So you can read my books

Sunday, July 3, 2011


We forget the heroes. Evil, however, clings to our memories like scars on a beautiful woman's face ... or heart.

On one of Marlene Dietrich's last pictures before WWII broke out,

a lowly assistant director was sent home with a high fever, along with harsh words for ever having shown up. He awakened late in the evening to find a woman on her hands and knees scrubbing his kitchen floor.

It was the star of the picture he was working on : Marlene Dietrich.

She had heard he lived alone and had brought over some hot chicken soup. Finding his kitchen floor could stand a washing, she was doing the job herself.

For three solid years during WWII, Marlene entertained our troops on the front lines, despite a death sentence on her head. She was with the troops in winter frosts and under broiling sun.

She bathed out of a helmet like an infantryman, slept on the ground, and refused to be evacuated when artillary pounded the ground around her. She was willing to do anything to amuse the troops : playing musical saw and wearing a jeweled sheath over long G.I. underwear to parade to the sound of enemy fire in the distance.

3 years. And she didn't make one movie all that time and cared not a bit. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Hitler would have given her a bullet ... after long hours of torture.

Marlene came back from her three years on the front lines of WWII very much changed. She never got over the horrors she saw there. She slept for months in jeeps, on floors, even on bare dirt.

One afternoon after VE Day, she was walking through a little French village. All around her was rubble, and she couldn't understand why -- all the buildings along the street were still standing with curtains blowing frilly and snapping clean-crisp in their windows.

Then, she looked through one of the windows to see that there was nothing behind it. The fronts of the buildings were still standing, but everything behind them had been destroyed. There wasn't a single living person past the false fronts of those caricature buildings.

With her face cupped in trembling hands, she stood in front of that window, weeping silently, refusing to be comforted ...

"... for there is no comfort for the dead," she whispered.
Ernest Hemingway also wrote this of her : "She is brave, beautiful, loyal, kind, and generous. She is never boring and is as lovely looking in the morning in a G.I. shirt, pants, and combat boots as she is at night or on the movie screen.

She has an honesty and a comic and tragic sense of life that can never let her be truly happy unless she loves. When she loves, she can joke about it -- but it is gallows humor.

Ernest Hemingway wrote of her : "If she had nothing more than her voice, she could break your heart with it. But she has that beautiful body and the timeless loveliness of her face. It makes no difference how she breaks your heart if she is there to mend it."


  1. I bow humbly to Marlene and the other wonderful people like her in the world. They are what patriotism is all about.

  2. Heather :
    So many heroes have lived among us unsung, their bravery or their kindness lost in the shadows of the past.

    I pray your July 4th is happy and healing -- and safe! Roland

  3. Marlene truly was a real hero. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Here's a cheer for heroes and people who strive to make a difference.

    Happy 4th!!

  5. Great post, Roland. Marlene was a brave and admirable woman. As an American by choice, she stands as an inspiration to all of us who take our country and our liberties for granted.

  6. Madeline :
    Thanks for thinking Marlene a hero. Her spirit I am sure is smiling.

    Laila :
    We pass heroes unaware everyday who are fighting the good fight. Thanks for commenting.

    VR :
    I've missed your comments. I am seldom in my sweltering apartment and its sporadic internet access. Have a great 4th.

  7. A wonderful tribute, thanks Roland. I'm curious why there was a death sentence. Did she seek political asylum from Germany? I'll have to look it up.

  8. Matthew :
    According to her daughter -- Before the war, Hitler sent his second in command, Herman Goring, to Marlene's apartment to offer her jewels, money, position, and whatever else she might want if she would only come back to Germany to make movies for him.

    With a fireplace poker, she chased out Goring, screaming she hated Hitler for what he was doing to her beloved Germany. The next day, she approached the American government, offering to help them in whatever way they might need.

    The day after that, Hitler issued a death order with her name on it.