Marlene (1984 film)

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Film poster
Directed byMaximilian Schell
Written by
  • Maximilian Schell
  • Meir Dohnal
Produced by
  • Henry Hauck
  • Pavel Hispler
  • Ivan Slapeta
Edited by
Music byNicolas Economou
Distributed byFutura Film, Munich
Release date
  • 2 March 1984 (1984-03-02)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryWest Germany
  • English
  • German
  • French

Marlene, also known in Germany as Marlene Dietrich - Porträt eines Mythos, is a 1984 documentary film made by Maximilian Schell about the legendary film star Marlene Dietrich. It was made by Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) and OKO-Film and released by Futura Film, Munich and Alive Films, (United States).


Marlene Dietrich and Maximilian Schell had worked together on Judgment at Nuremberg in 1961. By the late 1970s Dietrich had become a virtual recluse in her Paris apartment on the Avenue Montaigne. However financial issues inspired her to develop a television documentary about her work. Her initial choice for a director, her friend Orson Welles, proved unavailable and after considering Welles' friend and fan of hers, Peter Bogdanovich, she eventually agreed to have Schell direct. Primarily, it seems, because he spoke both German and English.[1] In 1982, with Schell onboard she agreed to participate in what she intended to be a television documentary. Schell had other ideas and their sessions became a movie.

Dietrich did not wish to be photographed so the movie consists of an audio commentary and the visuals illustrate her career by showing film clips and stills from her films, as well as newsreel footage. She was contracted for "40 hours of talking" [2] as she reminds Schell during one of their exchanges. The film consists of voice interviews between Schell and Dietrich in which she often ignores his questions, makes acerbic comments about, among other things, some of the books written about her life and films. She resists Schell's attempts to criticize those she knew in her life asking him "Why must we say critical things?" During their discussions, she touches on the subjects of life and death, reality and illusion and the nature of stardom.

Film clips[edit]

The film contains clips from the following films:

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (1986).[3] It won the Best Production Award at the Bavarian Film Awards, the Outstanding Non-Feature Film at the German Film Awards and the Best Documentary Award from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA and the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards.

Marlene was rankled by the raw and vulnerable portrayal of her, thinking it would be an ordinary documentary, and she didn't speak to Schell for a year. However, she was won over by the glowing reviews of the film, and after it was nominated for an Academy Award she reconciled with him.[4]


  1. ^ Bach, Steven (1992). Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. New York: William Morrow and Company. pp. 453. ISBN 0-688-07119-8.
  2. ^ NY Times
  3. ^ "NY Times: Marlene". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  4. ^ "Maximilian Schell directs Marlene Dietrich documentary". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved 2016-09-02.

External links[edit]