signing Trevor Howard.’ “I said, ‘Give me twenty-four hours.’ He said okay. “I called Eddy. I said, ‘Eddy, we’re signing Trevor Howard. I haven’t been able to speak to her. The last time I think I spoke to her, I believe she realized that I knew it was her, but she hung up. What am I supposed to do?’ “Being a good music producer, Eddy said, ‘How much money do you think they’d be willing to pay?’ “I said, ‘I don’t know. As much as Billy Wilder or anyone else would be willing to offer. This is a big film. Curd Jürgens is in it, Maria Schell.’ “He said, ‘Let me talk to her.’ “I said, ‘Okay.’ I gave him the phone number in my dorm. He called me back that evening, my time, and he said, ‘Try her again.’ “I called again, and this time I actually spoke to her. She said, ‘Who else is in the film?’ “I said, ‘Kim Novak.’ “ ‘Kim Novak? Is she still alive?’ “I said, ‘She’s only forty. She’s alive, and from what I understand—I haven’t met her yet—from what I understand, she’s still very beautiful,’ and I immediately said, ‘as are you.’ Then I sensed something which I never will forget. I sensed the feminine. That is, I realized that no matter how old you are, no matter how long you’ve been away from the silver screen, no matter how long you’ve been away from the camera, as an actress and a woman you still have that in you, that need—that need to be feminine, that need to be beautiful, ravishing. “She said, ‘Can you come to Paris?’ “I said, ‘No, I have exams now, but I’ll come as soon as I can. We need to decide soon.’ “And she said, ‘Tell Monsieur Marouani when you will be here. Perhaps we can meet.’ She hung up. “So I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to meet Marlene Dietrich.’ That would be enough, whether she does the movie or not! “I called Rolf, and I said, ‘Rolf, every day, send Marlene Dietrich a rose. And every Saturday, a bottle of champagne, with love from the film set. Every day a rose, and in two weeks I’ll be there. I just spoke to Dietrich on the phone.’ “He said, ‘Okay. What do we do with Trevor Howard?’ “ ‘We’re going to have Dietrich.’ It was the first time I believed it! “She got a rose every day. One day, Eddy called me, and he said, ‘You’ve got her attention. She wants to know who the romantic is.’ And I said, ‘When you’re casting someone as important, as divine as Marlene Dietrich, you have to remember above all that she’s a woman, so it’s as if you’re courting her. You’re not asking her to work for you, you’re courting her. You’re asking her really to go on a date with you. That’s the relationship for the camera, especially for someone from that generation.’ “The flower a day, all of this was courtship. ‘Come on a date with me.’ “She got the point. She was highly intelligent. “So I went back to Berlin, Christmas. We had to start shooting. David was there. We had already started shooting some things with Curd Jürgens and Maria Schell, all in Berlin. “I called Eddy and I said, ‘I’m back. What do you want me to do?’ Eddy and I became good friends in the middle of all this, because Terry probably said, ‘Be kind to this poor guy. He really believes in this.’ It was contagious. The belief was contagious. Suddenly, people started to believe in the impossible. Even in Berlin they were saying, ‘Do we have Dietrich?’ “We had a German playing the role of the gigolo, and somebody mentioned David Bowie should be playing that role. I knew somebody in Rome who knew David Bowie through Sydney Rome. When I went back to Berlin, David Bowie had appeared with his entourage. “The producer’s office was an empty desk, because Rolf Thiele was always ill. It was an empty desk with empty drawers. I was sitting behind this desk making a phone call. Suddenly, the door opened, David Bowie comes in with his entourage, slams his hand on the table. He says, ‘I want two hundred twenty thousand dollars and five percent of France.’ I have no idea why he wanted five percent of France, but that’s what he wanted. And I looked at David Bowie, and I said to myself, My God, I’m looking at David Bowie. “He probably thought I was the producer. I said, ‘Fine with me, David. You can have it!’ “He said, ‘Good. Write up the contract.’ “When he walked out, I said to myself, What just happened here? “I said, ‘Rolf, while you were gone, David Bowie came in. He wants a two-twenty fee, and five percent of France.’ “He said, ‘Well, I expected more.’ So they signed up David Bowie. “In the meantime, I called up Eddy, and I said, ‘Eddy, we’ve got David Bowie here.’ David Bowie lived at the time in Kreuzberg, in Berlin, the red-light district. Kreuzberg is where Dietrich used to sing. So I was thinking we can use this, because it’s a link. He had just done a song called ‘Kreuzberg.’ ‘Kreuzberg’ for Dietrich, I learned later, was a very important song, because it brought back memories of what Berlin was like in the twenties, because Marlene Dietrich would, thought that we were all crazy, and he said, ‘They’re thinking of getting Dietrich instead of me.’ I don’t know if he thought that was an insult or he thought that we were mad. He said, ‘All right. But if you don’t get Dietrich, ha-ha-ha, I’m still willing to play the role. I’ve got four days, and I’ll do it still, if you don’t get her.’ He hadn’t signed the contract yet. “Eddy called me again the next day, and he said, ‘How long do you need Dietrich, and what are you willing to pay her?’ “I said, ‘Well, I have to call.’ “I called Rolf, and he said, ‘I have to check with David Hemmings.’ “ ‘We don’t have time.’ “ ‘Well, we need her four days, because that’s what we were thinking of for Trevor Howard.’ “ ‘What were you going to pay Trevor Howard?’ “ ‘A hundred thousand.’ “I went back to Eddy and said, ‘Eddy, it’s four days, a hundred thousand dollars.’ “He looked at me, and he said, ‘Two days and two hundred fifty thousand dollars.’ “ ‘Is this a negotiation? Because if it is, you’ve gotta call somebody else, because I don’t know how to do this.’ “ ‘It’s not a negotiation. Two days. Two hundred fifty thousand dollars.’ “ ‘Okay, I’ll try to do that . . .’ “ ‘And,’ he said, ‘she won’t shoot in Berlin.’ “I thought, How can we do the movie if she won’t shoot in Berlin?’ “He said, ‘Whatever you need her for, she’ll shoot here in Paris.’ “I called Rolf again, and I said, ‘Two-fifty, two days, and she won’t shoot in Berlin. She’ll shoot the Eden Bar scene in Paris.’ “Rolf got nervous. ‘That’s a lot of money. We don’t have it. I don’t know if we can do it in two days. We’ll have to rebuild the Eden Bar in Paris. That will cost a fortune.’

