Marlene Dietrich – Live in 1937!

Marlene Dietrich became a star with the classic 1930 German film, THE BLUE ANGEL, were she played a siren who ruins men’s lives. In the 1960s she headlined at luxurious nightclubs where she was known as the “World’s Most Glamorous Grandmother.” In between these career bookends she became an American citizen, and when the Second World War came, she not only joined scores of other stars to entertain the troops in camps around the world, Marlene actually joined the U.S. Army for four years!

But the 1930s is the era that saw Marlene Dietrich in her prime, if not at her peak. Most of her 30s films are available today on dvd, yet it is largely forgotten that she also starred on live radio in adaptations of her famous movies. OHIC is pleased to present the broadcast version of Marlene’s 1933 film, The Song of Songs, where both she and Lionel Atwill repeat their screen roles. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. performs the role played by Brian Aherne in the film, and show is hosted by Cecil B. DeMille.

Click on the arrow below to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of the Lux Radio Theater exactly as heard coast to coast and by shortwave around the world on December 20, 1937:

While you are listening, OHIC provides some examples of the stunning artwork used to promote the film:

The two sides of this movie herald, above and below, indicates how THE SONG OF SONGS was promoted in South America:

An older but no less glamorous La Dietrich still broadcasting:

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve always enjoyed Dietrich’s radio performances–especially her renditions of A Foreign Affair for NBC’s Screen Director’s Playhouse. In earlier performances like the one you’ve shared, I think she redeemed herself a bit for her more stilted movie roles (e.g., radio’s The Legionnaire and the Lady vs. the silver screen’s Morocco). Here in particular, Dietrich still sounds rather stiff, but she transitioned more smoothly from naive peasant to jaded urbanite by changing her tone far more competently than in the film version of The Song of Songs. When Dietrich performed for this program, she in fact was at the verge of a career nadir, having parted ways with Paramount and facing that “box office poison” publicity in May of the following year. Of course, she bounced back with Destry Rides Again in 1939.

    • I was surprised by DeMille’s introduction and his reference to MD having Paramount but “French Without Tears” for her. I thought her relationship with the studio was over by then. But there was always a certain amount of press agentry on the show, especially when some former star was a guest and claimed to be to make another film. Of course nothing was heard about it again.

      • Now that you mention it, I remember reading about French Without Tears in Steven Bach’s Marlene Dietrich bio. It is indeed a surprise that DeMille was hyping that movie project (and without mentioning that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was supposed to star in it as well–at least according to Bach), and I too could have sworn that Paramount dumped Dietrich by this time. After consulting Bach’s source notes, I saw that Paramount apparently fired Dietrich on Dec. 22, 1937–days after this program! On another note, that publicity about her citizenship was a bit off as well because she didn’t become an American citizen until June 9, 1939. At the end of the day, I guess the accuracy of promotion matters little because audiences can be as inattentive as the industry is fickle.


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