The German-American actress was one of the most beautiful, mysterious stars of Hollywood's golden age

By Joe McGovern
May 09, 2017 at 03:16 PM EDT

Born in Germany in 1901, Marlene Dietrich’s incredible life paralleled with the 20th century. She began her career as a silent film star in Berlin, made the leap to Hollywood before the war, turned down lucrative contract offers from the Nazis (instead using her fame to save Jews), slipped from popularity in the 1940s, and bounced back with juicy roles opposite John Wayne and Orson Welles in her later years. She died in 1992 in Paris at the age of 91.

And still today, there is an insatiable appetite for Dietrich’s imperious screen presence and her meowing sexuality. “A country without bordellos,” she once said, “is like a house without bathrooms.” New York City’s Metrograph Theater is paying tribute to the mysterious screen goddess with a 19-film retrospective called Marlene, running May 23 to June 4. (Click here for tickets and showtimes.)

Metrograph Theater

The lineup will including all seven films that Dietrich made with Josef von Sternberg, including 1932’s spectacular Blonde Venus, featuring the actress emerging from a gorilla suit. Dietrich was openly bisexual, and you can catch a special sexual ease and open-mindedness in many of her performances in von Sternberg’s dramas. Also featured will be her collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock (Stage Fright), Orson Welles (Touch of Evil), Billy Wilder (A Foreign Affair), Fritz Lang (Rancho Notorious), and Stanley Kramer (Judgment at Nuremberg).

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1981 stylish Lola, inspired by Dietrich’s The Blue Angel, will also screen, as will German actor Maximilian Schell’s Marlene, a 1984 Oscar-nominated documentary, consisting of fantastic audio clips of the actress who would not allow herself to be filmed.