Sinatra, snapping out of a haze, noticed me sitting across from him “Who the fuck are you?” Just another fan, I said, on the day he died I made anagrams out of his name satin, sin, stain, stair, train, rain, star and figured out my last message I mean what I would say to him now “your goodbye left me with eyes that cry” on the other hand you left me the history of your voice the record of the American century from Roosevelt to Reagan you will live on whenever I need to hear you (it has to be you) sing “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (Strand’s favorite) or “I’m a Fool to Want You” (my choice) when your lover has gone
There was exactly one international movie star who appealed equally to grunts in German, American, and British uniforms during World Wart II. Born on December 27, 1901 in Berlin at 9:15 PM, Marlene Dietrich spoke English in an accent all her own, with traces of German, schoolgirl British, and a sexy lisp. Acting in movies, performing in clubs, and doing one-woman shows in big West End theaters, she glowed in Der Blaue Engel (Josef von Sternburg, 1930) prior to a long Hollywood career working with von Sternburg again and later with Hitchcock, Welles, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kramer, and other Hollywood professionals. (Of Welles, she told aspiring actresses, "you should cross yourself when you say his name.") She played opposite Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Spencer Tracy, and took pride in having slept with three Kennedy men: Joe Sr, Joe Jr, and JFK. She lived to a grand old age and died in Paris on May 6, 1992, spoiling the birthdays of Tony Blair, George Clooney, and Professor Martha Nussbaum.
Garbo and Dietrich were one-two in virtually all international blonde bombshell competitions in the fourth and fifth decades of the twentieth century. Garbo (“I want to be alone”) had the reputation of a recluse and the silence of the lovers on Keats's Grecian urn. Dietrich, on the other hand, never could resist donning a man's top hat and sitting on top of the piano singing a sexy song in her hoarse voice and irresistible lisp. Dietrich sang in three languages (she does Piaf-like French ballads well) with a voice that made up in sheer sexual horsepower what it lacked in vocal range and power. Ich bin von kopf bis fus auf liebe eingestellt is even better in German than in the English version that begins “Falling in love again, / Never wanted to, / What am I to do, / Can’t help it.” She made that song seem autobiographical, the story of the female enchantress who can't help herself, to such an extent that anyone else singing the song sounds like an imitator. Of how many singers and songs can this be said? Not many.
Lorenz Hart rhymed “Dietrich” with “sweet trick” in “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” which I believe is a waltz but which I heard Sinatra sing at an incredibly fast tempo in a television concert in the late 1960s. Dietrich had major affairs with Sinatra, Jean Gabin, Yul Brynner, and Edward R. Murrow, and was bi-sexual. There is a rumor that she went down on Tallulah Bankhead at a party. In the dictionary of slang that Oxford University Press published, the phrase that most fascinated her was "cock holster," denoting the mouth in the act of oral sex though she could think of other apt uses for the phrase. In 1930 she measured at 35-24-33.
Marlene's natal chart reveals a lusty Capricorn with Virgo rising. Behind the scenes swift Mercury and blonde Venus play games of cache-cache inspiring all who watch to imitate the frolicking gods of Olympus. Dietrich's Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in Capricorn, her moon in Leo. This is consistent with her talent for arousing attention, her ability to communicate desire mixed up with wickedness and danger, and her hard-boiled complexity. She can sound sardonic or melancholy, jaded or contemptuous, and this adds a layer of depth to her poker-faced personality. Her eyes say she's seen it all and a lot of "it" was shitty. :Dressed in a man’s suit, tie, and shirt with French cuffs, she holds an unlighted cigarette between forefinger and thumb, waiting for you to light her with your Lucifer. And you will.
One school of thoujght holds that when your mid-heaven is in Taurus and the constellations are in their proper order, the chances are that you will grow to a height of five feet six inches, if you're a woman, and that is exactly how tall Marlene was, and blonde, with lush lipstick that she needed to renew after every kiss she bestowed, and bedroom eyes. Her cards (the Chariot, the Moon, the Knave of Swords, the Nine of Wands) reinforce the impression of a woman of rare beauty and charm. A palm reading indicates a fluency in languages, an appetite for sex, and a pair of shapely legs. The yin in her chart outweighs the yang by a healthy margin. But there is enough stellar ambiguity to make her the object of desire of males across the sexual spectrum. She is a role model for dominant women and an icon of veneration among the submissive. It is said there are two kinds of men. One kind favors Garbo, the Swedish goddess, who played Anna Karenina; the other goes for Dietrich, who would be terribly miscast as Anna Karenina. But you had to live in the twentieth century to grasp all the implications of this statement.
