In her six Hollywood collaborations with Josef von Sternberg, Marlene Dietrich cuts a uniquely transfixing figure, her mysterious allure accentuated by the director’s chiaroscuro lighting and lavishly stylized settings. But she does far more than just luxuriate in her surroundings: at the heart of these performances was a boldly modern, unapologetically hedonistic worldview, one that she had already begun to cultivate as a stage performer in Weimar Germany. Both she and Paramount Pictures knew what they were doing when they brought her screen persona to the U.S., positioning her as an exotic alternative to the docile female characters who typically populated American movies, and deliberately courting scandal with the same-sex eroticism and androgynous role-playing that had been regular features of her cabaret acts. As film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence, and Patricia White explain in a supplemental feature on our just-released Dietrich–von Sternberg box set, it is this devil-may-care attitude toward sexuality that would make the actor an early pioneer of feminist and queer cinema, and an object of fascination for generations to come.
Liv Ullmann Recalls “Shattering” Moments on the Set of Shame
While working on Ingmar Bergman’s devastating antiwar film, the actress developed an emotionally intense chemistry with her costar Max von Sydow.
The Real-Life Rage That Fueled Lee Grant in In the Heat of the Night
In this excerpt from a new interview, the actor talks about how she channeled her political anger in the role of a distraught widow in Norman Jewison’s Oscar-winning crime drama.
Writing with the Body: Mikey and Nicky as an Actors’ Showcase
Elaine May populated her gangster-film masterpiece with acting heavyweights who could bring spontaneity to their roles. Critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey talk about her approach to performance in this clip.
How Hitchcock Pulled off a Shot for the Ages
Award-winning cinematographer John Bailey discusses the complications that Alfred Hitchcock faced trying to execute one of the most ambitious shots in his filmography.