“ ‘But this is Marlene Dietrich. It’s a coup. Don’t you understand? She’s going to sing “Just a Gigolo” in a movie? After twenty-five years. And the words of “Just a Gigolo”: “There will come a day youth will pass away / Then what will they say about me? / When the end comes, I know, / They’ll say ‘Just a gigolo,’ / And life goes on without me.” Sung by Dietrich, it has so much meaning.’ In fact, when she did sing it in the movie, she cried. She was moved by the words. 

“He said, ‘I’ll call you back.’ He did. He said, ‘Okay. Have them make the contract and sign it.’ “ ‘What do you mean, “Sign it”? I can’t sign a contract.’ “He said, ‘You have to sign it, because nobody can come there now.’ I found that he wanted me to sign it because if something went wrong, it would be my responsibility. “So I went to Eddy and said, ‘Two-fifty, two days, fine.’ “ ‘Something else. She wants a dress made here in Paris for her.’ “I said, ‘Yes, the dress she wears in the Eden Bar will be made in Paris. No problem.’ A couple hundred dollars for a dress. It ended up costing five thousand dollars. “He wrote out the contract. He typed it there. Three pages on blue stationery. “We crossed the Champs-Elysées, went to the Plaza Athénée to get a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, which is what she liked to eat. One of the reasons that Marlene Dietrich did not always have much money is because she used to do things like call room service across the street to order a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich from the Plaza Athénée. It’s a bit extravagant, you know. It’s much more economical to order it from somewhere else, if you can find a place that has it.

