She had some solid words on money, love, and aging.
Marlene Dietrich was one of the ultimate sex symbols of the 1930s. Her breakthrough role cast her as the seductive cabaret performer, Lola Lola, in The Blue Angel (1930). After that film her move to Hollywood ensured her success in the talkies. She appeared opposite some of the best male actors in the business: Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart. Her blonde hair, bedroom eyes, and German accent were so recognizable that they came to epitomize the stereotype of the European vixen. But, years later when she was interviewed by Jay Kent Hackleman in 1969 her advice to youngsters was actually quite grandmotherly.
Despite being one of the hottest screen sirens of her heyday, Dietrich was very firm when asked about casting couch politics. She denied that anything untoward had gone on, saying that, “I have never used my body. I have played roles where the legs were used and the body was used but in life, I have never done that.”
She also said that one, “can’t succumb to adoration because people adore so many things. They also adore things that you think quite worthless. So you can’t take it too seriously.”
On the subject of relaxation the actress and singer had an interesting take on it all. She said that, “You see in our language, in German or in French, there is no such word as ‘relax’. This is an American invention. We don’t have a feeling like the American has, ‘now it’s 7 o’clock or something and I have to have a drink and relax’. It’s not a necessity in Europe. He drinks because he likes to drink. Success in America means a lot to a man and it means a lot to his wife and family. There is a general belief that success is synonymous with happiness. Well, it doesn’t, as you know, they don’t go together at all.”
She seemed to be saying that you should choose a job you enjoy and then you won’t need to relax, implying that those stuck in the rat race need to relax after work because they don’t enjoy their careers.
Perhaps her most profound advice concerns money, something Dietrich had earned plenty of in her lifetime. She not only felt that Americans didn’t keep their belongings long enough to truly appreciate their value, but she also said that, “In Europe they have a car, they have it 15 years and they polish it and they wash it and they love it but here people don’t love their cars because they know next year they are going to get another one. And then everything is on credit. They don’t own it and then you buy many more things than you need because it’s on credit and it doesn’t bring them happiness. It just doesn’t. Possessions do not make you happy.”
When it comes to aging Hackleman asked her if she was sad to be old to which she replied, “I think irrevocable things you cannot begrudge- if you have any bit of intelligence.”
Coming from a woman who traveled the world, lived through two World Wars, and had a resumé we’re still talking about today, her advice and her outlook on life sounds like the sort of things my grandmother would say. In fact I bet most of our grandmothers have said things like, “money can’t by you happiness” and “try to grow old gracefully.” It seems Dietrich, a grandmother at early age of 47, had been sitting on lots of wise words for quite some time.