Part two of two — Part one here

After Marlene had said goodbye to Jean, she returned to Hollywood, feeling lonely without her lover, whom she hadserved French cuisine almost daily. In the past, she had toured to sell war bonds – the “USO“ had recently been founded, an Organization whose mission was to keep up the morale of front-line troops through entertainment. Following her Prussian upbringing, and probably hoping to meet Gabin again, she signed up to entertain U.S. troops at the front.

On April 5, 1944, four months after accompanying Jean to Norfolk to his ship, she was flown from New York to the battleground of Algeria. From then on, her job was to keep up the morale of the troops by performing “USO Camp Shows“. A few days after arriving in Algeria, she performed for the first time in front of 3,000 soldiers. It was here that she met Gabin again, who had now been transferred from the dangerous tanker to a safer training center. When Marlene wasn’t performing for soldiers, she spent her time with Jean.

« Ma Grande » 

But during the final phase of the war, the two could not always be together: Often, long distances separated the couple, whichwere bridged by correspondence. In his letters, Gabin addresses Marlene as «Ma Grande» (“My Great“) – although there were rumours in the press that Marlene had other lovers, the relationship initially lasted. In times of war, however, even the exchange of letters is not always possible: In a radio interview in 1944 in Paris shortly after the liberation of France, Marlene said that Gabin was somewhere at sea and she had not received any news from him for some time, but desperately wanted a sign of life from him.

“Jean, Jean, Jean!“

Until the end of World War II in Europe, Gabin served as a tank commander. Near Munich, shortly after the German surrender, a parade was held to honour army commanders, including Charles de Gaulle. Gabin was there. Amid the rows of tanks, a running silhouette dressed in an Eisenhower jacket appeared, calling out in a feminine voice, “Jean, Jean, Jean!“
It was Marlene, who was receiving instructions from the other soldiers as to where she would find Jean Gabin. When she finally found him among the tanks, the two kissed passionately. In front of his comrades, this may have been rather awkward for Gabin, yet it was a happy reunion for both of them. 

“Martin Roumagnac“

The end of the Second World War also marked the decline of the love affair between Marlene Dietrich and Jean Gabin. Together they made a film, “Martin Roumagnac“, but it was not a success. The two grew apart. When Marlene decided to go back to America, where she continued her post-war career, Gabin wanted to start a family in France. Due to this, the relationship seems to have reached its end point. Eventually, Gabin started a family, with another woman.

The hard separation Gabin undertook was especially hard for Marlene: In November 1946, Jean wrote in a letter to Marlene that he never wanted to see her again and that he didn’t even want to watch the films they made together. Until the end of her days, Marlene’s relationship with Gabin remained special amongst the many love affairs she had had in her life: when Jean Gabin died in 1976 a few months after her husband Rudi Sieber, she announced that she was now widowed for the second time. 

“You are so easy to love“

In the poetry collection “Nachtgedanken“ (“Night Thoughts“) Marlene Dietrich describes Jean Gabin as follows: “There is a song by Cole Porter: ’You are so easy to love.’ His attraction derived not only from his sexual charisma, he drew love from hearts the way a magnet attracts any metal.“

Simon von Ludwig | More on Marlene Dietrich

Cover picture: jointed; Marlene Dietrich (l.), RMN-Grand Palais / Studio Harcourt & Jean Gabin (1939), RMN-Grand Palais / Studio Harcourt

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