Dearest Marlene: Letters & Photos from the Collection of Marlene Dietrich
Swann is honored to commemorate the legacy of Marlene Dietrich by offering for the first time select items that have touched her life and that of her family. Our May 4 sale of Autographs will open with an array of letters addressed to the actress, as well as her own photographs and promotional materials.
Lot 22: Archive of over 50 photographs of Marlene Dietrich, including a family portrait of Dietrich at five years old, Berlin, 1905. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
Items on offer include a 1905 family portrait, showing young Marlene at five years old (far right). The run includes letters written to Dietrich by her famous lovers and admirers, offering an intoxicating glimpse into the private sphere of one of the world’s first film icons.
Lot 7: Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed “Love / Mr. Papa,” to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.
“Your cable came Sunday afternoon and the phone was so bad I couldn’t hear it. All I could make out was . . . that I had not sent you a book and I had forgotten you. Balls. So then I tried to find you in NY. And when the call came through had to shout into the phone and could not hear your lovely voice and we said goodbye like people who did not understand each other nor love each other. . . .
“. . . Please know I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always. Lots of times I have what seem like very bad troubles, at least they seem bad because people die, or I am bitched out of money unbelievably or people I love get cancer; or I start to not give a damn about anything and wish things were simple like in a war where you can just do your duty and maybe be killed . . . .
“When I decided to publish this Old Man and the Sea it was all like a military secret because of lining up the book of month, Life, Scribner’s and everything was on that basis. Naturally everyone gives away the secret but me. You know I would not tell you a military secret if I were in bed, or drunk or anything. So I did not send you the Mss. once it was in that secretive basis. But I know people who were sworn not to show it to other people did. One son of a bitch wrote me, very gloatingly, that I would be annoyed to know it but that he had already read it. . . . I would rather have you read it than anyone.
“Nobody knows I am a good poet except you and Mary. Probably I am a better poet than anything. But you are the one who knows it best . . . .
“If you have any bad problem or if you are bad lonely would you like to come down here? Or would you like to come down here just for fun?
“You know if you feel bad and want to talk or go swimming, or on the ocean, or read, or eat and drink well or anything, you can fly here in 4 1/2 hours. I think you would have fun. I know I would. I know we would.”
Hemingway’s novella TheOld Man and the Sea was first published in the September 1, 1952, issue of Life magazine. Appearing in the August 18, 1952, issue of that magazine was Winthrop Sargeant’s article, Dietrich and Her Magic Myth; the article includes an image of Marlene Dietrich in her New York apartment, where a table displays a large photograph of Hemingway inscribed “With love, Papa.”
Lot 1: Jean Cocteau, Autograph Manuscript Signed, working draft of his poem, Tribute of Jean Cocteau to Marlene Dietrich, in French, circa 1954. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
In addition to several letters from Jean Cocteau to Dietrich, there is also a working draft of a poem he wrote for her, probably on the occasion of her appearance at the Polio Gala on August 17, 1954, where is was read aloud by Jean Marais.
“Marlene Dietrich! Your name starts with a caress and ends with a whip. You wear feathers and furs, which seem to belong to your heart like the furs of the wild beasts and the feathers of the birds. Your voice and your eyes are those of the Lorelei, but Lorelei was dangerous. . . .”
Lot 4: Noël Coward, Autograph Letter Signed to Marlene Dietrich, thanking her for the present of a blue alpaca suit, in French, London, July 13, 1951. Estimate $600 to $900.
The British playwright Noël Coward wrote to Dietrich informing her of his upcoming trip to the South of France with Hugh Beaumont (whom he calls ‘Binkie’) to discuss his latest play–possibly Relative Values. He also thanks her for a rather unusal gift:
“. . . [M]y blue Alpaca dinner jacket suit is the smartest thing ever seen on land or sea & is one of the loveliest presents I have ever had–and you are a darling duck.
“Life over here has been highly social but I am putting a stop to all that & am going off to the South of France to stay with Binkie & discuss my new play & various business things. . . .”
“The photograph is absolutely wonderful & the dress looks a dream & oh how I wish I could see you whirling on in that tiny hurricane.
“. . . Kindly keep a lamp burning in the window . . . Love love love love love.”
Lot 21: Marlene Dietrich, group of three Photographs Signed, early 1930-40s. Estimate $600 to $900.
An unusual part of the offering is an archive of photographs used by the Beverly Hills Police Department after the attempted extortion and kidnapping of Dietrich’s daughter, Maria. The perpetrators send notes composed of magazine clippings, like something out of a movie, to Dietrich’s approximate address (“Marlene Dietrich / Roxbury Drive / Beverly Hills / Calif.”)
Lot 6: Archive used by the Beverly Hills Police Department during the investigation into the extortion attempt and threatened kidnapping of Marlene Dietrich’s daughter, Maria, 1932. Estimate $600 to $900.