Marlene Dietrich is remembered in cinematic history as being a stone cold... fox. Yet, off screen, her character was much softer and more maternal than any of her performances could have relayed. She would only play a mother once, in Blonde Venus, despite the fact that "mom" was her favorite role in her personal life. Her natural inclination to nurture soon enough drew her to none other than fallen angel John Gilbert. When Lewis Milestone alerted her over dinner that his neighbor, the handsome Jack, was out of work, melancholy, and just doors away, Marlene-- who strongly adhered to the "no man left behind" mentality-- marched up to his house and announced, "John Gilbert, I have come to save you." The stunned heartthrob made no dispute. In addition to enjoying a romantic affair, Marlene also vowed to kick-start Jack's stalled career by insisting that he be cast opposite her in Knight without Armour. It would have been something to see these two lovers together on screen. Sadly, Jack passed away on Jan. 9, 1936 before production was started, so Greta Garbo maintains the reputation of his greatest screen lover (both on and off). Marlene was devastated at Jack's passing and lit votive candles beneath his picture in memory for several months afterward. Yet, she did not hold it against the debonair Robert Donat when he later took on the role of A.J. Fothergill in Knight. In fact, Marlene turned her mother instincts on him as well. When he became ill, production threatened to have him replaced. Again, Marlene stepped in and insisted that the film be postponed until its leading man was better, or else she too would walk. The brass took the bait, and after the grateful Robert recuperated, Marlene toasted his return.
Despite her brazen, business savvy ways, Marlene too hit some rough patches. In these times, she was resilient enough to take care of herself, but it was always nice when a helping hand was extended in her direction. Such was the case when it came time to cast Destry Rides Again (left). At this time, Marlene was suffering a dip in popularity, having just been labeled as box-office poison alongside soul sisters Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. While she still remained adored by fans, love wasn't money, and she needed a great role to re-establish her box-office clout and fill her always dwindling bank account. Luckily, Joe Pasternak had had his eye on her since her silent film and stage days in Germany. He lobbied for her in Destry, despite the fact that the studio wanted Paulette Goddard. Fortune was on Marlene's side, because Paulette turned out to be "unavailable." Marlene got the role, and her "come back" resulted in a box-office sensation-- one of the many films to make 1939 the eternal year of movies. Befittingly, Marlene and Paulette never really got along, especially after Paulette married Marlene's good friend, writer Erich Maria Remarque. Marlene saw him little after the nuptials, but while Paulette may have gotten her pal, Marlene got her career back.