Marie Magdelene Dietrich was born in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Her father was an army officer who had served in the Franco-Prussian War. Because of his constant absences from the family due to his army duties, Marlene and the rest had to rely on themselves. When he died, she was only 11.
In 1921, Marlene applied for an acting school run by Max Reinhardt. She was accepted. She appeared in several stage production, but never had more than a couple of spoken lines. In short, she wasn't setting the stage world on fire.
The remainder of her early film career was generally filled with bit roles that never amounted to a whole lot. After being seen in the German production of The Blue Angel (1930) in 1930, Marlene was given a crack at Hollywood. Her first US film was Morocco (1930) with Gary Cooper later that year followed, by Dishonored (1931) in 1931.
Marlene seemed to be typecast as a woman of low morals and she wanted different parts. Some films such as Desire (1936) in 1936 didn't do that but she wanted to expand. Her chance came in 1939 in Destry Rides Again (1939) when she was cast as "Frenchy", a Western saloon hostess. This began a new direction for Marlene since it shed the typecasting which she was forced to endure during her career.