Ernest Hemingway's love letter to Marlene Dietrich up for sale

Suzy Q

Suzy Q

2016-10-05 13:21:42

A bizarre love letter from Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich is currently up for sale, as part of an auction of historic manuscripts in Dallas.

The renowned writer and the iconic actress first met in 1934 on a French luxury liner, and maintained a close relationship until Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.

Although the pair never consummated their relationship due to what Hemingway called "unsynchronised passion", it's undeniable that there was a true strength of feeling between them. 

Hemingway would end letters to Dietrich with "I love you and I hold you tight and kiss you hard.", and once wrote to her "What do you really want to do for a life work? Break everybody's heart for a dime? You could always break mine for a nickel and I'd bring the nickel."

The couple's relationship was brought to light in 2007, when a series of letters and telegrams were revealed by the Kennedy Library in Boston.

The correspondence was made public on the instructions of Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva, who had vowed to keep them secret until 15 years after her mother's death.
The letter offered for sale at Heritage, one of the few to remain in private hands, is dated August 28, 1955, and is typed on headed stationary from Hemingway's home in Cuban, Finca Vigia.

It begins simply "Dear Kraut", and swiftly evolves into a strange and erotic fantasy involving an imagined Las Vegas show featuring the pair:

"If I were staging it would probably have something novel like having you shot onto the stage, drunk, from a self propelled minnenwerfer which would advance in from the street rolling over the customers. We would be playing 'Land of Hope and Glory.'

"As you landed on the stage drunk and naked I would advance from the rear, or your rear wearing evening clothes and would hurriedly strip off my evening clothes to cover you revealing the physique of Burt Lancaster Strognfort and announce that we were sorry that we did not know the lady was loaded."

Later on Hemingway speaks of his troubles with the proposed Hollywood adaptation of his classic novella The Old Man and the Sea, for which he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1952.

"Marlene, darling, I write stories but I have no grace for f***ing them up for other mediums. It is hard enough for me to learn to write to be read by the human eye. I do not know how, nor do I care to know how to write to be read by parrots, monkeys, apes, baboons, nor actors."

As a revealing record of the unusual relationship between two cultural icons, the letter is expected to sell for upwards of $12,500.

The Heritage Auctions Historic Manuscripts Grand Format sale takes place in Dallas on October 19.

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it