L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dietrich and Fairbanks

Marlene Dietrich and her husband Rudolf Sieber had a very unusual, though arguably rather successful fifty-three year marriage.  Dietrich had a long string of affairs, and Sieber had a quite permanent mistress, Tamara Matul; she was considered - along with the Sieber's daughter - part of the family. The Dietrich/Sieber marriage was more like the bond of close siblings or best friends.  After she came to Hollywood, they rarely lived together, but wrote each other constantly; hers were caustic, gossipy letters, filled with bitchy comments about her film co-workers and the details of her romances.

Beginning in 1936 and lingering on for three years, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was the man in Dietrich's life.  Photographed together everywhere, he was included - as several of her beaux would be - in the Dietrich/Sieber ménage, socializing, even traveling with the lady, the lady's husband, their child, and the husband's mistress.

(This photograph has been readied for newspaper reproduction.  Note the "clarification" of Fairbanks' ear, collar and tie, and hand.)
With Cedric Gibbons, head of MGM's art department, and his then wife, Dolores del Rio.
With Dolores del Rio.
With Lionel Atwill, who had co-starred with Dietrich in The Devil is a Woman.
With director Fritz Lang.

They made little effort to avoid being seen together.  Perhaps rumours were kept at bay by the fact that they were often accompanied by her husband and his mistress - though she, of course, was never identified as such - and the public and press just couldn't conceive of such an unusual and quite open arrangement.

Tamara Matul, Fairbanks, Sieber, and Dietrich.
With her husband, and behind him, his mistress "Tami".

Fairbanks later admitted that their relationship was nothing approaching actual love.  In her fascinating biography of her mother, Dietrich's daughter Maria Riva proposes that what drew them both to the liaison, and kept them in it long after passion had cooled, was little more than their own awareness of how beautiful they looked together.


  1. Fascinating -how I would love to read those letters to her 'husband'!

    1. Actually, a lot of them are quoted in her daughter's book. Strange marriage, terrific book.