Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15: June Carter Cash died on this date in 2003...

... she was 73-years-old when she passed away.

Valerie June Carter was born in Maces Spring, Virginia. She performed with the Carter Family country music group from the age of ten. In March 1943, when the Carter Family trio stopped recording together, Maybelle Carter, with encouragement from her husband Ezra, formed "Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters" with her daughters, June Helen and Anita.

The new group first aired on radio station WRNL in Richmond, Virginia, on June 1. Doc (Addington) and Carl (McConnell)—Maybelle's brother and cousin, respectively— known as "The Virginia Boys," joined them in late 1945. June, then 16, also became the co-announcer.

The next year, the Carters and Doc and Carl did show dates within driving range of Richmond, through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. June later said she had to work harder at her music than her sisters, but she had her own special talent—comedy. A highlight of the road shows was her "Aunt Polly" comedy routine. Carl McConnell wrote in his memoirs that June was "a natural born clown, if there ever was one."

After Doc and Carl dropped out of the music business in late 1945, Maybelle and the sisters move to Sunshine Sue Worklman's "Old Dominion Barn Dance" on the WRVA Richmond station. Then they moved to WNOX in Knoxville, TN where they met Chet Atkins with Homer and Jethro.

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Keep On the Sunny Side: Her Life in Music


In the 1949, Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, along with their lead guitarist, a young Chet Atkins, were living in Springfield, Missouri, and performing regularly at KWTO. Ezra "Eck" Carter, Maybelle's husband and manager of group, declined numerous offers from the Grand Ole Opry to move the act to Nashville, Tennessee, because the Opry would not permit Atkins to accompany the group onstage. Atkins's reputation as a guitar player had begun to spread, and studio musicians were fearful that he would displace them as a 'first-call' player if he came to Nashville.

In 1950, Opry management relented and the group, along with Atkins, became part of the Opry company. Here the family befriended Hank Williams and Elvis Presley - who was a distant relative - and June met Johnny Cash.

June Carter often played a comedic foil during the group's performances alongside other Opry stars Faron Young and Webb Pierce.

In 1967, Johnny Cash and June Carter won a Grammy award in the Best Country & Western Performance, Duet, Trio Or Group (vocal or instrumental) category for the song "Jackson." A year later in 1968, Johnny Cash proposed to Carter during a live performance at London Arena in London, Ontario, and they married on March 1, 1968.

In 1970, they won again in the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal category for the song "If I Were a Carpenter."
June Carter Cash is best known for singing and songwriting, but she was also an author, dancer, actress, comedienne, philanthropist and humanitarian. Director Elia Kazan saw her perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and encouraged her to study acting. She studied with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

Her acting roles included Mrs. "Momma" Dewey in Robert Duvall's 1998 movie The Apostle, Sister Ruth, wife to Johnny Cash's character Kid Cole; for four years on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–1997), and Clarise on Gunsmoke in 1957. June was also "Momma James" in The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James.

As a singer, she had both a solo career and a career singing with first her family and later her husband. As a solo artist, she became somewhat successful with upbeat country tunes of the 1950s like "Jukebox Blues" and, with her exaggerated breaths, the comedic hit "No Swallerin' Place" by Frank Loesser.

June also recorded "The Heel" in the 1960s along with many other songs. She won a Grammy award in 1999 for her solo album, Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003 and won two additional Grammys. The songs on the album include "Big Yellow Peaches," "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea," "Temptation" and the trademark staple "Wildwood Flower." Her autobiography was published in 1979, and she wrote a memoir, From the Heart, almost 10 years later.

Carter was married three times and had one child with each husband. All three of her children have had successful careers in country music; Carlene Carter, the late Rosie Nix Adams and John Carter Cash. (Rosanne Cash, is Johnny's daughter.)

June Carter Cash died in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 15, 2003, of complications following heart valve replacement surgery.Her husband of 35 years, Johnny Cash who died less than four months later.

In 1999, she won a Grammy Award for her album Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003 and won two additional Grammys. She ranked #31 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002. She was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12: Perry Como - "Magic Moments," "Catch a Falling Star, "Hot Ziggety..." – died on this date in 2001.

… he died six days before his 89th birthday.
Pietro “Perry” Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He was the seventh of 13 children of Italian immigrants. He did not begin speaking English until he entered school, since the Comos spoke Italian at home.