The greatness achieved in the career of Marlene Dietrich implies what Frankfurt School astrologists call a "fifth house dominant personality." I do not know what this means, but it sounds right. As a young woman Dietrich starred as a sultry seductress, the cabaret singer who turns the starchy professor into a lovesick bum in Blue Angel. She is Circe mixed with Carmen, radiating confidence. She demands at least as much from a man. “Give me the man who does things, does things to my heart, / I love the man who takes things into his hands and gets what he demands.” Ein Mann, ein richtige Mann! The strong and silent type, under a big palm tree. She'll see what the boys in the back room will have and tell them she cried, and tell them she sighed, and tell them she died of the same.
Several notable aphorisms have been attributed to the charming, alarming Blonde Venus: "Most women set out to change a man, and when they have changed him they do not like him." "A country without bordellos is like a house without bathrooms."" In America, sex is an obsession; everywhere else, it's a fact."
Dietrich is the ultimate sex symbol because in any relationship with her the forces of Thanatos are constantly threatening to create a crisis that the forces of Eros must confront. That raspy, intimate, seductive, threatening voice challenged or dared the manliness of any man: you’d pretty much have to be John Wayne to impress her, or Gary Cooper in his prime. Tyrone Power thought he would double-cross her in Witness for the Prosecution. He thought wrong. She could do a “ducky” English accent. During the war she transcended the conflict: Allied and Axis soldiers alike responded to Dietrich’s rendition of “Lilli Marlene.” And she retained her status as a sex symbol well into her 70s. Her appeal is enhanced by her power to do harm or to witness destruction without blinking. In Touch of Evil, she read Orson Welles's palm and knew his future was a blank card. And she kept a straight face while telling him.
Marlene Dietrich added something vital to every movie she was in, from a second tier Hitchcock effort to Judgment at Nuremburg, where, as Spencer Tracy’s confidante, she stands for nothing less than Germany herself, a magnificent blonde who once owned a brothel. -- DL
In August 1914 Jerome Kern wrote a song to interpolate in a Broadway musical imported from Britain. The song is "They Didn't Believe Me." It is the first modern ballad, just as Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" is the first of the uptempo classic American popular songs. Sinatra never recorded "They Didn't Believe Me" but someone taped his live performance of it, in the late 1940s, crooner style, screaming bobbysoxers and all. Here 'tis. The repetition of the last clause is Sinatra's innovation. You might also check out Johnny Mercer's swinging cover of the same wonderful song.
Unsung heroes Arthur Freed (who produced "The Wizard of Oz" and rescued "Over the Rainbow" from extinction) and Roger Edens (who composed the "Dear Mr Gable" intro to "You Made Me Love You" for Judy Garland) wrote the "Love Affair" that I prefer of the two great contenders in movie history. The rival, composed by Harry Warren, orchestrates the 1957 Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr tear-jeker, "An Affair to Remember." That one has its appeal, god knows; I believe Nore Ephron regards the film and everything about it as the epitome of romance, and it's great for the string section. But the one I vote for is the musical emblem of "Strike Up the Band" (1940) -- a movie directed by Busby Berkeley, in which, in one show-within-a-show scene, "demi-tasse" is the unlikely euphemism for hanky-panky. "Our Love Affair" carries the overture beyond the Gershwin title track, is sung thirteen minutes into the movie by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and recurs throughout as background music for the young romantics. I love Freed's lyrics in general -- he also wrote the songs in "Singin' in the Rain." I will write more about him some other time -- about Roger Edens, too, who, according to reliable sources, shared a birthday (November 9) with Kay Thompson. (From 1942 through 1957 they gave joint birthday parties during which each presented a surprise production number using special material featuring their friends— Garland, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Dorothy Dandridge, Maureen O'Hara, Ray Bolger, Ann Sothern, Danny Kaye, Charles Walters, Cole Porter, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane — with secret rehearsals, and neither telling the other what to expect.) Anyway -- See "Strike Up the Band" once and you'll know "Our Love Affair" forever. The tenderness here coexists with brass. It can be done in swing time or full of the most wistful longing. If you click below you will hear it ably performed by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with the Sentimental Gentleman himself on the 'bone and boy singer Sinatra (24 or 25) crooning the words.. -- DL
<<< While Sonny is driving alone in his car, he's listening to the October 3,1951 radio broadcast of Russ Hodges calling the decisive third game of the Dodgers-Giants playoff -- a half-inning before Bobby Thomson ended the Dodgers' season with the "Shot Heard 'Round the World, which many consider the national pastime's all-time greatest moment.
