Born Marie Magdalene, Marlene Dietrich was an accomplished violinist prior to an injury to one of her hands. She decided to pursue an acting career and auditioned at the Berlin school of drama, supporting herself by working in a glove factory.
During this time she met and married casting director Rudolf Sieber, and her only child Maria was born. The marriage failed, but they never divorced and remained amicable until Dietrich's death.
Acting on stage, she became "The Toast of Berlin" in such plays as 'Duel on the Lido' and 'From Mouth to Mouth'. She acted in 17 silent movies between 1922 and 1929, most notably 'Café Elektric'.
In 1929, the Jewish-Austrian Hollywood film director Josef von Sternberg cast her in 'Professor Unrat'. They began a six-year relationship, and Dietrich went on to become a sultry screen siren.
Also in 1929, Dietrich starred as a seductive nightclub singer in one of the first German movies with sound, and 'The Blue Angel' launched Marlene Dietrich’s world movie career.
She portrayed her characters sometimes to shock as well as entertain. In her American debut with 'Morocco' in 1931, she created a sensation with her portrayal of a nightclub singer in black tails and top hat. The movie made headlines worldwide.
She became Hollywood’s leading empress of glamour, allure, and mystique, starring in glamorous and sometimes controversial films such as 'Song of Songs' and 'The Devil is a Woman'.
Joseph Goebbels offered to make her "The Queen" of German films if she made movies promoting Hitler, but she consistently refused.
She continued in films, starring with and being romantically linked to many of the most handsome leading men, until her career faltered in the early 1940s. She then focused her interests on entertaining Allied troops. After WWII she became a highly paid nightclub entertainer.
She died in her apartment in Paris in May 1992, aged 90.