Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE SICKLY LOOK


Has anyone, except maybe Peter Lorre, ever taken as many sickly pictures as Marlena Dietrich? There are a ton of them! Even her happy pictures like the one above, have an eerie, just-back-from-the-dead quality. This isn't a criticism, I like these pictures, I just think they're funny.



Here's (above) Marlena in what appears to be a picture of a dead person poured into a chair. Her hat is a crow, ready to feast on the carrion.



Dietrich's face (above) is a skull.



Here (above) Dietrich looks up at us like one of the pit characters in Dante's "Inferno." It's a beautifully executed picture. I wonder who made it. Maybe Steichen. 



Lots of pictures show her hanging on things, so as not to fall on the floor.



Oops! Too late! Here (above) she catches herself in mid-fall, while her other tortured self looks on.



This time (above) she clings to a pillar.  



Above, the just-poured corpse again.



I wonder why the death motiff was so popular in Dietrich's time. Was it a product of WWI or the Spanish Flu? Maybe it came out of the over-the-top pulps.



Here (above) she appears to be seconds from death.



Garbo also sat for a lot of sickly pictures, except Garbo seemed to exemplify severe depression rather than death. 



During the WWII years sickly was out and the healthy, wholesome look was in. 



17 comments:

Craig said...

Eddie: I can tell by your photo essays and several of your postings that you quite like poetry. Here is a poet you may or may not know, in a clip from 2004:
http://flexitoon.blogspot.com/

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Craig: That guy looks like a cross between Ed Wynn and Percy Dovetonsils, with a little Flub-a-dub thrown in!

Niki said...

I always thought of it as a sleepy thing, maybe she was just tired?

Craig said...

Xander Van Cerulean was played by Jonathan Freeman. He's one of our lead puppeteers, is currently on Broadway in the Little Mermaid, and was the voice of JAFAR in Disney's Aladdin. That segment was from our series The Hamptoons.

Kali Fontecchio said...

She looks weak so men will want her even more- you know "man-handle" HWA HWA HWA!

Kali Fontecchio said...

She's great in the Blue Angel, poor poor Emil Jannings- he does a superb job too, reacting to her, hahaha.

Anonymous said...

She shoulda done a Spanish Flu calendar.

Jenny Lerew said...

I think she's stunning, not sickly at all. Oh well.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: She is stunning, and she's one of my favorite actresses. It's just funny that she looks so sickly in a lot of her photographs.

buzz said...

There's a book called IDOLS OF PERVERSITY which is about how women were depicted in Victorian era paintings. There was the standard Madonna/whore division, but a lot of times women, especially the "good" ones, were depicted as invalids and/or sleeping. The book suggested it was a way for Victorian society to deal with feminine sexuality; i.e., to make it accessible to males but to deny females the strength or will to use it themselves.

Jennifer said...

Dietrich had an unusual look, and the photos of her really played it well. I thought that in her glamour shots, she always looked like she was longing for something that she couldn't have - something that's verboten...

I originally thought that Dietrich was camp, but once I saw her in Witness for the Prosecution, she blew me away with her acting skills! As I started to watch her in other things, I realized that her acting skills were really underrated .

I always thought that many of the glamour photos in the 30s and 40s were really serious and "artsy". I don't know if they (artists) thought that it looked more elegant and grand, but it did look great with artists whose faces had striking features.

Mick said...

Dietrich was dead for most of her career... bloody hell eddie I thought you researched this rubbish. That was the reason she is still such a legend. She did more movies after she died than she made before her demise... only tupak shakur has come close to her for 'beyond the grave' output

Freckled Derelict said...

Long live Dietrich!! Eddie you have to check out this fellows youtube videos. Heres one -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6_zm_p1CSo&feature=channel

Jenny Lerew said...

How about here:
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/artwork/5/0/4/1/4/50414/1_Blonde_Venus_photo-prv.jpg
And this:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3610/3467778686_b56b7dcc87.jpg

I agree she doesn't look exactly human some of the time, but I disagree she looks sickly or dead. ; )
No one in any state ever looked like Marlene. For me she's Garbo, except a thousand times more interesting. Apparently she was a real down to earth hausfrau in real life(at least, she could be in addition to jetsetting and having a lot of amours), which you have to love.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Freckled: Wow! Nice video! Thanks for the tip! I liked his jazz video, too!

I visited your blog and was reminded all over again how interesting it is!

Jenny: Flicker wouldn't allow me to see your second picture, but the first was terrific! Thanks!

Jennifer: I agree! I'd always rather see artsy pictures than natural ones, in the case of movie stars, anyway.

ALF, Dahling. said...

In the photo where she's holding "herself" to not fall, is not her; is Greta Garbo and just a photomontage. (:

"Saludos" from Chile, I loved your kind of "What ever happened with baby jane" photo. :D

Kyle said...

She doesn't look deathlike she looks '' lazy ''..... It was part of her image, the reason why she got the parts in films that she did.... You should YouTube '' the laziest gal in town '' a song performed by marlene in a Hitchcock film called (stage fright) it may give you more of an idea why she was chosen for that role...