Monday, November 22, 2010

Possibly LOVER and perhaps briefly the HUSBAND of Marlene Dietrich

He had at least 21 aliases. He insisted that he was briefly Marlene Dietrich's husband in 1920s Berlin, which was probably not so, though he was possibly her lover. He was definitely the model for the leading character in Lillian Hellman's successful play (and film) "Watch on the Rhine," but not, I think, the inspiration for " Casablanca's" Victor Laszlo, much as the publisher of this book might wish it so. That said, he seems to have known everyone over the course of a world-traveling public career as a left-wing journalist and author and a more hidden (but not entirely unknown) career as an undercover Soviet operative.

He was a charming, handsome, high-rolling man named Otto Katz, and based on Jonathan Miles' well-written, deeply researched book, "The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy," it is possible to identify him as an exemplary figure of 20th century life — an individual more or less self-cast in a role that did not exist until the vast tragedies of that era began to play themselves out after the rise of Hitler and Stalin.

(Book review: 'The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy' by Jonathan Miles -- By Richard Schickel, Special to the Los Angeles Times)

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