Screenland (Nov 1939–Apr 1940)

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I T WAS bound to happen. Every time a movie star in Hollywood changes her hair-do, her make-up, her | manners, or something, we promptly have a New Soand-So. So when Marlene Dietrich, after a two-year absence, changed her studio recently I braced myself for a deluge of New Dietrichs. Maybe it's Wishful Thinking, or maybe it's the Easiest Way. I don't know. But anyway, when a Glamor Girl starts a picture at a studio where she has never worked before, and a fresh batch of press agents are turned loose on her, the newspaper columns are quickly filled with all kind of stuff and nonsense about how she has changed — and always for the better, of course. (What must she have been!) When "Destry Rides Again" got into production over on the Universal lot I began to read endless paragraphs in all the columns about the New Dietrich, and I must say that the more I read about che New Dietrich the bigger nostalgia I had for the Old Dietrich. The New Dietrich, it seemed, was a regular paragon of virtue, sort of a potpourri of Pollyanna, Elsie Dinsmore, Lady Bountiful, and all the people I particularly disliked and distrusted, and hoped never to meet again. After days and days of reading about "Good Deeds" Dietrich in the morning and night editions, I began to long fervently for the old Paramount Dietrich — "Feathers" Dietrich, "Legs" Dietrich, "Narcissus" Dietrich, we used to call her. (That was before she was sainted by Universal.) Well, Universal can have its Pollyanna the Glad Girl, I growled, but I'll stick to Marlene the Mirror Girl. She was fun. I was afraid to meet the New Dietrich, I'm allergic to saccharine, but I have me curiosity, so when the Universal praise agents insisted that I come out ("You'll never know it's Dietrich," they said) and get a gander at Marlene-the-New, I took a little something to settle my estomac, and slung a big basket over my arm just in case Marlene started tossing trinkets around a la her publicity. It was the day that Una Merkel and Marlene were doing the famous fight sequence in "Destry." When I saw the preview of the picture later the audience fairly shrieked their heads off as Una and Marlene tore into each other like a couple of hellions, and believe me, it was plenty exciting right there on the set. While they were waiting to go into their brawl Director George Marshall brought over two hefty dames and said that they would double for them and do all the fighting, except the close-ups. Marlene and Una exchanged glances. Said Marlene, "Una and I will do our own fighting. What do you think we are? Sissies?" And boy, they did. At the end of the "take" where they roll off the table on top of each other with a loud kerplunk^ I noticed that both girls rose painfully from the floor and said, simultaneously, with great concern, "Oh, I do hope I didn't hurt you." Bruises and scratches were looked over, and Marlene ran for the iodine with which she daubed Una up good. "You are so frail," she said. "I worry about you." "See," said the press agent, fairly dancing with glee. "See, how Dietrich has changed ! Imagine a star worrying about the other fellow's bruises. She's so kind and considerate of everyone. And see how she can take it. No griping, no complaining. No time out to cry over skinned By Elizabeth Wilson elbows. She's a new person entirely. I tell you she's not a Glamor Queen any more. Why, she's swell." Marlene retired to her dressing room to dry out her hair — wait until you see Jimmy Stewart dump a pail of water on her head — and I stopped for a chat with Una who, and I don't have to tell you that, is one of the best actresses in Hollywood. She too was full of the wonders of Marlene, except that Una is not concerned with whether it's a New Dietrich or an Old Dietrich, on account it is the first time she has ever met any Dietrich. "Her real charm," said Una, "is her complete sophistication. She has Eve written all over her. Some one should make a picture called the Garden of Eden and let Marlene play the part of Eve. The only trouble is that she'd be too clever to eat the apple." For years writers have been trying to solve the secret of Dietrich's charm, and I think that Una has hit the nail right on the bean. Marlene's charm is the charm of an Eve. A charm which all women desire but few possess. There isn't a feminine wile that Dietrich doesn't know. Not a trick that she has missed. There's a lot of honesty and goodness there, oh heck, yes — but there is also a lot of naughtiness. She's (Please turn to page 73) 29