Blue Angel

Donald Spoto, Author Doubleday Books $24 (335p) ISBN 978-0-385-42553-7
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) dedicated her energies to maintaining the Garbo-like image of a mysterious, alluring, remote creature, a glamour-queen role crafted by her mentor and sometime lover, director Josef von Sternberg. But the earthy German-born actress we meet in Spoto's marvelous, elegantly written biography was ``entirely a woman of the moment''--a sexual libertine with lovers of both sexes, a frequent cross-dresser, a neglectful mother who condescended to her troubled daughter, an astrology addict, a `` Hausfrau who put a towel around her head'' and constantly ``complained about almost everything.'' Spoto ( Laurence Olivier ) tells how Dietrich wrapped herself in illusions and deceptions, denying the existence of her sister and obscuring the details of her long marriage to Rudolf Sieber, a man she rarely saw. She paid the price, Spoto writes, through emotional imbalance, loneliness, decades of self-imposed isolation and ``a spiritual vacuum at the core of herself.'' He also details her many sexual conquests, among them Yul Brynner, Eddie Fisher, John Wayne and Gen. George Patton. An empathetic, demystifying portrait, heartbreakingly beautiful and sad, this biography blends astute film criticism with backstage and bedroom lore. Photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1992
Release date: 07/01/1992
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