Marlene Dietrich's life is transformed in 1929 when she is cast as the tawdry cabaret singer who starts Emil Jannings on his descent into madness in the German film "The Blue Angel." American audiences are introduced to her in the film "Morocco," with Dietrich playing a wayward chanteuse who sings her first number in a gender-bending top hat and tails and kisses another woman full on the lips. Theater critic, Kenneth Peacock Tynan, describes Dietrich as “Sex without gender.” From the start her sexuality was at the core of her stardom. "Morocco" earns Dietrich her only Academy Award nomination.
Dietrich's show business career ends on September 29, 1975 when she falls off the stage and breaks her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia. The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, dies of cancer. An alcoholic dependent on painkillers, Dietrich withdraws to her apartment at 12 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. She spends the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden, allowing only a select few to enter the apartment. During this time, she is a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller. Her autobiography, Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life), is published in 1979.