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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diva Dietrich on Display




Her voice will capture your attention right away.


It's the voice Ernest Hemingway said was alone enough to break a heart. Its legendary deep tones, issuing from an antique record player, make a ghostly echo in the halls of the Dom Nashchokina gallery.


The voice belongs to Marlene Dietrich, one of the most celebrated actresses of the 20th century and the subject of the gallery's latest show - a collection of 150 rare photographs of the actress, singer and writer - which opened on Nov. 10.


Dec. 27, 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of Dietrich's birth, but Dom Nashchokina director Natalya Ryurikova said she couldn't wait two years to stage the exhibit, which "aims to usher in Dietrich's birthday," she said, "and to bring the Dietrich phenomenon to Moscow, so that people will understand thegrandeur, depth and beauty of this incredible woman's personality."


The woman who came to characterize the term Hollywood diva for the world won her fame in the early Paramount studio films "Shanghai Express (1932)," "Blonde Venus (1932)" and "The Devil is a Woman (1935)."


In these films, Dietrich popularized what would become her trademark character - the vamp - one she would continue to play even while modeling for black-and-white still photographs in the '30s and '40s. In many of these, by Eugene Robert Richee, Don English and William Walling, Dietrich appears against a black background, sometimes clad in a man's suit or a feather boa, often clutching a cigarette, rarely smiling, but ever the seductress.


That Dietrich, however, was more than just a diva is obvious to all who visit Dom Nashchokina's exhibit, which also includes showings of Maximilian Schell's 1983 documentary film "Marlene" and a series of amateur photographs chronicling her life - her youth, her Hollywood stardom, her singing and her writing.


In 1963, Dietrich published "Marlene Dietrich's ABCs," excerpts from which also hang on the walls at Dom Nashchokina. One reads: "The letter 'H' - Hemingway. My own personal Rock of Gibraltar." Another gives her recipe for apricot jam.


"Even without photographs, the book is interesting because such an amazing personality is behind the writing," Ryurikova said.


Dietrich arrived in the United States in 1930 and immediately began a career that would lead to international stardom. The German native would later abandon her position at Paramount as the highest-paid female actress in Hollywood for Europe - to entertain Allied troops fighting Hitler's armies during World War II.


For this, she was rewarded with relative obscurity in Hollywood, although France presented her with the "Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur" title. Undaunted by having been forgotten by the city that made her a star, Dietrich refused to just disappear from the scene, like her long-time rival Greta Garbo. Instead, Dietrich started a singing career that would last 20 years. One of the photographs at the Dom Nashchokina exhibit was taken during this period - it shows Dietrich on stage with Louis Armstrong: While Armstrong plays his trumpet, Dietrich dances nearby.


One room at the exhibit is dedicated to Dietrich's private life. "Dietrich never paraded her very full personal life before the public," Ryurikova said. "But [the photographs of] her circle of friends and lovers tells us a great deal about this incredible person."


The room includes pictures of Dietrich's friends and lovers, including the man many say was her greatest love, French actor Jean Gabin. It was Dietrich's letters to Gabin that inspired Ryurikova to hold the exhibit. "I was so astonished by her frankness and vulnerability in those passionate letters," Ryurikova said.


Perhaps even more revealing of Dietrich's personal life is the exhibit's reconstruction of her home's Parisian Room - a pair of stockings lies on the back of a chair and a mannequin in a period dress stands in a corner. "It seems like Marlene just left the room a few minutes ago," a visitor to the exhibit was heard to say Tuesday. "I can almost smell her perfume."


The Dietrich exhibit runs until Jan. 31 at the Dom Nashchokina gallery at 12 Vorontnikovsky Pereulok. Metro Mayakovskaya. Tel. 299-1178. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


"Marlene" will be shown in both English and Russian all day, through the duration of the exhibit.