[Marlene Dietrich] In performance, ca. 1928
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Doubleweight silver gelatin photograph of the iconic singer and actress mid-performance in top hat and coattails, microphone in hand and mouth open wide in song. In very fine condition. 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm.). No photographer stamps or markings, but evidently from around the time of the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt images of Dietrich attending the Ball of the Foreign Press at Hotel Adlon in Berlin, 1928.
The image of Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo became an early icon of film history. Director Josef von Sternberg "assisted Dietrich in cultivating her image at the onset of her career, directing her in Morocco, her 1930 American cinema debut. In the film, the actress performs onstage dressed as a man, wearing a tuxedo by costume designer Travis Banton, and kisses a woman on the mouth. While today this wouldn’t make headlines, at that time it was quite the opposite. Though stars like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford had already appeared in menswear, Dietrich’s reach extended beyond theirs. It was also one of the first lesbian kisses to appear on screen. Openly bisexual at a time when public non-heteronormative sexuality was barely an option, clothing for Dietrich became not just adornment but subversion. Traveling on a steamer to Paris in 1933, Dietrich wore a suit of head-to-toe white. The Paris police chief received word of this and threatened to arrest her upon her arrival because it was technically illegal for women to wear pants in Paris until 2013. Unfazed, Dietrich not only arrived in Paris wearing the ensemble, but also wearing a men’s coat, sunglasses, and beret. She grabbed the police chief by the arm and escorted him off the platform." (Elyssa Goodman, "Remembering Marlene Dietrich's Fashion Legacy on Her Birthday," CR Fashion Book)
From the collection of Paul McMahon, a critic, photographer and artist who worked for more than 13 years touring with Marlene Dietrich as the icon’s stage manager, announcer, dresser, secretary and escort, and later spent 25 years as an arts and entertainment reviewer and photographer with Gay Community News, Esplanade, Tommy’s Connection, The Mirror, Bay Windows and other publications.