Remarque Caught in Dietrich's Thrall, and Jimmy Stewart Is in the Middle, in New Play, Puma

News   Remarque Caught in Dietrich's Thrall, and Jimmy Stewart Is in the Middle, in New Play, Puma Writers Julie Gilbert and Frank Evans will hear their four actor play, Puma — about the 30 year relationship between international star Marlene Dietrich and Erich Maria Remarque — in a private Manhattan reading April 19.

This is a first-listen for the authors, Evans said. Gilbert was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her dual biography of Remarque and movie star Paulette Goddard, "Opposite Attraction" (Pantheon). During her research for the biography, she had Remarque's diaries translated, which reveal details about the Remarque-Dietrich relationship which were not disclosed previously. The diaries divulge aspects of the affair between Dietrich and James Stewart during the filming of "Destry Rides Again," which are incorporated into the play's first act.

Evans and Gilbert collaborated on the musical version of Dinner at Eight (Equity readings at Off Broadway's Century Center and London's Drury Lane) as well as two other plays: Poolside, an examination of an unsolved Hollywood death and George and Edna's Lost Play, about George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's collaboration. Both plays have had industry readings in New York City and Palm Beach. Julie Gilbert is great niece of Edna Ferber.

"Frank and I had started writing a play about obsessive relationships that didn't feel right," Gilbert told Playbill On-Line. "I told him, 'If you really want to write about obsession, look at Remarque's diaries and the hold Dietrich had over him for over 30 years.' There's one paragraph about Jimmy Stewart that no one else knows about and it's the core of a play."

Remarque is best known for "All Quiet on the Western Front." Puma was Remarque's pet name for Dietrich — "the blonde Puma."

Actors double as the real-life characters, including Dietrich, Remarque, Stewart, Maedchen (a childhood acquaintance of Marlene's), Gloria Hatrick McClean (later Mrs. James Stewart) and Paulette Goddard (the movie star who eventually married Remarque).