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Revolver Gifted to Marlene Dietrich from General George Patton Up for Auction

Witherell's March 18, 2022, auction includes a Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver that was presented to actress and singer Marlene Dietrich by General George S. Patton during her 1944-1945 trip to Germany.

Revolver Gifted to Marlene Dietrich from General George Patton Up for Auction

(Photo courtesy of Witherell's)

Sacramento-based Witherell's believes that Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver, which features chrome plating, engraving and automatic ejectors, was built around 1890. The come comes with a red leather case with gold stamping that was designed by R.L. Wilson, the lid of which reads, "To Marlene Dietrich from General George S. Patton With Devoted Affection and Protection, 1944." There’s also an 18-karat gold plaque on the right grip engraved with the words, "From Gen. George S. Patton to Marlene Dietrich, 1944."

Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver
Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver (Photo courtesy of Witherell's)

Dietrich was born in Berlin in 1901 and dreamed of being a concert violinist and an actress. Her major break came in 1923 when, after having worked as a chorus girl in various revues she landed small rolls in the films The Little Napoleon and Tragedy of Love. Dietrich’s success in the 1930 film The Blue Angel earned her critical acclaim, and she landed a contract with Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles. During the 1930s Dietrich starred in Morocco with Gary Cooper (for which she won an Academy Award), Blonde Venus with Cary Grant and Destry Rides Again with Jimmy Stewart.

Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver
Webley-style Belgian .38 revolver (Photo courtesy of Witherell's)

In 1937 while she was touring London, Dietrich was approached my members of the Nazi party who requested that she begin making films for the Third Reich, an offer she refused. That same year Dietrich placed the $450,000 salary (equivalent to $8.8 million in 2022) she earned from the film Knight Without Armor in an escrow account to help refugees who had been displaced by the Nazi government. Dietrich renounced her German citizenship and applied for and became a U.S. citizen in 1939.

The United States entered World War II in late 1941, and Dietrich became the first celebrity to promote the sale of U.S. war bonds. In 1944 and 1945, she performed with the USO in several European countries before entering Germany with Patton and performing just a few miles from the front. In 1944, she also worked with the Morale Operation Branch of the Office of Strategic Services to create musical propaganda aimed at demoralizing enemy soldiers.

After the war, Dietrich returned home with 11 firearms she had been awarded, including her Belgian .38 from General Patton, but that’s not the only one of Dietrich’s World War II firearms that will appear in Witherell’s March 18 auction. In addition to the Dietrich/Patton revolver, which is projected to fetch between $25,000 and $50,000, there’s also a 1942 Beretta 9mm Corto (short) semiautomatic pistol presented to Dietrich by General Omar Bradley. Like the Belgian revolver, the Beretta comes in a red leather and gold-trimmed case, also made by R.L. Wilson, and the Beretta also features an 18-karat gold plaque on the right grip that reads, "Gen Omar Bradley to Marlene Dietrich, 1944." A letter from Marlene Dietrich to her daughter describes receiving the pistol from General Bradley at his headquarters during the war. That letter describes how Dietrich's firearms were confiscated upon her arrival in New York before being subsequently returned. Witherell's estimates that the General Bradley/Dietrich Beretta pistol will fetch between $15,000 and $25,000.

1942 Beretta 9mm Corto Pistol
1942 Beretta 9mm Corto Pistol (Photo courtesy of Witherell's)

Marlene Dietrich's career spanned 65 years and she’s one of the few actresses to have performed on radio, in silent films, and on television in both black and white, and color productions. Dietrich died from kidney failure at 90 years of age in 1992. Bidding for the Belgian .38 revolver presented to her by General George Patton begins at $12,500, while the starting bid for the Beretta pistol presented to Dietrich by General Omar Bradley is $7,500.

Other notable items in Witherall’s March 18 auction guide include a Colt Single-Action .44 revolver with a 7 ½-inch barrel and original belt and holster (estimate $1,000 to $2,500), a sword and belt presented to Civil War Medal of Honor winner Colonel William H. Powell ($5,000 to $10,000), a Belgian-made Browning Hi-Power 9mm with tangent sights and proofs ($1,000 to $2,500) and four of Sonny Capone’s fixed and folding blade knives ($250 to $500).  

The view the full Witherall’s March 18 catalog or to place bids, please visit:

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