Both Frankie Avalon and Vic Damone auditioned for the role of Johnny Fontane. Francis Ford Coppola was most impressed with Damone and gave the role to him, but Al Martino was cast by the producers, and used his organized crime connections to ensure he kept the part. Ironically, Fontane sings "I Have But One Heart," which was Damone's first hit song. Share this
According to Mario Puzo, the character of Johnny Fontane was NOT based on Frank Sinatra. However, everyone assumed that it was, and Sinatra was furious; when he met Puzo at a restaurant he screamed vulgar terms and threats at Puzo. Sinatra was also vehemently opposed to the film. Due to this backlash, Fontane's role in the film was scaled down to a couple of scenes. Share this
Whether it is, as many of us think, one of the two or three greatest of all movies, The Godfather is certainly a script that the certified US male of a certain class knows much of by heart. For more exquisite Godfather trivia (Jews play Sonny and Tessio, an Italian plays the Jewish Moe Greene) go here. >>>
It was spring in November, raining but once in the course of five days and that a mild midnight sprinkle, and one day the temperature climbed almost to the sixties, and you needed only a scarf, a cap, and a sweater to weather a brisk wind. Some things don't change: what Waugh called "the braying for broken glass" continues on Saturday evenings when between Covent Garden and Leicester Square we saw numerous individuals falling down drunk, and in the underground a male and female bobby were handcuffing some male and female hooligans when Stacey and I entered. I told the concierge at the hotel and he said, "this is England, and it's Saturday night."
It was Remembrance Week, which is what we used to call Armistice Day, and now call Veterans Day, but in the States it's a day off whereas they take it very seriously here. To commemorate their war dead the British wear paper poppies on their lapels, and a controversy broke out when FIFA, the football governing board, declared that England's team members would not be allowed to wear poppies over their black armbands when they played a "friendly" (which is what we more ponderously call an "exhibition game") against Spain on Saturday. Well, Prime Minister David Cameron, young Prince William, and a lot of other worthies were having none of that, and the players did indeed sport their poppies during their 1-nil victory. It gave the columnists something to chew about, and this they did, and loudly. England invented scare journalism -- hell, maybe they invented journalism altogether -- and they can certainly give US columnists lessons in raising the roof from 0 to 100 in record time, as when one such writer asserted that Germany has initiated a "stealth" program for establishing a "Fourth Reich." Joke of the week: Greece has a new Prime Minister. Angela Merkel. Repeat, this time replacing Greece with Italy.
What surprised me was the vehemence of the hatred of Tony Blair we encountered among even people of moderate disposition. One friend even felt that the ex-PM should be brought to The Hague for war crimes. Last trains on the underground now leave five minutes past midnight, which is a good thirty five minutes later than in my benighted day. The food is better though expensive, and the weirdest thing is that it is easier to get a latte or any of a dozen varieties of brewed coffee than an honest cup of tea as opposed to what they quaintly call "instant tea." Favorite pub names of the week: The Fox and Anchor. The Angel and Crown. The Camel and Artichoke.
And Joe Frazier died and every paper ran a full page obit, and there was Sinatra in the front row at the Garden photographing the "fight of the century," with Burt Lancaster doing color commentary for closed circuit TV back on March 8, 1971. -- DL