Morocco and other Marlene Dietrich films at TIFF

July 15, 2019

The new Marlene Dietrich series at TIFF celebrate the renowned actress and her incredible legacy in film. Running until Aug.26, TIFF will be screening many of Dietrich’s films as part of this series.

Although she is renowned for her acting, Dietrich also has iconic status as a pioneer in the menswear trend, which she started decades before it became popular. Her work includes films like The Blue Angel (1930) and Morocco (1930), where she first began pushing societal gender boundaries and wearing top hats and men’s clothing.

Recently, two of our editors attended the screening of Morocco at TIFF, and here are their thoughts and reviews on the film and the series.

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco.

“I always admired Dietrich and was very interested to see her acting debut in Hollywood, which was made in Morocco. The costumes in this film are truly stunning and reflect the glamour of one of the most iconic times in fashion. Although the film is in black-and-white, the cuts and flow of each gown and outfit stand out easily; and this is true not just for Dietrich’s character but even the male characters in the film.

“A lot has changed in terms of gender and societal roles since the 1930s. Although Dietrich’s character comes through full force as a very strong female in the beginning, this changes as the movie progresses and she falls in love. Towards the end, as many know, she resorts to more traditional role of a woman, by essentially abandoning her career and, literally, walking in the footsteps to follow her true love. Having said that, Dietrich made headlines in this film, by dressing in a man’s outfit during one of her performances and even kissing another woman. She continued breaking the boundaries throughout her career, and this film is remarkable for many reasons, as it truly is the beginning of her Hollywood legacy.

“Other films in this series feature many incredible outfits, and this ability to ‘travel in time’ to the golden era of film thanks to TIFF is truly appreciated.”

– Hannah Yakobi, Editor-in-Chief

Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou and Marlene Dietrich in one of the scenes from the film.

“One of the most classic films by Marlene Dietrich is Morocco, which premiered in 1930. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress in a Leading Role for Dietrich, Best Director for Josef von Sternberg, and Best Art Direction, as well as Best Cinematography. In 1992, Morocco was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

“The film is indeed very aesthetic, with beautiful and ground-breaking for that time costumes for Dietrich’s character, Amy Jolly, who is a cabaret performer. Dietrich’s iconic images in men’s suits with top hats have originated from this movie. They have become iconic of the actress’ gender-bending identity and fluidity, which made her a style icon. However, throughout this film, she is dressed not only in men’s frocks, but also in beautiful robes and gowns, accessorized with veils and pearls.

“After seeing this series at TIFF Bell Lightbox, if you still crave more of Dietrich’s images, you can always refer to the book Obsession: Marlene Dietrich: The Pierre Passebon Collection by Henry-Jean Servant, which I reviewed in FAJO last year.”

– Darina Granik, Events & Culture Editor

You can see all dates and available films for screening on TIFF’s website.

Photography provided courtesy of TIFF.


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