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Hemingway-Dietrich letters made public

March 31, 2007|David Weber | Associated Press

BOSTON — Ernest Hemingway, the self-appointed "Papa" of the literary world, liked calling his women friends "daughter," among them Marlene Dietrich, a bond documented in letters as steadfast, passionate and likely platonic.

The correspondence between the icons, who met aboard an ocean liner in 1934, details a complex, flirtatious relationship that offers no new evidence they were lovers.

Thirty letters that Hemingway wrote between 1949 and 1953 to the German-born actress and singer, whom Hemingway also called "My little Kraut," were made available to the public for the first time Thursday at the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

In a letter dated June 19, 1950, at 4 a.m., the Nobel Prize-winning author wrote: "You are getting so beautiful they will have to make passport pictures of you 9 feet tall. 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."

"Beloved Papa," Dietrich began a 1951 letter, "I think it is high time to tell you that I think of you constantly. I read your letters over and over and speak of you with a few chosen men. I have moved your photograph to my bedroom and mostly look at it rather helplessly."

Hemingway was 50 and Dietrich was 47 when their letter writing began. He described the relationship to his friend, writer A.E. Hotchner, by saying they fell in love when they met aboard the Ile de France but "we've never been to bed. Amazing but true. Victims of un-synchronized passion. Those times when I was out of love, the Kraut was deep in some romantic tribulation, and on those occasions when Dietrich was on the surface and swimming about with those marvelously seeking eyes, I was submerged."

The letters were donated to the library in 2003 by Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva, on the condition that they be kept private until now.

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