Tribute to Dietrich set for weekend

The American Cinematheque in association with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting “Empress of Desire: The Films of Marlene Dietrich” tonight through Sunday.

An official event of the Motion Picture Centennial, the retrospective will feature special guests throughout the weekend hosted by Steven Bach, the author of “Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend.”

“The tribute is long overdue,” said Bach. “The idea originally came up back in 1990 when I bumped into Gary Essert at the Berlin Film Festival. We were going to coordinate it with the publication of the book. Sadly, Gary got ill and a lot of things were postponed.”

Essert, co-founder of American Cinematheque, died of AIDS last Dec. 16.

Bach, who lives in Munich, said his ideal Dietrich program would run two weeks and cover two to three dozen of her films. However, he believes that prospect is highly impractical.

Prints of the actress’s German silent films, such as the rarely seen “The Woman One Longs For,” came from Berlin. Other rarities were culled from the UCLA archive, George Eastman House and other sources. However, finding quality prints of several titles requiredmajor detective work. Eventually the programmers were able to find such vintage Dietrich as “A Foreign Affair,””Stage Fright” and “The Scarlet Empress.”

“The situation is a real tragedy for a lot of reasons,” added Bach. “I’m convinced that a lot of so-called lost films are actually extant if someone had the times and means to search them out. Unfortunately, the industry isn’t doing it, and there’s precious little arts funding in this country to that end. Those who care about the preservation of movies have to thank God for organizations like the Cinematheque and the Academy and hope that events like this will improve the situation even a little bit.”

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