Ernest Hemingway’s racy (and funny) letter to Marlene Dietrich

Ernest Hemingway at his Cuban country home near Havana in 1950. Hemingway wrote a letter, now up for auction, to film star Marlene Dietrich from the home in 1955.
(Associated Press)

A racy, rambling and funny letter written by Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich, in which the famous novelist calls the German movie star “Dearest Kraut” and playfully imagines her naked, is going on auction later this month.

Hemingway wrote the letter in 1955 from his estate in Cuba, on letterhead he had made with the property’s name, Fincia Vigia. It’s up for sale as part of trove of belongings of the late actress that were left to her three grandchildren, the Hollywood Reporter writes.

Dietrich was then working in Las Vegas and had written to Hemingway complaining about the staging of her act there. Hemingway imagines a bawdy (and implausible) entrance for the star.

“If I were staging, it would probably have something novel, like having you shot onto the stage, drunk, from a self propelled minnenwerfer,” he writes, using a German word for mortar. “As you landed on the stage, drunk and naked I would advance from the rear, or your rear, wearing evening clothes and I would hurriedly strip off my evening clothes to cover you, revealing the physique of Burt Lancaster....”


The novelist goes on to imagine using a rubber prop whale called “Captain Ahab,” delivered by a vehicle that rolls over the audience. “You are foaming at the mouth of course to show that we are really acting and we bottle the foam and sell it to any surviving customers.”

Hemingway signed the typewritten letter “Papa.” He was then supervising (and assisting with) the filming of the movie adaptation of his novel “The Old Man and the Sea” off the coast of Cuba.

The Guardian writes that the actress and writer first met on a New York-bound ocean liner in 1934 and enjoyed a long but never consummated relationship. In the 1955 letter on auction he muses on their lasting friendship.

“I love you very much and I never wanted to get mixed up in any business with you and I wrote you when this thing was first brought up,” he writes. “Neither of us has enough whore blood for that.”

The online auction at will be held March 19 to April 6 and will include some of Dietrich’s famous black tuxedos, cigarette lighters, photographs, clocks and letters.

Some of the items are being exhibited at the Hollywood Museum in Los Angeles.


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