The family had a second-hand organ Pietro had bought for $3; as soon as Perry was able to toddle, he would head to the instrument, pump the bellows, and play music he had heard by ear. His father, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons even if he could barely afford them. Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson.

Young Perry started helping his family at age 10, working before and after school in Steve Fragapane's barber shop for 50¢ a week.

Perry showed more musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town's brass band, playing guitar, singing at weddings, and as an organist at church. Despite this musical ability, Como's primary ambition was to become a barber. Training on his father, young Como mastered the skills well enough to have his own shop at age 14. He was a member of the Canonsburg Italian Band along with the father of singer Bobby Vinton.

In 1932, Como left Canonsburg, moving about 100 miles away to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his uncle had a barber shop in the Hotel Conneaut. Perry, his future wife and friends visited the Silver Slipper Ballroom where Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were playing.

Carlone invited anyone who thought he might have singing talent to come up and sing with his band. Young Como was terrified, but his friends urged him onto the stage. The young man impressed Carlone and offered him a job as a singer. He returned to Canonsburg to talk the matter over with his father. Perry expected he would tell him to stay in the barber business, but to his surprise, the senior Como told him if he did not try this, he would never know whether or not he could be a professional singer.

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Perry Como's Greatest Hits

During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for the RCA Victor label after signing with it in 1943. "Mr. C.,” as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show, which set the standards for the genre and proved to be one of the most successful in television history. Bing Crosby once described Como as, "the man who invented casual.”

His combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time. A popular television performer and recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records with record sales so high the label literally stopped counting at Como's insistence. His weekly television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world and his popularity seemingly had no geographical or language boundaries.

Como's appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct in his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: "50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all."

One of the many factors in his success was Como's insistence on his principles of good taste. For example, while his performance of "Ave Maria" was a tradition of his holiday television programs, Como refused to sing it at live performances, saying, "It's not the time or place to do it.,” even though it was the number one request of his audiences.

Another personal quality of Como was his naturalness; the man viewers saw on the screen was the same person who could be encountered behind a supermarket shopping cart, at a bowling alley, or in a kitchen making breakfast. From his first Chesterfield Supper Club television show, if scripts were written at all, they were based on Como’s natural speech pattern.

Unbeknownst to most, Como did have a temper. His music director from 1948 – 1963, Mitchell Ayres, said, "Perry has a temper like everyone else. And he loses his temper at the normal things everyone else does. When we're driving, for instance, and somebody cuts him off, he really lets the offender have it."

Como received five Emmys from 1955 to 1959, and a Christopher Award in 1956. He shared a Peabody Award with good friend Jackie Gleason in 1956.

Como was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987.

Como died in his sleep on May 12, 2001 at his home in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida, six days before his eighty-ninth birthday. He was reported to have suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer's disease during the final two years of his life.
Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002; he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.

Como has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television, and music.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10: Columbian singer Soraya died on this date in 2006...

... she was 37 years-old when she passed away from breast cancer.

Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas was born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, a year after her family moved to the U.S. from their native Colombia. The family moved back to Colombia when she was a baby, but when Soraya was eight years old, they returned to New Jersey.

Soraya first became interested in music at the age of five when she heard her uncle playing music in Colombia. Her uncle played "Pueblito Viejo," a Colombian traditional folk song using an instrument called the tiple - a triple string guitar.

Her parents bought her a guitar, which she taught herself how to play. She became proficient in classical violin, and her first 'public' performance was at Carnegie Hall in New York City as a member of the N.Y.C. Youth Philharmonic. Soraya was valedictorian of her class at Point Pleasant Boro High School, where she began writing her own music.

Soraya was only twelve years old when her mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer; she was eighteen when her mother had a recurrence and twenty-two when her mother died, in 1992. Soraya had said that her sense of responsibility increased because she needed to take care of her mother. Together they did breast-cancer research and participated in the Race for the Cure.

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Otro Lado De Mi

Soraya attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she studied English literature, French philosophy, and women's studies. Initially, Soraya worried she might be too shy to play before big crowds, but she eventually triumphed over her fear and realized her tremendous talent as a live performer when she played to rapt audiences at coffee houses and around the Rutgers campus.

Soraya obtained a record contract with Polygram Records/Island Records in 1996. Her first album, released simultaneously in both English and Spanish was titled On Nights Like This / En Esta Noche. Both versions received  critical acclaim and enabled her to tour in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe, as a guest performer in concerts for musicians including Natalie Merchant, Zucchero, Sting, Michael Bolton, and Alanis Morissette.

