About this Recording
8.120776 - DIETRICH, Marlene: Naughty Lola (1928-1941)

‘Naughty Lola’
Original 1928-1941 Recordings

Glamour,mystery, discipline, control, perfection -- what other words come to mind in association with the great Dietrich? Legs, trousers, allure, enigma, ennui. Director Billy Wilder called her “a strange combination of the femme fatale, the German Hausfrau and Florence Nightingale”.

Maria Magdalene Dietrich was born 27 December 1901 in Schöneberg, near Berlin, and died 6 May 1992 in Paris. Some sources give a birthdate of 1902 or 1904 and give her surname as “von Losch”, but this was the name of her stepfather, and “Marlene”was simply a contraction of Maria Magdalene. Her father was a military officer who died when Maria was quite young. “I am a Prussian,” Dietrich once said. Discipline was everything in a Prussian household; the same discipline that enabled young Maria to study the violin, or to submit to the endless rigours of working in films without a word of complaint.

Marlene actually played the violin professionally for a few years, mostly in theatre orchestras and in the small ensembles that provided mood music for silent films. The next step was to acting companies such as Max Reinhart’s, followed by work on screen in the movies themselves. She made more than a dozen silent films before bringing Emil Jannings to his knees in the classic Blue Angel in 1929. Director Josef von Sternberg immediately brought her to the United States, where she was groomed for stardom and put to work in Morocco and Dishonored. The Blue Angel was released in between the two American productions, and all three appeared between November 1930 and March 1931. Von Sternberg would direct Marlene Dietrich in four more films: Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress and The Devil Is a Woman, with Rouben Mamoulian’s Song of Songs sandwiched in between. Other film classics included Desire, The Garden of Allah and Destry Rides Again. Dietrich’s films in the 1940s were less memorable; those in the ’50s and ’60s are hardly worth mentioning, except Witness For The Prosecution and Judgment at Nuremberg. But by this time, Marlene Dietrich was a stage legend, more glamorous than ever.

As a recording artist, Marlene Dietrich first performed as part of the cast of a 1928 Berlin revue, It’s In The Air, and her voice is recognizable in the ensembles and brief solos on the two-sided medley that begins this compilation. Her first solos were of the songs from The Blue Angel, recorded in separate German and English versions. The English translations quite often tell a different story from the German originals: “Falling in Love Again”, in German, was Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt (From Head to Toe, I’m Made for Love). “Kinder, Heut Abend, da such ich mir was aus”, in its English version,was titled This Evening, Children,words which never once appeared in the translated lyric; a more accurate title would have been “I Gotta Get a Man”. “Blonde Women” and Naughty Lola were closer to their German originals.

At this time, Dietrich began recording the type of material that would form her cabaret act in the ’50s and ’60s, beginning with Wenn ich mir was wünschen Dürfte (If I Could Wish Something) in 1930. In 1931 she recorded Peter and Jonny, the latter reprised in the 1933 film Song of Songs. Two quite different versions of Jonny were recorded at the same sessions; both were issued on 78 and both are included here. Friedrich Holländer led the accompaniment on her 1930 recordings, and Peter Kreuder took over the task in 1931 and again in 1933 when she recorded a number of sides for Polydor in Paris. These included the jazzy Wo ist der Mann and the dramatic Allein – in einer grossen Stadt (Alone in a Big Town). Hot Voodoo was the feature number in the 1932 film Blonde Venus, with Dietrich strip-teasing her way out of a gorilla suit.

By the time of her 1939 recordings, the Dietrich voice was pitched much lower than at the beginning of the decade. She reprised Falling in Love Again and recorded some new songs and standards, the remainder of which can be heard on the previous Dietrich collection (Naxos Nostalgia 8.120557) along with her other early records. There would be more recordings in the 1940s, many of them made specially for propaganda purposes, and a revived career in night clubs and on records in the ’50s and ’60s, but this set concludes with one of her rarest items: a parody of the song she immortalized in Destry Rides Again, The Boys In The Back Room. Not listed in discographies, virtually unknown among collectors, the disc was probably intended as a souvenir for the company of The Lady is Willing, a 1941 film produced and directed by Mitchell Leisen. Only a few copies were pressed, and a typed, pasted label reads only “Unpublished : Parody : Marlene Dietrich”.

Off screen, Marlene Dietrich was a lover, a mother, and eventually “the world’s most glamorous grandmother”. Her wartime efforts brought her the Medal of Freedom and the Legion of Honour, and her performing range even extended to being part of Orson Welles’ magic act. And as this CD is going into production, the Dietrich legend is about to appear on film screens once again, this time in a biographical picture with Gwyneth Paltrow as Maria Magdalene. From Head to Toe, made for love.

-- David Lennick, 2004

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