“Anyway, we got the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, and went upstairs, but Eddy said, ‘Wait here.’ I had to wait outside. “He went in. He didn’t actually close the door to her apartment. It was just ajar. I heard a discussion in French. I knew some French, so I understood that there was some tension. I didn’t know what it was. “Then I heard a piano. I knew there were only two people in there, and one of them suddenly was playing the piano. I heard her voice in the background, and I heard Eddy. Eddy was trying to convince her. Back and forth. Finally, twenty minutes, a half-hour later, I was outside, and he came out with a signed contract. And he said, ‘Sign it.’ I signed it, then he went back in. “Five or ten minutes later he came out again. He gave me back the contract. He kept a copy, and he said, ‘You have Dietrich.’ “And on the way down in the elevator, it suddenly dawned on me I had Dietrich. “I still hadn’t seen her. I’d heard her voice through a door that was slightly ajar. “I went out on the Champs-Elysées feeling king of the world. I went to a pay phone and called Thiele collect, and I said, ‘We have a contract. We signed. “ ‘You’ve got her two days, two-fifty. She wants a dress made in Paris, but please say nothing to the press at all, ever, till we get word from Dietrich that it’s okay. That’s in the contract. I gave my word.’ “He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, don’t worry.’ “I got on a plane and went back to Berlin the next morning. When I arrived, the newsstands were full of ‘Dietrich to Shoot a Movie in Berlin.’ He had told the press. “I stormed into his office. He was sitting there, doing who-knows-what, because there was nothing in there. There wasn’t even paper. He was staring at the wall. “I said, ‘You betrayed me! I gave this lady my word.’ “ ‘I didn’t do it.’ “ ‘Then who did? You were the only one who knew.’ “He said, ‘The telephones are tapped in Paris.’ “I said, ‘Look—this is not World War II. They are not tapping phones in Paris. You told the press!’ “ ‘Yes, but you signed the contract. It’s your problem now.’ “I realized then that I was dealing with a man of very little honor. “I called Eddy, and he said, ‘Yes, I know. You had nothing to do with it.’ Suddenly, it was a binding contract that Dietrich wanted. ‘She’ll show up for work, but she wants the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars now!’

“Over Christmas, Marlene wanted to start doing the dresses. Rolf said, ‘You have to handle this. You have to go back there and tell them the story was a mistake.’ 

“So I went back. I still hadn’t met Dietrich. I had only spoken to her one other time, to thank her, and there wasn’t much in return. But suddenly there was more warmth. There was also the question of who was going to take the photographs of Dietrich, who the still photographer would be. “The man who was to do the stills was Emilio Lari, a wonderful photographer in Rome. So, I went to Emilio, and I said to him that we had Dietrich and that he was going to do the stills. He was ecstatic. For a photographer photographer to finally photograph Marlene Dietrich after all these years! “I didn’t know that something else was brewing in the background. Emilio came to me the next morning and said, ‘David Hemmings and David Bowie have made a deal, without us, to do the photographs of Dietrich on the set. Since Bowie has the right in his contract, he has decided to close the set that is being built in Paris so his photographers can come in and photograph Dietrich.’ “Now, remember, I was doing all of this for nothing. I was getting expenses, and I think they gave me at the end ten thousand dollars. But this upset me. I had given her my word to control the press. “I went to Rolf, and I said, ‘Rolf, this can’t happen.’

“ ‘Well, there’s no way we can avoid it, because he has it in his contract.’ 

