Friday, October 21, 2011

Marika Rökk, Zarah Leander, Marlene Dietrich, Hildegard Knef

Artists: Marika Rökk, Zarah Leander, Marlene Dietrich, Hildegard Knef
LP: Die Großen Vier

According to my online English-to-German dictionary, "Dame" is the German word "Queen." This (1960s?) "Die Großen Vier" LP offers a collection of songs by four female singers-actors-performers-beauties who were popular in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. There's info, songs, photos, and video clips for each of the four "Dames of Hearts" included below.

 Artist: Marika Rökk
Song: "Alles Ist Noch Wie Ein Traum Für Mich"
[ listen ]

Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1913, Marika Rökk grew up in Budapest before her family moved her to Paris in 1924, where she danced at the Moulin Rouge. A few years later she was offered a film contract in Germany, where she had an illustrious career in movie musicals throughout the 1930s. In 1940 Rökk appeared as herself in the Nazi propaganda film WUNSCHKONZERT and as a result, a ban was placed on her professional career for several years after WWII ended in 1945. In addition to being a popular operetta singer, Rökk was also no slouch in the rug-cutting department, as you can see for yourself in the movie clip below. You can read more about the life and career of Marika Rökk on Wikipedia here.

Marika Rökk on YouTube:

[ Marika Rökk: November 3, 1913 — May 16, 2004 ]

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Artist: Zarah Leander
Song: "Du Machst Mich So Nervös"
[ listen ]

Zarah Leander was born in Karlstad, Sweden in 1907, and it was there she first found success as an actress and singer. Her popularity eventually spread throughout Scandinavia and to the European continent, where she was especially beloved by the Germans. She received an invitation to Hollywood to make pictures—where other European beauties like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Luise Rainer had been transformed into world-famous movie stars—but Zarah settled in Berlin instead, figuring a move to the USA would be difficult for her two young children. Plus, she already spoke fluent German! Leander stayed in Germany during WWII, and two of her most popular songs of the time, "That Is Not the End of the World" and "I Know That Someday a Miracle Will Happen," were seen by some as Nazi propaganda, though Zarah refused to hobnob with Nazi party leaders and claimed she was only trying to lift the spirits of the German people with her music. In any case, when Leander's villa in Berlin was bombed during a raid in 1943, she decided to hightail it back to Sweden. Unfortunately, she received a cool reception upon her return, since, though Sweden was officially neutral during the war, public opinion there was largely with the western allies. Though Leander continued singing and acting after the end of the war, she never again regained the popularity she'd enjoyed before and during WWII. Zarah Leander still lives on in the hearts of many, including singer Nina Hagen, who idolized the wartime chanteuse as a youth and covered one of Zarah's hits once she'd grown up to become a freaky new wave discotheque sensation. To read more about Zarah Leander's life and career, click here.

Zarah Leander on YouTube:

[ Zarah Leander: March 15, 1907 — June 23, 1981 ]

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Artist: Marlene Dietrich
Song: "Mein Blondes Baby"
[ listen ]

Of the four performers featured on this record, Marlene Dietrich is the only one to have made a name for herself in the USA, and she's the only one I was familiar with before finding this LP. Born in Berlin in 1901, Marlene studied the violin in school and took a job performing in a pit orchestra in 1922, providing music for silent films at a Berlin cinema. She was fired after just four weeks. After that, Marlene took bit parts in local plays and films until landing the lead role in director Josef von Sternberg's THE BLUE ANGEL in 1930. The film was an international sensation, von Sternberg took Dietrich to Paramount Pictures in Hollywood where they made six more films together, and the rest, as they say, is history—a history you can read about here. If you'd like to know more about the brilliant Ms. Dietrich, I highly recommend watching Maximilian Schell's 1984 documentary called MARLENE.

Marlene Dietrich on YouTube:

[ Marlene Dietrich: December 27, 1901 — May 6, 1992 ]

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Artist: Hildegard Knef
Song: "Illusionen"
[ listen ]

Actress, singer, songwriter, and author Hildegard Knef, who you can read about here, holds the honor of having presented German audiences with their first-ever cinematic nude scene. The year was 1950, and the film was DIE SÜNDERIN (aka. "The Sinner"), a love story between an artist and a prostitute. Born in Ulm, Germany at the end of 1925, Hildegard once masqueraded as a soldier in order to stay close to her Nazi lover, Eward von Demandowsky. Already famous for her roles in films like THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US and THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (she refused David O. Selznick's invitation to Hollywood after finding out she'd have to be called Gilda Christian and pretend to be from Austria), Knef starting her singing career in 1963. Fans were drawn to her deep, smokey voice and her talent as a writer of lyrics, and she sold millions upon millions of records.

Hildegard Knef on YouTube:

[ Hildegard Knef: December 28, 1925 — February 1, 2002 ]

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