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26 January 2011

Hardy Krüger

German actor and writer Hardy Krüger (1928) was a tall, blond, blue-eyed heart throb of the European cinema in the 1950’s. He played friendly soldiers and adventurers in numerous German, British and French films and also in some classic Hollywood movies. Although he often was typecasted as the Aryan Nazi, he hated wearing the brown uniform.

Hardy Krüger
Belgian card by Cox, nr. 35.

Hardy Krüger
German collector's card by Luxor.

Hardy Krüger
British postcard by East-West Publishers.

Young Eagle
Franz Eberhard August Krüger was born in 1928 in Berlin. He was the son of engineer Max Krüger. From 1941 on Hardy attended the Adolf-Hitler-Schule at Burg Sonthofen, an elite Nazi boarding school. Here the blonde and handsome 15 year old was cast for the film Junge Adler/Young Eagles (1944, Alfred Weidenmann) starring Willy Fritsch. This propagandafilm for the Wehrmacht was filmed in the huge Ufa studio in Babelsberg. After his successful performance as the apprentice Bäumchen, director Wolfgang Liebeneiner tried to persuade him to continue his film career. In March 1945 the young Krüger was drafted into the SS Division 'Nibelungen', where he was drawn into heavy fighting before being captured by US forces in Tirol. After his release he began to write but did not publish. Instead he started to perform in German theatres. In 1949 he made his first post-war film, the comedy Diese Nacht vergess Ich nie/I'll Never Forget That Night (1949, Johannes Meyer), with Gustav Fröhlich and Winnie Markus. In the following years his film career took off.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Ufa Film-Foto, nr. 3622. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Wesel.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Ufa Film-Foto, nr. 3057. Photo: Dührkoop-Ufa.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Ufa Film-Foto, nr. 3743. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Wesel/Berolina Film/Deutsche Film Hansa. Publicity still for Banktresor 713/Bank Vault 713 (1957, Werner Klingler).

Effortlessly Natural Attitude
Hardy Krüger became known as a handsome young man with an effortlessly natural attitude in such films as Illusion in Moll/Illusion in a Minor Key (1952, Rudolf Jugert) starring Hildegard Knef , the drama Solange Du da bist/As Long as You're Near Me (1953, Harald Braun) with O.W. Fischer , and the comedy Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach/The Girl on the Roof (1953, Otto Preminger) with Johannes Heesters . The latter was the German version of the Hollywood production The Moon is Blue (1953, Otto Preminger) starring William Holden and Maggie McNamara. Hardy Krüger and co-star Johanna Matz also appeared uncredited as tourists at the Empire State Building sequence in the American version. The quality of some of his next films did not match his talents. And although the jungle fantasy Liane, das Mädchen aus dem Urwald/Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956, Eduard von Borsody) with a briefly topless Marion Michael was one of the biggest German box office hits of the 1950's, he declined to star in further Liane films for 'artistic reasons'.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., nr. 326. Photo: Constantin-Filmverleih GmbH.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., nr. 2727. Photo: Rank/Seeliger. Still for The One That Got Away (1957, Roy Ward Baker).

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., nr. 783. Photo: Rank. Still for Bachelor of Hearts (1958, Wolf Rilla).

Soldiers and adventurers
Hardy Krüger is fluent in English, French and German, and found himself in demand by British, French, American and German producers. J. Arthur Rank cast him in three British pictures practically filmed back-to-back. The first one was The One That Got Away (1957, Roy Ward Baker), the story of the positive and unpolitical lieutenant Franz von Werra, the only German prisoner of war to successfully escape from numerous British POW camps during the Second World War and return to Germany. The second was the comedy Bachelor of Hearts (1958, Wolf Rilla), and the third the thriller Blind Date (1959, Joseph Losey) with Stanley Baker and Micheline Presle. In reviews Hardy, was described as 'ruggedly handsome' and a 'blond heart-throb'. Despite anti-German sentiment still prevailing in postwar Europe, he became an international favorite. He appeared in the German Shakespeare update Der Rest ist Schweigen/The Rest Is Silence (1959, Helmut Käutner), and in the French WW II adventure Un taxi pour Tobrouk/Taxi for Tobruk (1960, Denys de La Patellière). A highlight was the French drama Les dimanches de Ville d'Avray/Sundays and Cybele (1962, Serge Bourguignon). This hauntingly beautiful film about a platonic relationship between a former bomber pilot with a war trauma and amnesia, and a 12-year-old orphan girl (Patricia Gozzi), was awarded with the 1962 Best Foreign Film Academy Award. It paved Krüger's way to Hollywood.