“ ‘There is a way. David has to do a big rock concert in Australia on the fourth of April. Why don’t we move the Dietrich shoot to the fourth of April? That way, David can’t be there, and if he can’t be there, there’s no way he can close the set.’ “ ‘Do you think you can get away with it?’ “ ‘Of course. You’re the producer.’ “So he moved the date. “Three, four o’clock in the morning, David Hemmings and David Bowie come storming into my hotel room in Berlin. They had been drinking and were very angry. I thought they had come to kill me. They said, ‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing?’ “I was half-asleep, and I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ “ ‘Who do you think you are?’ Bowie said. ‘You think you can just come and tell us when you shoot? You’re gonna force the film to be shot on the fourth.’ “Hemmings said, ‘Those scenes can be shot before the fourth, so David can do it.’ “Bowie said, ‘You made a deal behind our backs.’ “They had a whole row there, in my room. I was nobody. Not that I’m anybody today, but I was really nobody. I’m talking to David Bowie, who is already a rock star, and David Hemmings, who was a movie star. He’d been in Blow-Up, the great Antonioni film, and others, and I’m trying to defend myself from these two guys who knew the film business, the rock business, the music business backwards and forwards. “There was a big quarrel in the office the next day. David [Bowie] definitely did not want to do this scene without Dietrich. His point of view would be shot, without Dietrich, in Berlin, and then Dietrich would be shot separately in Paris. The two would never meet. And for Bowie, the big thing was to shoot with Dietrich. “I said, ‘All you had to do was allow the still photographer to do it, and you would have had this. The money’s coming from Berlin, and they run it. They run the set. So you’re going to have to break your contract with Australia, which will cost you millions of dollars or shoot those two days in Berlin without Dietrich.’ “I said to Hemmings: ‘You may be upset now, but do you know what it means to you as a director, to have directed Dietrich? I mean, that puts you up there with a handful of the very best. That should be worth millions to you if you really love this business. This may well be her last movie.’ I went back to school. Dietrich had to shoot the scene. I still hadn’t met her. Strangely enough, the shooting came at spring break. So, I went back, to Berlin, and then to Paris. In the meantime, they had rebuilt the Eden Bar in Paris. “I went alone to Avenue Montaigne in the limousine to pick her up. Eddy was waiting for me there. I waited downstairs while Eddy went up, brought her down, and I finally met her. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, like ‘This is the guy who’s sending me roses.’ She was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. “In the car, I sat in the back seat with her. Eddy didn’t go with us. She looked like Marlene Dietrich, at seventy-six, who hadn’t been in front of a camera for a long time and had sort of lost something, I don’t know what, but you lose something when you’re not in front of a camera for a while as an actor. She was still glamorous. She still had an incredible aura. She was still Marlene Dietrich. “But we didn’t know what to do. When we arrived, makeup came over. What to do with her? How to make her look like herself. “She had a wig on, sort of a short, reddish blond wig. She was dressed in a two-piece suit, and she looked a little bit like a grandmother. She wasn’t trying to be glamorous. I think she was just trying to earn this two hundred fifty thousand and make this movie. I didn’t know that inside Marlene Dietrich was the real film business. But let me insert a parenthesis here. “Before I went back to school, I had to stop off in Paris because somebody had to oversee the dress of Dietrich. Everyone else was afraid. I didn’t know much about dresses, so I wasn’t afraid. I went to Paris to the address of Madame de Warren. “I sat down next to this magnificent lady—very, very chic. A heavy guy with a pigtail came and sat down across from us. He had sketches, and he was sketching, left and right. He said, ‘The dress must be like this.’ Marlene Dietrich still had beautiful legs. There was a slit down the side of the dress, and it was wonderful. Five thousand dollars. It looked a little bit like a Chanel because Madame de Warren also worked with Chanel. It was dark blue, which you can see in the movie. There was a hat with a veil over it, because Marlene wanted a veil for her face. “It was all fine, except for this German guy with a pigtail I was sitting across from. He kept telling me, ‘This is the way it has to be. Madame Dietrich wants this and wants that.’ Later, when I went back to Berlin, Rolf said, ‘Oh, that was Karl Lagerfeld. He’s Chanel now.’ “I was so ignorant about fashion, I didn’t even know who Karl Lagerfeld was. “Back to the day she shot her scene in Paris: “We were in the backseat of the car. We didn’t say a word. She looked at me every now and then like she was trying to figure out, ‘How did I get myself into this?’ “We got to the S.F.P. Studios, which is in the Bois de Boulogne, went up in the elevator, Dietrich, myself, and Eddy. I walked into the studio, and she took my arm. I almost had a heart attack. She actually took my arm, and I walked her into the studio, and there was a crew there, David Hemmings in the corner and people there, and a grand piano. Of course, David Bowie was in Australia singing. It was the set which you see in the movie.

