Claim to Fame
Daughter of Marlene Dietrich
Maria Riva, née Sieber; born 13 December 1924, is an American actress, film historian, biographer, and activist. She worked on television at CBS in the 1950s, becoming one of the first stars of early kinescope-era television. She is the daughter of the actress Marlene Dietrich, about whom she wrote a memoir, which was published in 1992.
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Full Name at Birth
Maria Elisabeth Sieber
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Maria Riva, née Sieber; born 13 December 1924, is a German-born American actress and memoirist. She primarily worked on television in the 1950s. She is the daughter of the actress Marlene Dietrich, about whom she wrote a memoir, which was published in 1992.
Maria Elisabeth Sieber was born in Berlin, the only child of actress Marlene Dietrich and film production assistant Rudolf Sieber (and later Paramount Pictures director of dubbing, Paris, France). In 1930, at age six, she moved with her mother to Los Angeles, California. In 1934, aged 9, she had a small role in Josef von Sternberg's film The Scarlet Empress, based on the life of Catherine the Great, in which she played Catherine as a child. She was also an extra in the 1936 David O Selznick production, The Garden of Allah. (See film credits 1936 and Universal NBC archives.)
She received acting training and during the Second World War entertained Allied troops in Europe for the USO from 1945-1946, stationed in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She also acted in theatre and summer stock, including a production of Tea and Sympathy. Riva appeared at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway in the 1954 production The Burning Glass, opposite Cedric Hardwicke and Walter Matthau.
A brief marriage to Dean Goodman - whom she married in 1943 - ended in divorce. Then she married scenic designer William Riva in 1947; they had four sons. With the birth of her first child, J. Michael Riva in 1948, the press dubbed Dietrich "the world's most glamorous grandmother." Her second son, Peter Riva, President and Owner of International Transactions, Inc., is her literary agent.
During the 1950s, Riva appeared in more than five hundred live teleplays for CBS, all broadcast from New York, including: The Milton Berle Show, Lux Video Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Your Show of Shows and Studio One. She received Emmy nominations as best actress in both 1952 and 1953. She semi-retired from acting in the mid-50s, but made a cameo appearance as Mrs. Rhinelander in Bill Murray's Scrooged. In 2001, she was interviewed for Her Own Song, a documentary about her mother. In June 2012, her son Michael died, aged 63, following a stroke.
After her mother's death in 1992, Riva's biography about her mother was published in 1992 by Bertelsmann in Germany, by Knopf in New York and in 12 other languages. Maria Riva edited a volume of Dietrich's poetry, Nachtgedanken, published in Germany and Italy in 2005 (ISBN 3570008746).
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