Marlene Dietrich Wearing Top Hat and Tails in “Morocco” (1930)

May 5, 2021

As this colorized photograph from 1930 illustrates, the sultry German actress Marlene Dietrich was just as beautiful and glamorous cross-dressing in a tuxedo as she was in a shimmering evening gown. Her debut role in Paramount’s Morocco allowed Dietrich the opportunity to showcase who she really was – a gender fluid performer whose androgynous image appealed to men and women and made her a lasting icon of the LGBTQ community. 

In this colorized photo from 1930, Marlene Dietrich is bucking gender traditions by wearing men's clothing. Photo colorized by klimbim

Marlene Dietrich’s performance in Morocco went much further than the top hat and tails we see in this colorized publicity photograph from the film. Morocco marked one of the first lesbian on screen kisses in cinematic history … and one that likely influenced the adoption of the Hays Code for moral censorship in movies that was enacted the very next year. 

Who Was Marlene Dietrich?

Berlin-born Marlene Dietrich gave up the violin to be an actress. (

Marlene Dietrich, whose name is a mash up of her first and middle names, Marie Magdalene, was born in 1901 in Berlin, Germany. When her father, a Royal Prussian policeman named Ludwig Dietrich died, her mother got remarried to a cavalry officer named Edouard von Losch. Her new stepfather wanted her to become a concert violinist, but as a teen and young adult, Marlene Dietrich was drawn to Berlin’s exciting cabarets and the morally questionable, sexually ambiguous women and men that frequented these establishments. She gave up the violin for acting.