“Makeup came over. Anthony Cavelle, who had been Bowie’s makeup guy, who worked for Harper’s and Cosmopolitan, was one of the best. He came to me and said, ‘Can I touch up Dietrich? Can I do her makeup?’ 

“They disappeared behind a screen. Forty-five minutes later, he reappeared with Dietrich, looking as she looks in the movie. “With this hat on and this beautiful dress, she looks like a forty-year-old. There she was again, Marlene Dietrich, just like she’d been when she left the film business. What he had done was to take a photograph of Dietrich from the sixties and use surgical tape to pull her face back. He had given her a lift and put a wig on her head, a beautiful wig, and the hat over that and the dress. She came out looking beautiful. In fact, as I said, in the photographs she looks in her forties or maybe fifties. Totally different. Everybody was spellbound, because we were suddenly face-to-face with Marlene Dietrich, really! And then something happened. “She saw herself in the mirror. She had seen herself in the mirror when they were doing makeup, but suddenly there was a full-length mirror, on the set, and she saw herself. She went back to Dietrich. Those twenty-five years melted. Those seventeen years of not being in front of a camera melted. As far as she was concerned, she went right back to that mood. “In a way, she took over the set. And she did something very strange. She started to speak German. She realized, This is my scene. I’m gonna run it, because she always ran her part in her films. I guess she said to herself, If these people are speaking German, I have to be in control. Forget what I might have said. I’m going to speak German. “This was the first time in decades she had worked with a German crew. She wasn’t working in Germany, but she was working with a German crew. That meant everybody spoke German on that set. “Remember what she sings in The Blue Angel, ‘Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe angestellt,’ ‘I am from my head to the bottom of my feet created for lovemaking.’ That’s what the song means. She translated it into ‘Falling in love again’ like she translated ‘Lili Marleen.’ She didn’t sing in German. “During World War II, on the North African front, there on one side was Rommel, and on the other side Montgomery. When the soldiers went to sleep at night, they would go to sleep on the German side listening to Lale Andersen singing ‘Lili Marleen,’ and on the English side listening to Marlene Dietrich singing ‘Lili Marleen.’ And the wonderful thing is the troops used to hear each other’s songs. It was like stereo. The desert carries all that sound, and we used this in Lili Marleen later. “So she started to speak to the crew in German. The crew, they were in tears. Everybody was in tears because it was impossible, incredible to see Marlene Dietrich there. David Hemmings was lost in German. He was looking at me. I’m thinking, ‘You’re the director. Go direct!’ “David didn’t know German, so Dietrich was talking directly to the crew. She was talking directly to the gaffers, to the lighting technicians, saying, ‘Back, a little bit lower.’ She took over the set! We were all ornaments on her set. She was the director, really, for her part, although David did a good job. “She realized that everybody was a bit lost because she was just too much. I guess she was used to being too much. “So David sat her down. We did the whole scene. She recited everything perfectly. Then, at the end of the first take, she would look to me in back and to David Hemmings, who was right in front of her, and say, ‘Okay. Let’s do another one.’ “David, who was totally in her control, said, ‘Yeah. Right,’ like, ‘It’s your film, you know!’ “She did another scene. Then she said, ‘Maybe you should do one more, just in case.’ We did one more of that, and then it came the time for her to sing her song. She had asked for her own pianist to come. “There was this beautiful piano, which you see in the movie. She started to sing the song for the first time. Then she said, ‘Let me do it again,’ and she did it a second time. “The second time, she started to cry. Not really cry, but her eyes are moist, and you see it in the movie. And everybody on the set was crying. “It was incredible. To hear her say those words with her voice. Dietrich sang, but she also recited while she was singing. It wasn’t like a mezzo-soprano. She was someone who spoke the words to music, and it was magnificent. On stage, as you see in the movie, she was saying, ‘There will come a day, youth will pass away, what will they say about me,’ and started to realize in her own mind, ‘What are they going to say about me? What was I? Who was Dietrich?’ She knew this was going to be her last film. “At the end of the song, she looked around, she said to David, ‘Do you have it in the can?’ “And he said, ‘I think so.’ “ ‘Do you want to do it again?’ She was pushing us. “He said, ‘I don’t think we need to . . .’ “ ‘Let’s do it again.’ She sang it again. Then she said, ‘Now we have it in the can.’ “Afterwards, she addressed the crew in German. “ ‘I’ve been accused of being a traitor,’ she said, ‘but I was never against Germany. It was the Nazis I hated. “ ‘Now you’re all going home, but I can’t go home because they took my country away from me and they took my language away from me. You can’t understand how that feels if you haven’t been through it, and I hope you never will.’ “From the beginning, nobody was supposed to know that the assistant who came and waited for her on the set was Maria Riva, her daughter. I don’t know why, but we were supposed to refer to her as Mrs. Patterson. So, whenever there was anything, she would say, ‘Mrs. Patterson!’ and her daughter, Maria Riva, would come and help. “Then, when it was finished, she got back into the car and went back to her house. She was paid the money, two hundred fifty thousand dollars. It was paid into a Swiss account. I thought that was the end of it. “I didn’t speak to her again after that. I mean, we didn’t speak at all. She sort of looked at me as she was going away. She looked over her shoulder at me as she was being escorted by ‘Mrs. Patterson,’ off the set to her home, and that was the end of the shoot on the second day.”

