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Marlene Dietrich and Champagne: She Didn’t Quite Say That

Marlene Dietrich is glam and beautiful in a slinky embroidered gown. She stands between two slicked-back men in tuxedoes who are staring intently at each other. All three are holding cocktail glasses in some kind of fancy mansion or hotel lobby.

Marlene Dietrich takes a glass of Champagne with Herbert Marshall (left) and Melvyn Douglas in the 1937 film Angel.

Here’s a story about Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich, Champagne, and a bad quote.

The actress liked her sparkles, that much is clear. A supposed Marlene Dietrich quote about Champagne is found all over the web: “Champagne makes you feel like it’s Sunday and better days are just around the corner.”

Google even sanctifies the line with its full image collage treatment:

But! When hunting for the source of that quote recently, we couldn’t find proof that the actress ever said it at all.

That’s because she didn’t actually say it. She said something like it, but not in those words. We ran down the real quote in a curious little book she published in 1961, Marlene Dietrich’s ABC. It’s an alphabetical collection of the star’s musings on various bits of life. She has thoughts on apricots, Dostoevsky (“my enthusiasm for him burned high through my teenage years”), hate, homeopathy, ketchup, room service, and roses (“I like them best freshly cut from the garden”), right on to zither and zwieback.

Here, on page 33, is what Dietrich says about Champagne:

As a symbol it has extraordinary powers. It gives you a Sunday feeling, and better days seem just around the corner. If you can manage to have ice-cold Dom Pérignon in a beautiful glass on the terrace of a Paris restaurant looking onto trees in a midday autumn sun you will feel like the most luxurious grown-up in the world, even if you are used to drinking champagne.

Nice quote! I don’t think it’s splitting hairs to say that “It gives you a Sunday feeling” is different and more elegant than “makes you feel like it’s Sunday.” It’s true that “better days are just around the corner” is pretty close to “better days seem just around the corner.” But of course, when quoting someone, it’s a must to get the words scrupulously right.

It will surprise no one that most online quotation sites simply scan and scrape each other’s pages and post whatever they find. That’s surely how this misquote spread online. Some sites mangle it even more: “Champagne…it gives you the impression that every day is Sunday.” (That one is spreading.) Even the Los Angeles Times goofed it up in 2019: “Champagne… gives you the impression that it’s Sunday, that the best days are still to come.” C’mon, people!

To be clear, for future reference, the real Marlene Dietrich quote about Champagne is: “It gives you a Sunday feeling, and better days seem just around the corner.”

The cover of Marlene Dietrich ABC shows a sketch of her face along with her signature

What else does Dietrich have to say in her ABCs? Here are a few selections from chapter H:

HABIT   Often mistaken for love.

HAMBURGER   Easy to make, easy to eat, easy to decide upon, easy to get, and Hamburg had nothing to do with it.

HAPPINESS   I do not think we have a “right” to happiness. If happiness happens, say thanks.

From chapter P:

PATTON, GENERAL GEORGE S.   He never flattered or praised me. He gave me orders and the nature of the assignment conveyed the trust he chose to repose in me.

PIANO   A home without a piano is waiting for something.

POUTING   I hate it, but men fall for it, so go on and pout.

From chapter S:

SADNESS   Bitter in childhood, sweet in adolescence, tragic in old age.

SEASONS   Necessary and beautiful. My biggest loss when I had to live in Hollywood.

SEX   In America an obsession. In other parts of the world a fact.

She’s quotable! Marlene Dietrich’s ABC also includes her recipes for dishes like cucumber salad, pot-au-feu, and caviar d’aubergine. Most entries are one or two sentences long, but she goes on for eight pages on the topic of MARRIED LOVE (Strategy of).

Marlene Dietrich, head wrapped in a scarf, poses with three pilots in front of a World War II airplane

(National Archives)

About that Gen. Patton quote: Marlene Dietrich did two USO tours during World War II, including an 11-month tour in France and Germany after D-Day. That’s when she would have been entertaining Patton’s Third Army, along with flyboys (above) and others. For many excellent photos from those days, see the Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Deutsche Kinemathek.

Marlene Dietrich’s ABC is not so easy to find these days. My copy came on loan from the San Francisco Public Library, courtesy of the magnificent Boston Athenaeum. Or you can buy your own limited and numbered edition for £500. But there’s good news ahead: the University Press of Kentucky is about to come out with a brand new edition, subtitled “Wit, Wisdom, and Recipes.”

The Dom Pérignon is up to you.

See our biography of Marlene Dietrich »

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