: When you're dead, you're dead. That's it.
Marie Magdelene Dietrich was born in Berlin. Her father was an army officer who had served in the Franco-Prussian War. Because of his constant absences from the family due to his army duties, Marlene and the rest had to rely on themselves.
Marlene enjoyed music and attended concerts. She was adept at playing the violin and piano. By the time she was in her mid-teens, Marlene had discovered the stage. Acting was to be her vocation. In 1921, Marlene applied for an acting school run by Max Reinhardt. She was accepted. She appeared in several stage production, but never had more than a couple of spoken lines. In short, she wasn't setting the stage world on fire.
She attempted films for the first time in 1922 Her first film was The Little Napoleon (1923) which was followed by The Tragedy of Love (1923). On this last project, she met Rudolf Sieber and married him in 1924. The union lasted until his death in 1976 although they didn't live together that whole time.
Her first US film was Morocco with Gary Cooper later that year followed, by Dishonored in 1931. This latter movie had her cast as a street walker who is appointed a spy. The film was a rather boring affair but was a success because of Marlene's presence.
Movie goers were simply attracted to her. In 1932, Marlene filmed Shanghai Express which proved to be immensely popular raking in $3 million. Once again, she was cast as a prostitute. Marlene seemed to be typecast as a woman of low morals and she wanted different parts. Her chance came in 1939 in Destry Rides Again (1939) when she was cast as "Frenchy", a Western saloon host.
After breaking her leg in one performance, she never made a go of it in show business again. Spending the last 12 years of her life bed-ridden.