Her songs climbed to the top of the charts across Latin American, European, and U.S. Hispanic markets. Her first single "Suddenly/De Repente" reached #1 in Billboard Latin Pop listings, with the English version receiving some mainstream Adult Contemporary airplay. Her second album, Torre de Marfil/ Wall of Smiles, titled after a song co-written with her idol Carole King was released in late 1997, and helped her attain worldwide recognition.

Unfortunately, in 2000, she was diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer, shortly after the release of her third album "Cuerpo y Alma / I'm Yours" — just days before she was about to tour and promote it.

Feeling healthy and in remission, Soraya returned to the music scene in 2003 with the release of her fourth and self-titled album Soraya. The songs reflected her struggles, beliefs, and love for life. She composed, produced, and arranged this Latin Grammy winner for "Best Album by a Singer-Songwriter" and once again - Soraya was at the top.

She released one more successful album, El Otro Lado de Mí, before she finally succumbed to the disease.

Soraya died of breast cancer on May 10, 2006, when she was 37. She was first diagnosed in 2000, at the age of 31, after finding a lump while conducting a routine self-examination. She was diagnosed at Stage III and had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction as well as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In addition to her own death and her mother, her grandmother and a maternal aunt also dies from breast cancer.

Soraya was a breast cancer advocate for support and education, especially of Hispanic women. Soraya became the first Latin spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, touring the Americas to raise awareness. To encourage other women like herself, Soraya wrote and recorded "No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy," a song that reflects her experience in fighting breast cancer. Both tracks can be downloaded on her official website. All proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Before she died, Soroya had two number-one songs on Billboard's Latin Pop Airplay charts. She recorded five albums.

Soroya won a 2004 Latin Grammy Award for the self titled album "Soraya" as "Best Album by Songwriter," which she produced, and a 2005 Latin Grammy Awards nomination for "Female Pop Vocal Album" for her album El Otro Lado de Mí (literally "The Other Side of Me.") She was the opening act for the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards.


Monday, May 9, 2011

May 9: Lena Horne died on this date in 2010...

... she was 92-years-old when she passed away.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Her mother, Edna Scottron, daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron, was an actress with a black theatre troupe and traveled extensively. Lena was raised by her grandparents, Cora Calhoun and Edwin Horne.

In 1933, Horne joined the chorus line of the Cotton Club in New York City. In the spring of 1934, she had a featured role in the Cotton Club Parade starring Adelaide Hall who took Lena under her wing. A few years later she joined Noble Sissle's Orchestra, with which she toured and with whom she recorded her first record release, a 78rpm single issued by Decca Records.

After she separated from her first husband, Horne toured with bandleader Charlie Barnet in 1940–41, but disliked the travel and left the band to work at the Café Society in New York. She replaced Dinah Shore as the featured vocalist on NBC's popular jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street. The show's resident maestros, Henry Levine and Paul Laval, recorded with Horne in June 1941 for RCA Victor. Horne left the show after only six months to headline a nightclub revue on the west coast.

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The Essential Lena Horne: The Rca YearsAt the Waldorf Astoria / At the Sands

Horne already had two low-budget movies to her credit: a 1938 musical feature called The Duke is Tops (later reissued with Horne's name above the title as The Bronze Venus); and a 1941 two-reel short subject, Boogie Woogie Dream. Horne was primarily a nightclub performer during this period, and it was during a 1943 club engagement in Hollywood that talent scouts approached Horne to work in pictures. She chose Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and became the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio.

In November 1944 she was featured in an episode of the popular radio series, Suspense, as a fictional nightclub singer, with a large speaking role along with her singing. In 1945 and 1946 she sang with Billy Eckstine's Orchestra.

She made her debut with MGM in Panama Hattie in 1942, and the following year, performed the title song of Stormy Weather based loosely on the life of Adelaide Hall. 

Published in the Feb.1944 issue of Esquire
She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky, but was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers.

As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline. Cabin in the Sky was a notable exception since it was an all-black musical; although one number was cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors.

"Ain't it the Truth" was the song (and scene) cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing "Ain't it the Truth," while taking a bubble bath - considered too "risqué" by the film's executives. This scene and song are featured in the film That's Entertainment! III (1994) which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film's release.

