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April, 2006, Updated July 1, 2006 with new information and photos from the Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection, Berlin

A  Lenci Dolls Collector article--for Lenci doll collectors

Celebrity Favorites: Marlene's Mascots

Patricia Hayes
For The Lenci Doll Collector

Many of the early Lenci dolls were character dolls, and mascots, aimed at an adult market. Of high quality and expensive, they were sought after, and were often given as gifts for special occasions.

Marlene Dietrich's early film career was gaining momentum during the time when Lenci dolls were reaching the height of their popularity in the 1920's.

Josef von Sternberg, director of  The Blue Angel , gave Marlene Dietrich a 15" African toddler type, felt Lenci doll, wearing a tribal style outfit of grass skirt, beaded necklace, and earrings, as a good luck talisman. It became a favorite possession. It sat on her dressing table, whenever she was on set, and it even appeared with her in several of her early movies, such as The Blue Angel , Morocco, Dishonored (1931), and others. according to Marlene's daughter, Maria Riva, he was " always the first to be unpacked in any dressing room - and always the last to be repacked." (Marlene Dietrich Photographs:and Memories, (2001)). Continued below...

1. Marlene Dietrich and her Lenci dolls,

 In the biography Marlene Dietrich written by her daughter Maria Riva ( pp. 71-73), a scene is described where Marlene is frantically searching for her "Savage" (Lenci doll) before leaving to go to work.  The doll was missing from it's usual spot because her husband had been repairing the doll's grass skirt.  Marlene did not leave home until she found her good luck mascot.
The model number of a doll from the same Lenci series is identified in Sabine Reinelt's book "Lenci Dolls" as Model 112. An indentical doll (Image 6) was auctioned by Theriault's on 1/8/2005. The auction catalog listing provided the following discription:

"Italian Black Cloth Character By Lenci
15" (38 cm.) Chubby toddler style doll of black felt, swivel head with rounded facial modeling and plump cheeks, white felt eyes with black shoe button centers, red nostrils, painted mouth, grey tightly fleeced hair, five piece body with plump belly, spread fingers, curled toes... Lenci, circa 1935. Value Points: the very rare Lenci model is well-preserved, with original wooden alligator earrings, wooden beads with elephant dangles, grass skirt with felt ribbons.
" (Theriault's)


2. Marlene Dietrich's original Lenci 112 series doll as seen today in the Marlene Dietrich Collection, Berlin. (Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin,)

3. Marlene Dietrich's original Lenci doll in the Marlene Dietrich Collection, Berlin. (Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin, 

 The second Lenci doll (Image 3), listed in the 1931 Lenci catalog as model E 39, was also a gift from  Von Sternberg, given to Marlene for the movie Dishonored (1931), to keep her other doll company, according to the biography Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva. An all felt Chinese child doll, wearing a straw "Coolie" hat and carrying a lantern,  it became a favorite too. Both dolls appeared in her early movies. They came with her on her journey to America, and they were to stay in her possession throughout her life.


4. Lenci 1931 Catalog picture, Model E39 (Right)

5. Lenci model E39 Face detail    

6. Lenci dolls, Series 112, The doll seen in the photo with Marlene is the same model as the doll on the right. (Photo: Theraiults Cherries Jubilee Catalog 1/05)

7. Lenci doll with original lantern (missing hat) ( Photo: Bertioia) 

An article from the newsletter archive of the Berlin film institute refers to Marlene's lenci dolls:

"The African doll belonged to Marlene before 1929. If you read our Newsletters you know that Marlene used it already in "I kiss your hand, Madame". The Chinese puppet was probably produced by Lenci Dolls, an Italian factory, and it also belonged to Marlene before she came to America. She makes a short remark about "my little Chinese" in an article in which she describes her feelings while traveling to America the first time. The article is called "?berfahrt" and was first printed in a German trade journal called "Reichsfilmblatt" on May 17th 1930" - Judith Mayne,, Newsletter 33: November 2, 2001, [PDF]

Marlene's lenci dolls can be seen at the Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin, where they are kept along with many of her other personal effects.

Postscript added July 1, 2006:

Thanks to Peter Riva, and the staff of the Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin, I have had the privilege of identifying two additional Lenci dolls in the Marlene Dietrich collection, a second 112 series doll (Image 8), the companion model to the doll seen in the movies, and a Lenci boy doll (Image 9) in what appears to be a Breton outfit, he was listed as 'Jules' a 17.5" 300/H model, in the 1926 Lenci catalog.


8. A second longer haired Lenci 112 series doll, also found in the Marlene Dietrich Collection. (Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin

9. Lenci model "Jules" in the Marlene Dietrich Collection, Berlin. (Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek - Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin)

10 & 11 Marlene Dietrich's Lenci dolls  in scenes from Morocco (1930)


12. Marlene Dietrich's Lenci doll in a scene from The Blue Angel (1930). (Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek Filmmuseum - Berlin)


13. Still from Ich k?sse Ihre Hand, Madame (I kiss your hand, Madame) (Prod.1928)  

14. Early Lenci 112 dolls in 1920 Playthings ad (R & L ). (Photo:  Playthings 1920)

15. Lenci 112 series doll, early 1920's, mint condition with original Lenci tag. (Photo: Rosita Siccardi)

16. Marlene Dietrich Screen test for The Blue Angel

More movie clips..


Patricia Hayes
For The Lenci Doll Collector


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Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva




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