Ute Lemper Rendezvous with Marlene

21 Nov



I first became aware of Ute Lemper when she came on to sing All That Jazz in Chicago .  It was one of my favourties shows and I saw it many times afterwards with different casts.  

Ute Lemper is a German actress who has worked in many theatres – and her idol was another German Actress – the great Marlene Dietrich. She specialises in the songs made famous by Dietrich and Edith Piaf who was Marlene’s great friend. 

Marlene had become a recluse later in life. She was afraid to go out and be recognised perhaps made fun of because of the great beauty she had been. She feared rejection, didn’t want people to see her face. She had already experienced the horror of rejection in her life from her own people, the people of Berlin who called her a traitor to the Fatherland.  

Billy Wilder took her to Berlin jut after the war and it broke her heart to see the ruin of her city. On her next trip to Berlin for Unicef in the sixties, during the cold war. She was castigated and there were banners saying Go Home Marlene and the smell of stink bombs. 

The hatred stayed in Berlin even  when she died. She had her funeral in 1992 there and there was no wake, because of the fear of  neo Nazis. They made it a small private funeral but the smell of the stink bombs delivered by her enemies was still around.  

Marlene had refused to work for the Nazis in Berlin.  When she worked in Hollywood, she learned from the many Jewish friends there how the Jews were being treated in Her native land, and she became a soldier in the American Army. 

She had said “Send my love to France,  my  heart to England – to Germany, my dead body” and so it came to pass. 

Knowing she would be  unable to see her idol face to face, Ute wrote her a letter, telling her  she was a young German actress who had played The Blue Angel – the play in which Marlene was discovered andbegan her glittering career in Hollywood and the movies. 

To her surprise, she received a call from Marlene herself and was treated to a three hour phone call about the life of Dietrich. This she has turned into a play,  using some of the music, telling the  story as herself, the young actress, in small chunks with no time frame, just as Marlene told it to her. And occasionally taking on the persona of Marlene, by donning a top hat or a shawl and singing one of the songs.  

The play begins with the orchestra playing something that is only vaguely familiar and is eventually identified as Falling in Love again, perhaps the most famous song from Blue Angel. One of Ute’s speciality is her original interpretation of music and she uses this a few times during the story. 

Dietrick loved to drink and to smoke and most of all to love. The list of her leading men is extensive. There were very few stars in Hollywood who were not on her list of lovers both male and female. She tells us that Judy Garland was one of her failures. Charlie Chaplin was a wate of time and Jack Kennedy was boring. Later in life she met Brt Bachcharach who became her accompanist and her love thoughhe was about thiry years young than she. Her affair with Yul Bynner last about a year but her true loves were French …Jean Gabin and Edith Piaf. 

There are so many secrets to be given away. Not only her list of lovers male and female, but one of her beauty secrets that makes one shudder. She used tape to pull the loose skin from her face and drag it to the back of her neck. This she had to remove every night which was painful and made her bleed so much that eventually it became infected and had to give up working. She retired to her house in Avenue Montaigne and shut the door on her life.  

Ute tells the story as told to her and occasionally takes on the persona of Marlene and gives us some of the songs. “Where have all the flowers gone”, “Just a gigolo”, “One for my Baby”  

There is so much more to the story of this Androgenous, extraordinary, brave lady and Ute is the girl to tell it. Try and catch the story whenever you can spare two hours. 

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