Monday, July 4, 2011

Lazy Sounding Ladies Week: Marlene Dietrich

I feel like I had no choice but to end Lazy Sounding Ladies week with the self proclaimed Laziest Gal in Town Marlene Dietrich.  She was tall, exotic, weird, and eccentric.  She was constantly re-inventing herself way before Madonna was re-inventing herself and AFI named her the 9th greatest female performer of all time.  She was also a notorious whack job who (according to Arthur Laurents) used to sit everyone down at a parties and play records of applause from her concerts.  What can I say, I like her style.

Or in another anecdote during a tour of a theater she was performing at in the states: the guide apologized for the cleaning lady on her hands and knees scrubbing center stage.  When the old woman looked up it was Marlene herself  and she replied "If you want something done right you do it yourself darling."  The only thing that could have been better would have been "I'm not mad at you Helga I'm Mad at the dirt!"
Though marketed as a "live" album, Dietrich in Rio likely consists of studio recordings done in New York, overdubbed with applause recorded on tour to create live atmosphere.  Which just adds to the air of crazy she spun around herself throughout the years.  Why record a live performance when you could just sit down in a studio, do it right, and then add the elements that make it sound live?  The perfect recipe for a control freak.  Here is Dietrich "Makin' Whoopee"     

She would often perform the first part of her show in one of her body-hugging dresses and a swansdown coat, and change to top hat and tails for the second half of the performance.  This allowed her to sing songs usually associated with male singers, like One For My Baby and I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face.  Plus her use of body-sculpting undergarments, nonsurgical temporary facelifts, expert makeup and wigs, combined with careful stage lighting helped to preserve Dietrich's glamorous image as she grew older, made for cabaret perfection.

Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles doing a brilliant dead on impersonation of Dietrich.

Diectrich wasn't a singer, or an actress, she was a personality. And though she had a one octave range she still managed to capture her listener with her phrasing, and her panash and a touch of class.  

Happy 4th of July!!

1 comment:

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