“THOUGH IT HAD BEEN a closed set, somehow a photographer had come in the night before the first day and slept on the catwalk, and we didn’t know. He had taken some photographs, and sneaked them out. I didn’t see him, but one of the gaffers, Axel, came over to me and said, ‘Look up there.’ I did, and there was a guy on the catwalk taking photographs. Two of the gaffers went up and got him, brought him down, and Axel says, ‘What do we do?’ 

“I said, ‘Strip him.’ “They stripped him and told him to leave the set. So this poor French photographer left the set almost naked, without his camera, without anything. We wanted to make sure there was no film. But somehow, he had smuggled some film out. “The next day, Emilio Lari, who was taking the photographs, said, ‘We need some stills,’ and she knew that, of course. This was the first time the still photographs had been taken, which is a whole different concept for an actor. “He said, ‘Do you mind?’ “She said no, and he started to click with his automatic camera. As he was clicking, clicking, clicking, she turned into a model. She came to life again. She posed in all these different ways. She said, ‘Is this all right? This is my good side.’ A woman who had hated photographers, who had bodyguards to keep these cameras away from her for so many years, suddenly came to life again, became a Vogue model. Those photographs are beautiful. “I found out the next morning that those photographs that had been smuggled out were now in the hands of a press agency in Paris, and they were going to use them. “I called up the press agency and said, ‘Look, it was a closed set, and we can sue you for a billion dollars, which we will. There are penal charges here, breaking and entering. The proof is that you have these photographs. If you publish them, it means you are an accessory to breaking and entering, which according to French law is punishable by at least fifteen years in prison.’ I said, ‘I’m going to send you away for fifteen years. “ ‘But besides all of that, do you really want to do this to Marlene Dietrich? It’s France, which gave her exile, which loved her. Is France going to do this to Dietrich in her last film?’ “He said, ‘Yes, but the editor . . .’ “I said, ‘Are you going to allow it? Because if you are, I’ll know about it because it’ll be in the newspapers tomorrow.’ “I waited. The next day, nothing in the papers. I called him back, and I said, ‘Did you make the right decision?’ “He said, ‘Of course. We couldn’t do it.’ “I said, ‘Tell me: Were you worried about Dietrich or about the lawyers?’ “He said, ‘Actually, Dietrich.’ “I said, ‘Good. The French remain French.’ “I went back to Berlin. I thought I would never hear about this again. I was going back to school. “I was in Berlin two months later. I went back because I got attached to this film, and I went back whenever I could. I was in the editing room with David Hemmings. I got a phone call while we were editing the film. I said, ‘Who’s on the phone?’ “ ‘Marlene Dietrich.’ “I picked up the phone and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ “She said, ‘What do you like to eat?’ “ ‘I don’t know.’ I hadn’t spoken to her since that day on the set. I said, ‘Just about anything. Why?’ “ ‘I’m inviting you to dinner, and I was thinking about what you’d like to eat. What would you like me to cook?’ “ ‘How about wiener schnitzel? I hear that you spent time in Vienna.’ “ ‘Fine. Wiener schnitzel it is.’ “She said, ‘Come Sunday.’ “Again, I went to the producer, because I never had any money, and he finally paid me something—a year late.