She was blacklisted during the 1950s for her political views. By the mid-1950s, Horne was disenchanted with Hollywood and increasingly focused on her nightclub career.

She only made two major appearances in MGM films during the decade, 1950's Duchess of Idaho, and the 1956 musical Meet Me in Las Vegas. She returned to the screen three more times, playing chanteuse Claire Quintana in the 1969 film Death of a Gunfighter, Glinda in The Wiz (film), and co-hosting the 1994 MGM retrospective That's Entertainment! III, in which she was candid about her treatment by the studio.

Returning to her roots as a nightclub performer, Horne took part in the March on Washington in August 1963, and continued to work as a performer, both in nightclubs and on television, while releasing well-received record albums.

Lena Horne announced her retirement in March 1980, but the next year starred in a one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway and earned her numerous awards and accolades. She continued recording and performing sporadically into the 1990s, disappearing from the public eye in 2000.

In January 2005, Blue Note Records, her label for more than a decade, put out a collection of rare and unreleased recordings by Horne made during her time on Blue Note. Remixed by her longtime producer Rodney Jones, the record includes versions of such signature songs as "Something to Live For," "Chelsea Bridge," and "Stormy Weather." The album, originally titled Soul but renamed Seasons of a Life, was released on January 24, 2006.

The 83rd Academy Awards presented a tribute to Horne by actress Halle Berry at the ceremony held February 27, 2011.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8: Country singer Eddy Arnold died on this date in 2008…

… he was 89 years-old when he passed away.

Richard Edward Arnold known professionally as Eddy Arnold, was a “Nashville sound” innovator who began his career in the late 1950s. He scored 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts, second only to George Jones. By 1992, he had sold nearly 85 million records, and had a total of 145 weeks of No. 1 songs, more than any other singer.

A member of the Grand Ole Opry beginning in 1943, and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 1966. Arnold ranked 22nd on Country Music Television's 2003 list of "The 40 Greatest Men of Country Music." His career spanned six decades.

Arnold was born on a farm near Henderson, Tennessee. His father, a sharecropper, played the fiddle, while his mother played guitar. As a boy Arnold helped on the farm, which later gained him his nickname—the Tennessee Plowboy. Arnold attended Pinson High School where he played guitar for school functions and events. He quit before graduation to help with the farm work, but continued performing, often arriving on a mule with his guitar hung on his back. Arnold also worked part time as an assistant at a mortuary.

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Ultimate Eddy Arnold


When he was 16, Arnold made his musical debut on WTJS-AM in Jackson, Tennessee and was offered a job. He performed at local nightclubs and was a permanent performer for the station. During 1938, he was hired by WMPS-AM in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was one of its most popular performers. He soon quit for KWK-AM in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by a brief stint at WHAS-AM in Louisville, Kentucky.

He performed for WSM-AM on the Grand Ole Opry during 1943 as a solo artist. During 1944, Arnold signed a contract with the company RCA Victor, with manager Colonel Tom Parker, who later managed Elvis Presley. Arnold's first single did not chart, but his next one, "Each Minute Seems a Million Years,” scored No. 5 on the country charts in 1945. Arnold's next 57 singles all scored the Top Ten, including 19 number one scoring successes.

During 1946, Arnold scored his first major success with "That's How Much I Love You.” During 1948, he had five successful songs on the charts simultaneously. That year he had nine songs score the top 10; five of these scored No. 1 and scored #1 for 40 of the year's 52 weeks.

Arnold continued to dominate the charts, with 13 of the 20 best-scoring country music songs of 1947–1948. He became the host of Mutual Radio's Purina-sponsored segment of the Opry, and of Mutual’s Checkerboard Jamboree, a midday program shared with Ernest Tubb. Recorded radio programs increased Arnold’s popularity, as did the CBS Radio series Hometown Reunion with the Duke of Paducah.

Arnold quit the Opry during 1948, and his Hometown Reunion briefly broadcasted in competition with the Opry on Saturday nights. During 1949 and 1950, he performed in the Columbia movies Feudin’ Rhythm and Hoedown.

Arnold began working for television during the early 1950s, hosting The Eddy Arnold Show. The summer program was broadcasted by all three television networks, replacing the Perry Como and Dinah Shore programs. He also performed as a guest and a guest host on the ABC-TV show Ozark Jubilee from 1955–60. He also starred on Eddy Arnold Time from 1955 to 1957. From 1960 to 1961, he hosted NBC-TV's Today on the Farm.

