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Oscar presenter Marlene Dietrich

Oscar presenter Marlene Dietrich

March 29, 1951: Academy Awards presenter actress Marlene Dietrich, left, with Dr. Mario Ungara, Italian consul, who was delegated to accept the Best Foreign Language award for “The Walls of Malapaga.”

Dietrich used the award presentation as a career move. As reported by Julie Neigher in the Feb. 28, 2010, L.A. Times, she and fashion designer Christian Dior plotted:

…The two, who had become close after being introduced by Jean Cocteau, formed a mutually beneficial relationship. In 1951, when she was asked to present the winner for foreign-language film, Dietrich had a problem. She was seen as an aging star who, at almost 50, was on the down slope of her career. But she had a superb sense of style and, with Dior, she hatched a plan to take the Oscar stage by storm. Having researched what the other actresses would be wearing through an insider source, Dietrich knew that the predominant motif was going to be fluffy pastels and beading. So she and Dior opted for dark and minimalist. In the Aug. 18, 1952, Life magazine article, “Dietrich and Her Magic Myth,” written by Winthrop Sargeant, Dietrich further explains how she and Dior devised their plan for her walk across the stage: “Mamma is going to wear black so Mamma had better be slinky — nice, black.”

The two left no detail unattended. Dior asked whether Dietrich would be entering the stage from the right or from the left. Why? Because he needed to know where to slit her skirt to show off her gorgeous gams. The answer: stage left. As Dietrich came onstage to present the award, she received a standing ovation. What caused the rise from the seats? The sleeveless bolero, showing her decolletage, a nipped waist, a silk velvet bow swaying on her hip, and the figure-hugging ensemble that showed off her “stage-left” leg. It was Dietrich who made the headlines the next day, not the nominees. One observer said it was a shame there’d been no medal for glamour.

This photo was published in the March 29, 1951, L.A. Times.

For more, check out this Marlene Dietrich article on the Hollywood Star Walk.

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