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The Alleged Lesbian Affair of Marlene Dietrich and Claudette Colbert

Rumors have circulated for decades, but the business of outing long-dead celebrities can be complicated and even harmful.

The bisexuality of Marlene Dietrich was not exactly a secret in 1930s Hollywood. In fact, her ambiguous sexuality was part of her on-screen brand. But there is some debate as to whom Dietrich counted among her lovers and which of her fellow stars participated in what has been called the “sewing circle” of female intimacy. Kenneth Anger alleges that Dietrich had a “passionate affair” with Claudette Colbert, an Oscar-winning actress with an extremely heteronormative persona. In this episode, we explore what was going on in Dietrich’s life and career around the time that this affair could have taken place. Then we delve into Colbert’s image as a very different kind of on-screen sex symbol and her complicated off-screen personal life.

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Podcast production by Cameron Drews.