Hardy Krüger
German postcard by WS Druck, Wanne-Eickel, nr. F 38. Photo: Ringpress.

Hardy Krüger
Belgian collector's card, nr. 93.

Hardy Krüger
Dutch postcard by NV v.h. Weenenk & Snel, Baarn, nr. 759. Photo: Rank Film for The One That Got Away (1957).

Hollywood
In the US Hardy Krüger started in the African adventure Hatari! (1962, Howard Hawks), at the side of John Wayne. His later films included Hollywood productions like the original version of The Flight of the Phoenix (1965, Robert Aldrich) about the survivors of a plane crash in the middle of the Sahara desert, and the war comedy-drama The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969, Stanley Kramer) with Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani. In the star studded war epic A Bridge Too Far (1977, Richard Attenborough) he portrayed a Nazi General. Hardy related during the shooting how he hated to wear a Nazi uniform. Between takes he wore a topcoat over his SS uniform so as "not to remind myself of my childhood in Germany during WW II." Although he often played German soldiers, his charcters were mostly positive, he personified the 'good German'. Krüger also appeared in many European productions like Le Chant du monde/Song of the World (1965, Marcel Camus) with Catherine Deneuve, the controversial box office hit La Monaca di Monza/The Nun of Monza (1969, Eriprando Visconti) about a 17th-century Italian nun's long repressed sexual passion, the Italian-Russian coproduction Krasnaya palatka/The Red Tent (1969, Mikhail Kalatozov) starring Sean Connery , and the murder mystery À chacun son enfer/To Each His Hell (1977, André Cayatte) with Annie Girardot. During that time, he made his sole appearance in a film of the New German Cinema in Peter Schamoni's comedy-western Potato Fritz/Montana Trap (1976, Peter Schamoni). Most meorably he appeared as the Prussian Captain Potzdorf in the Oscar winner Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) featuring Ryan O'Neal. His last film appearance was in the Swedish-British thriller Slagskämpen/The Inside Man (1984, Tom Clegg) starring Dennis Hopper . In the 1970’s he had taken up writing fiction and non-fiction, and he started a new career as a globe trotter for TV. In 1983, after several novels, story collections, and a children's book he published the novel Junge Unrast, an only slighty disguised autobiographic account of his life. He played the role of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in the popular American TV series War and Remembrance (1989, Dan Curtis) starring Robert Mitchum. Hardy Krüger married three times. His marriages with actress Renate Densow and Italian painter Francesca Marazzi ended in a divorce. He married his current wife the American Anita Park in 1978. He has three children. His daughter by Renate Densow, Christiane Krüger (born in 1945, when he was only 17) and his son by Francesca Marazzi, Hardy Jr. Krüger are both actors too. Hardy Krüger was awarded many times for his work. In 2001 he was made Officier de la Légion d’Honneur in France, and in 2009, Germany honored him with the Großes Verdienstkreuz (Great Cross of Merit). Hardy and Anita Krüger live in a log cabin in Skyland, California, on top of Los Angeles, and in Hamburg. In 2011 he can be seen as the pater familias in the TV film Die Familie/The Family (2011, Carlo Rola) with Gila von Weitershausen as his wife.


Hardy Krüger sings I'm A Lonely Man. From the film Blind Date (1959). Source: Rudi Polt (YouTube).


Trailer of Hatari (1962). Source: wcascade40 (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (All Movie), Stephanie D'heil (steffi-line) (German), Tom Hernandez (IMDb), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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