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