Maria Riva in November 2005 at the presentation of her mother's posthumously published book In Her Own Hand
|Born||Maria Elisabeth Sieber
13 December 1924
Berlin, Weimar Republic
|Spouse(s)||Dean Goodman (1943–1944; divorced)
William Riva (1947–1999; his death); 4 sons
Maria Riva (née Sieber; born 13 December 1924) is an American actress, film historian, biographer, and activist. She worked on television at CBS in the 1950s, becoming one of the first stars of early kinescope-era television. She is the daughter of the actress Marlene Dietrich, about whom she wrote a memoir, which was published in 1992.
Maria Elisabeth Sieber was born in Berlin, the only child of actress Marlene Dietrich and film production assistant Rudolf Sieber (and later Paramount Pictures director of dubbing, Paris, France). In 1930, at age six, she moved with her mother to Los Angeles, California. In 1934, aged nine, she had a small role in Josef von Sternberg's film The Scarlet Empress, based on the life of Catherine the Great, in which she played Catherine as a child. She was also an extra in the 1936 David O Selznick production, The Garden of Allah.
Riva received acting training and during the Second World War entertained Allied troops in Europe for the USO from 1945–46, stationed in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She also acted in theatre and summer stock, including a production of Tea and Sympathy. She appeared at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway in the 1954 production The Burning Glass, opposite Cedric Hardwicke and Walter Matthau.
A brief marriage to Dean Goodman—whom she married in 1943—ended in divorce. Then she married scenic designer William Riva in 1947; they had four sons. With the birth of her first child, J. Michael Riva in 1948, the press dubbed Dietrich "the world's most glamorous grandmother". Her second son, Peter Riva, president and owner of International Transactions, Inc., is her literary agent.
During the 1950s, Riva appeared in more than 500 live teleplays for CBS, all broadcast from New York, including The Milton Berle Show, Lux Video Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Your Show of Shows and Studio One. She received Emmy nominations as best actress in both 1952 and 1953.
Riva semi-retired from acting in the mid-50s, but made a cameo appearance as Mrs. Rhinelander in Bill Murray's Scrooged. In 2001, she was interviewed for Her Own Song, a documentary about her mother. In June 2012, her son Michael died, aged 63, following a stroke.
Riva's biography of her mother, Marlene Dietrich, was published in 1992, the year of Dietrich's death. In 2005, Riva edited a volume of Dietrich's poetry, Nachtgedanken, which was published in Germany and Italy.