During the 1950s, the popularity of rock and roll caused a decrease of Arnold's record sales. In 1955, Arnold annoyed many the country music “establishment” by recording with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra in New York. The popular-oriented arrangements of "The Cattle Call" and "The Richest Man (in the World),” however, helped to expand his appeal beyond its country music base.

This "new" musical style, pioneered by Jim Reeves and Arnold, became known as the "Nashville Sound.” Arnold’s new sound brought his music to a more diverse audience.

During 1965, he had one of his greatest successes with the song "Make the World Go Away.” With the Anita Kerr Singers as backup and accompanied by pianist Floyd Cramer,
Bill Walker's orchestra arrangements provided the lush background for 16 continuous successes sung by Arnold during the late 1960s.

Arnold performed with symphony orchestras in Carnegie Hall for two concerts, and in the Coconut Grove in Las Vegas.

In 1966, Arnold was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the youngest performer to receive the honor. The following year Arnold was voted the first-ever awarded Country Music Association's Entertainer Of The Year. Two years later, Arnold released an autobiography named It's A Long Way From Chester County.

During the 1980s, Arnold announced he was semi-retired; however, he continued recording. During 1984, the Academy of Country Music awarded Arnold its Pioneer Award. However, he then released no recordings for seven years.

His next album was released during 1991 as You Don't Miss A Thing. Arnold performed occasional road tours for several more years.

During 1996, when Arnold was 76 years old, RCA Records released an album of his main successes since 1944 as part of a series on singers. Arnold then retired from active singing, though he still performed occasionally.

In 1999 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences inducted the recording of "Make The World Go Away" into the Grammy Hall of Fame. During 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. During 2005, Arnold received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, and later that year, released an album with RCA Records called After All These Years.

Eddy Arnold died of natural causes on May 8, 2008 in a nursing home in Nashville, exactly one week before his 90th birthday. His wife of 66 years, Sally Gayhart Arnold, had preceded him in death by two months.


Friday, May 6, 2011

May 6: Actress, singer, Marlene Dietrich ("Falling in Love Again"), died on this date in 1992...

... she was 90-years-old when she passed away. 

Did you know?
Dietrich's mother was from a well-to-do Berlin family who owned a clockmaking firm and her father was a police lieutenant. As a child, she was nicknamed "Lena" and "Lene." When she was 11, she contracted her two first names to form the then-novel name of "Marlene."

Born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Schöneberg, a district of Berlin, Germany, Marlene Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself. In 1920s Berlin, she acted on the stage and in silent films. 
As a teenager she studied the violin and became interested in theatre and poetry as a teenager. Her dreams of becoming a concert violinist were cut short after injuring her wrist.

In 1921, Dietrich auditioned unsuccessfully for theatrical director and impresario Max Reinhardt's drama academy; however, she soon found herself working in his theatres as a chorus girl and playing small roles in dramas. She made her film debut playing a bit part in the 1922 film, So sind die Männer.

She met her future husband, Rudolf Sieber, on the set of another film made that year, Tragödie der Liebe.
Dietrich continued to work on stage and in film both in Berlin and Vienna throughout the 1920s, including Frank Wedekind's Pandora's Box, William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah and Misalliance.

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Marlene Dietrich - The Glamour Collection (Morocco/ Blonde Venus/ The Devil Is a Woman/ Flame of New Orleans/ Golden Earrings)


With Arthur Kennedy & Mel Ferrer in "Rancho Notorious"

It was in musicals and revues, such as Broadway, Es Liegt in der Luft and Zwei Krawatten, however, that she attracted the most attention. By the late 1920s, Dietrich was also playing sizable parts on screen, including Café Elektric, Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame and Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen.

In 1929, Dietrich landed the breakthrough role of Lola-Lola, a cabaret singer who causes the downfall of a hitherto respected schoolmaster, in UFA's production, The Blue Angel. Her performance as Lola-Lola brought her international fame and a contract with Paramount Pictures in the U.S.
The film was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who thereafter took credit for having "discovered" Dietrich. The film is also noteworthy for having introduced Dietrich's signature song "Falling in Love Again."
Dietrich became a U.S. citizen in 1939. During World War II, she was a high-profile frontline entertainer.
Although she still made occasional films in the post-war years, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a successful show performer.

In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female star of all time.