Three fashionable looking girls on a bench in Berlin, 1928 via
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992). Her earliest professional stage appearances were as a chorus girl on tour with Guido Thielscher’s Girl-Kabarett vaudeville-style entertainments, and in Rudolf Nelson revues in Berlin. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international fame and resulted in a contract with Paramount Pictures. Photo of Dietrich by Ruth Harriet Louise, c 1930 via
Trude Hesterberg (1892 – 1967) was a German stage and film actress, cabaret artist, chanson singer, soubrette and operetta singer, as well as founder and director of a cabaret stage. It is thought that she was an early consideration for the lead role in The Blue Angel, before it was given to Marlene Dietrich via
Margo lion (1899 – 1989) first came to Berlin in 1921 and made her debut at Trude Hesterbergs cabaret ‘Wild Bühne’ (The Wild Stage) in 1923 . She is best known for her role as Pirate Jenny in director G.W. Pabst’s 1931 French language adaptation of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) via
Anita Berber (1899 – 1928) was a German dancer, actress, and writer. Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled “The Dancer Anita Berber” via
Valeska Gert (1892 – 1978) could be considered one of Germany’s most ambiguous and overlooked artists. She was a dancer, actress, film and cabaret star. She was a pioneering performance artist who is said to have laid the foundations and paved the way for the punk movement via
Kate Kühl (1899-1970) nicknamed ‘The Red Nightingale’ went on to perform in all the major cabaret venues of the time including the Wilde Bühne, Kadeko and the Katacombe via
Blandine Ebinger (1899 – 1993) was a German actress and chansonniere. Ebinger became acquainted with Friedrich Hollaender in 1919, and with him she became heavily invested as a performer, writer, and composer in the Berlin cabaret scene in the 1920s, beginning in the cabaret Schall und Rauch and the Café Größenwahn. Photo of Blandine Ebinger performing Lieder eines armen Mädchens, 1925 via
Anita Berber (1899-1928) was immensely famous in 1920s Berlin. Berber was a dancer, actress, and writer who epitomized the excesses and decadences of the German Roaring Twenties. Incredibly, given her notoriety, almost no one in the present day would have heard of Anita Berber were it not for a portrait by Otto Dix from 1925.
Born in Leipzig to musician parents who later divorced, she was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden. In time Berber would exert a huge impact on Weimar Berlin, whose excesses and experimentation she both embodied and surpassed. Simply, in a period when Berlin was rethinking art, politics and life itself, Berber was going further than anyone else, blurring the line between life and performance, setting new standards for scandal and audacity.
It was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.
According to Mel Gordon, in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Debauchery, she was diagnosed with severe tuberculosis while performing abroad. After collapsing in Damascus, she returned to Germany and died in a Kreuzberg hospital on 10 November 1928.
Anita Berber, by Madame d’Ora, 1921.