“In Paris, I went to the Avenue Montaigne with a flower, a rose, and another bottle of champagne, and appeared at the door. The door opened, and I finally saw the apartment. I walked in, put the bottle and the rose down, and I saw her again, but as the grandmother, a beautiful grandmother. I still had in my mind the Dietrich that was in the film. 

“At the entrance of the apartment itself, there was a long dining room table. Then, on the left, there was a living room with two grand pianos, back to back. On one wall, there was a photograph of Hemingway. That was the only photograph. The rest of the room was full of books. She was a bookworm. Then, next to the entrance on the right was a kitchen. She went directly into the kitchen and started to cook wiener schnitzel. “She said, ‘Can you fix phones?’ “ ‘I suppose so. I don’t know.’ “ ‘My phone is on the blink.’ Suddenly I became her grandson. ‘The phone’s around the corner. You’ll find it.’ And she’s just sitting, cooking, right? “She had a regular kitchen and a stove. A little kitchen on the side. It must have been five feet by ten. Something like that. And she was cooking on the stove, with a window at the very end that looked on to Avenue Montaigne. “I was on the floor with a telephone and a screwdriver. She had put a screwdriver next to the telephone, waiting for my arrival. “I was wearing a white shirt. I didn’t know how to dress. But how do you dress for dinner with Dietrich? So I just wore what I had. “I was on the floor taking apart her telephone, fixing it, and she was talking about all the things that the people who said they were writing her biographies were saying about her. The terrible things that she supposedly did to Maria, and all this stuff, and she was very, very upset about it. “ ‘I don’t know where they get those terrible things and ideas,’ she said. ‘I suppose they just make them up.’ “She had a book, just the cover, the paper jacket of a book. I don’t remember which one it was, but there was a photograph of the biographer on the back of it, and she was sticking pins in it. She said, ‘It’s so terrible the things they say.’ “I said, ‘Well, now you’ve done something and you’ve shown people that you’re still as beautiful as you always were.’ “She said, ‘How does it look in the movie?’ “I said, ‘Fantastic,’ and we talked about the movie. Then she brought the Wiener Schnitzel to this long table, which was really in front of the door. It was a small apartment. “We were sitting down, and she said, ‘Would you like champagne?’ “I don’t drink, but I said, ‘Of course.’ I’m not going to say no to Dietrich. She made a motion for me to open it, and I opened this bottle of Dom Perignon, and I poured two glasses, and sat across from her. “Behind her was a poster of The Blue Angel, and as I was eating I realized I was having dinner with the Blue Angel, the real Blue Angel! The Wiener Schnitzel was delicious, but I wasn’t really thinking about the food. “I guess when you’re in shock, things don’t hit you. It suddenly hit me what we had done. The movie, the last words that Dietrich had said on the screen, I wrote. “I was so emotional at the time that she noticed it. And she looked at me, and she said, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ “I said, ‘Yes.’ I did have a girlfriend who was driving me crazy. “She said, ‘Never trust women.’ “ ‘Why?’ “ ‘Never trust women.’ “ ‘How am I supposed to live with that?’ “ ‘You live with women, but you just don’t trust them.’ “Then we went into the living room. “ ‘I never realized I was a sex symbol,’ ” she told me. “ ‘Interviewers would say, “Tell us who all your love affairs were with and all the people you loved. Tell us about your love affair with Gary Cooper.” I didn’t have a love affair with Gary Cooper. How can you have a love affair with a guy whose vocabulary was, “Yup”? That was his vocabulary with me. I assumed he had more to say to others.’ “And then I saw Hemingway’s photograph. She looked at me, and I had a sense from that—she didn’t have to say it—but I had a sense that he was one of the great loves of her life, maybe not an affair, but someone she deeply cared about. Maybe it was because she was a bookworm and she loved his writing, but it was the only visible photograph, on the far end of the living room. It was signed, ‘To Marlene, from Ernie.’ “Just before I left, she said, ‘I have to have all of your phone numbers.’ Remember, we’re talking about one of the most important people, probably, in the history of motion pictures, one of the five most important, who lived alone, rather vulnerable. Not too many friends or people to talk to, because she was probably too famous or had probably tired of the entire human race, because of what she’d been through. So many people had taken advantage of her, of the publicity, and she was way too smart to not realize that they were taking advantage of her. “So I realized she was alone and vulnerable, and she said, ‘Give me your phone number, because I don’t want to lose touch.’ So, I gave her all the phone numbers I had. I had one in Rome, one at the university, one in Berlin. “I was standing by one of those high radiators, like they have in Paris, right at the entrance. I told her I would call to let her know what was happening with the film, and we would have to do some publicity with the stills, and I would let her know how that was going and ask for her advice. She said, ‘Fine, fine.’ She was very, very accessible then. “Right before I left, she hugged me, and this was probably one of the most important moments of my life. The realization: You are hugging Marlene Dietrich. You’re not talking to Marlene Dietrich, you’re hugging Marlene Dietrich. How many men throughout her life would have died to hug Marlene Dietrich, to hold that woman in their arms. And here I was, this idiot, this upstart, at the entrance with the door slightly open, with Marlene Dietrich in my arms. “I had no thought of how old she was at the time. In fact, when I told Emilio Lari later, the still photographer, he said, ‘You should see a psychiatrist. You have a grandmother complex.’ “I said, ‘No. The age melted away. She was eternal, literally eternal.’ He’d been joking, of course. “I got a phone call from Maximilian Schell. He called me and said, ‘How did you get Dietrich, because I would like to have her in my film.’ “I said, ‘I don’t know if she will be in your film.’ “He said, ‘The producer will give you a hundred thousand dollars if you get her for us.’ That was a lot of money for someone who’s going to college. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. Call me tomorrow or the next day.’ He did. “All the night, I was thinking I’ll probably not be in the film business, because I’ll do something else. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but this is Marlene Dietrich’s last movie, most likely, and the last words she ever will say may be the words I wrote. Now, isn’t that worth more than a hundred thousand dollars for a romantic? “So the next day, I said, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do anything, not for any amount of money. The last words she says in a motion picture will probably be by me. That’s enough for me.’ “I called Marlene a few times after that. In the meantime, David Bowie and David Hemmings had been to see her, and said, ‘We’d like to do some photographs with you,’ because Bowie, of course, being a big pop star, hadn’t given up on anything. He wanted to have some stills taken with her, together, where he would dress up as he would in Just a Gigolo, just as if he had been there when we shot it. “She said no. ‘I did the movie. I think you’re a great singer, but no.’ “I think David Bowie was at the height of his career, or close to it, but he couldn’t get Marlene Dietrich to do some stills with him. “There was always something very, very dignified about her, and professional. She also knew probably that there was something magical about that makeup, the set, the way she looks in the movie. She wouldn’t look like that again, and she wouldn’t disturb the magic.” When Marlene spoke with me about Just a Gigolo, she said, “I’ll tell you the sensation I remember most clearly. It was when my feet first touched the sidewalk outside my apartment. It was strange. I hadn’t walked on cement for a long time.”

External links[edit]

  • ^ Marlene by Charlotte Chandler, Simon & Schuster, 2011, PN2658.D5C53 2011, pages 228-258