Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930)

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Because we’re still celebrating Pride Month here at the Garden, I thought I’d talk about one of my favorite LGBT moments in Pre-Code Hollywood: THAT scene with Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930). The one that always comes up. The one that’s been talked about a million times. Morocco‘s greatest claim to fame.

Dietrich received her only Oscar nomination for Morocco (dir. Josef von Sternberg), in which she plays Amy Jolly, a nightclub singer, who falls in love with a Legionnaire, Private Tom Brown (Gary Cooper), whom she meets just as she arrives in Morocco. Problem is, they’re both being pursued by other people – imagine! Later on, they meet again in the nightclub where Amy performs, in what is undoubtedly one of the most iconic LGBT moments in film history. In she comes, wearing a tuxedo and a top hat, smoking a cigarette, in all her Marlene Dietrich glory, looking so excruciatingly sexy, it’s ridiculous. You can’t take your eyes off her, and why would you want to? Cooper’s face as he lays eyes on her says it all, really. And even though the scene (and the film) is meant to be about the two of them, it really isn’t. At all. This is all about Dietrich, with those eyes, and that smirk, and that face, and that suit, singing ‘Quand L’amour Meurt’, and kissing another woman on the lips. Wonderful.

This was Dietrich’s Hollywood debut and what a debut! The film itself is rather average but her performance and this scene particularly elevate it to classic status, rightly so. It’s ground-breaking, it’s daring, it’s fabulous, and it’s deliciously hot. Of course it is, it’s Marlene, for goodness’ sake.

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