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09 September 2014

Elma Karlowa

Yugoslav actress Elma Karlowa (1932-1994) was a star of the German popular cinema of the 1950s and early 1960s. After a personal crisis she returned to the screen in more serious films by directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK 47. Photo: Werler / Prisma-Film.

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. 1645. Photo: Berolina / Herzog-Film / Wesel. Publicity still for Der fröhliche Wanderer/The Happy Wanderer (Hans Quest, 1955).

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa), Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3446. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Werler / Delos Film / Prisma.

Lover or Vamp


Elma Karlowa was born as Selma-Karolina Karlowac in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), in 1932.

She started her acting career in Yugoslavia, and played as Selma Karlovac leading parts in the Yugoslavian films Ciganka/The Gypsy Girl (Vojislav Nanovic, 1953) and the comedy Opstinsko dete/Municipal Child (Mladomir 'Purisa' Djordjevic, 1953).

The postwar German film was often situated in Istria on the Adriatic coast, and so Elma Karlowa was selected for the lead role in the entertainment film Einmal kehr' ich wieder - Dalmatinische Hochzeit/Once I´ll return - Dalmatian Wedding (Géza von Bolváry, 1953) starring Paul Dahlke.

From then on she continued her career in Germany. Her brown eyes and distinctive southern accent predestined her for the roles of lover or vamp in films like Dieses Lied bleibt bei Dir/Cabaret (Willi Forst, 1954) starring Paul Henreid, the film operetta Der Bettelstudent/The Beggar Student (Werner Jacobs, 1956) and in Emmerich Kalman's film biography, Der Czardas-König/The Csardas Princess (Harald Philipp, 1958) starring Gerhard Riedmann.

Karlowa played in the 1950s and early 1960s, mainly in the silly musicals and comedies of that period. She made one serious production in Yugoslavia, the war film Kapetan Lesi/Captain Lechi (Zivorad 'Zika' Mitrovic, 1958).

Elma Karlowa
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 214/57. Photo: Neue Emelka / Willy Zeyn-produktion, no. 277.

Vico Torriani, Elma Karlova, Annunzio Mantovani,
East-German postcard by Progress Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 282, 1957. Photo: Neue Emelka/Willy-Zeyn-Produktion. Publicity still for Gitarren der Liebe/Guitars of Love (Werner Jacobs, 1954) with Vico Torriani and Annunzio Mantovani.

Elma Karlowa
German card by WS-Drück, Wasnne/Eickel. Photo: Carlton-NF-Brùnjes.

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. 1624. Photo: Mondial / Gloria-Film / Lilo. Publicity still for Rosenmontag/Rose Monday (Willy Birgel, 1955).

Weight Problems


Toward the end of the post-war boom in film roles, Elma Karlowa received only a few more film offers in Germany. She was struggling with weight problems and psychological difficulties. She fell into a depression, and even tried to kill herself with sleeping pills.

After a period outside of the film business, she played a supporting part in the Vladimir Nabokov adaptation King, Queen, Knave (Jerzy Skolimowsky, 1972) starring Gina Lollobrigida and David Niven.

After a few detours to soft porn like Junge Mädchen mögen's heiß, Hausfrauen noch heißer/Sex Clinic ´74 (Eberhard Schroder, 1973), she received another serious role in Angst essen Seele auf/Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974).

She was also seen in supporting parts in Fassbinder´s (TV-)films Welt am Draht/World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973), Martha (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974), Faustrecht der Freiheit/Fox and His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975), Bolwieser (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977) and Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980).

International productions in which she played were Crime and Passion (Ivan Passer, 1976) starring Omar Sharif, and Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978) starring William Holden and Hildegard Knef.

She last appeared on TV in the popular Krimi series Tatort (1978-1994).

Elma Karlowa died in 1994 in Munich, Germany.

Elma Karlowa
German postcard. Photo: Berolina Film / Herzog.

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 528. Photo: Corona-Film / Deutsche Film Hansa / Lilo. Publicity still for Menschen, Tiere, Sensationen/Rivalen der Manege/Bimbo the Great (Harald Philipp, 1958).

Elma Karlowa
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eckel, no. 156. Photo: Theo Huszar.


Elma Karlowa and Waltraut Haas sing Der Mann von dem ich träume in Der Bettelstudent/The Beggar Student (Werner Jacobs, 1956). Source: musipokus (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D´heil (Steffi-line), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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