Currently I’m reading “Marlene Dietrich” by her daughter Maria Riva, published by Knopf. It’s a fascinating biography written from the perspective of “The Child,” as she calls her only daughter throughout the book. Marlene (she coined her own first name) was a German-American actress and singer that soared to stardom after her performance in The Blue Angel (1930), Germany’s first talkie. And furthered her reputation as a siren in her second film Morocco (1930) filmed in the US.
She was always contrarian to the day. She was one of the first women to wear men’s clothing. And she had her own sense of style and fashion that stayed with her until her 80s. She always smoked cigarettes, but until recently I wondered to myself what cigars would she have smoked? Not so much the brand but the size.
You can see in many of the stills that she is usually smoking a regular cigarette. In other clips she is using a delicate cigarette holder. So what would be her choice of cigar? She certainly was nonconventional. No doubt the cigar would have been Cuban. And in the 30s, 40s and beyond the choice of many cigar smokers the lengths ranged from 9 ¼” to 4” and the ring from 38 to 52. The larger cigars of today – the 60s, 70s, even the 80s wouldn’t have had a place in the industry back then, nor would the cigar smoker have accepted it. The flavor is in the wrapper, why kill that with fifty pounds of filler?
So I would say she might have smoked a Lancero, usually somewhere in the 7 to 7 1/2 length range with a ring gauge of 38 to 40. I always say those who cannot make an authentic Lancero at 38 make a 40. For me the true Lancereo will always be a 38 ring gauge. Or perhaps she would have gone for a Cazadores (6 3/8 x 43), or a Palmitas (6 x 32), a Corona (5 5/8 x 42), or even a Panatelas Largas (6 7/8 x 28). There were so many classic sizes of the day it, indeed, would be hard to choose which she would have picked.
It may be a silly question, “What cigar size would she have preferred?” But as I delve deeper into the book, I can see that her influence made a difference not only in Hollywood, but throughout the cultures of the day both here in the US and abroad. And she was a trend setter.
Alas, she did not smoke cigars and stayed with cigarettes. But if you ever get a chance to see The Blue Angel or Morocco, or any of her early silent films she made in Berlin in the 20s, visualize what cigar she may have smoked and see if it’s a nonsense question or an intellectual challenge I put to you. First you may want to get to know her, and then once you do, that question may have an answer as clear as a bell.
I shall reserve my final guess until after I finish the book.