Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Packet of “Crisps”: Marlene Dietrich

Possums, while going through our library recently, we re-read with great pleasure a collection of essays by Quentin Crisp, gnashing our teeth all the while over how neglected he has become of late.

In an effort to remind ourselves of just how perceptive a writer he could be (in addition to being endlessly entertaining and peerlessly bitchy), we will bring you a few of his best tidbits about the subject he knew best: as Countess DeLave might have put it in The Women, "Oh glamour, glamour."

To start, let Mr. Crisp tell you, possums, about Miss Dietrich:

“Miss Dietrich’s early Hollywood movies were the most immoral ever generally released. She did not reveal any more of her body than other screen sirens of her day, nor was she seen behaving in an any more explicitly sexual way, but the plots of nearly all these pictures showed her living a life of total degradation. In Shanghai Express, for instance, she forever plied her trade back and forth from Shanghai to Peking until, after a great deal of mileage, to say nothing of footage, she re-met her former fiancé quite by chance but without, one must add, the slightest sign of embarrassment. Here as elsewhere, her costar was chosen from among the most boring actors that the casting office could supply. This was done to make it clear that matrimony was inevitable.

Though on one occasion she sank so low as to wear a hat—the brim of which was weighed down with artificial cherries—Miss Dietrich never seemed to pay the smallest price for her sins, but perhaps I have read the message wrongly. It may be that the ultimate punishment for a lifetime of unremitting fornication is that you become too weak to defend yourself from marriage.”