27 July 2015

Luise Ullrich

Austrian actress Luise Ullrich (1910-1985) starred in many German films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. No German star played self-sacrificing womanhood better than the blond actress and her film Annelie (1941), became the main morale-booster of World War II Germany.

Luise Ullrich
Dutch postcard by Isa-Film, no. 4636. Photo: Zander & Labisch.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8361, 1933-1934. Photo: Yva, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. 3594/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.


Luise Eliza Aloysia Ullrich was born in Wien (Vienna), Austria-Hungary (now Austria), in 1911. She was the daughter of a major in the Austro-Hungarian Army and a concert violinist.

Already at age 14, she received training as an actress at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. While still a teenager, she was contracted for two years by the Wiener Volkstheater where she made her stage debut in Herbert Sudermann's Heimat in 1926.

In 1931 she moved to Berlin for the Lessing Theater. Her first major triumph was next to Werner Krauss in Richard Billinger's drama Rauhnacht (1932). Later, she switched to the Berliner Staatstheater (Berlin State Theater) and the Deutsche Theater

After a few short films, Ullrich played alongside the ’king of the mountains’, Luis Trenker, in the melodrama Der Rebell/The Rebel (Kurt Bernhardt, Edwin H. Knopf, 1932). Actor and film-maker Trenker had spotted her during one of her performances in Rauhnacht, and cast her in the leading role of Erika.

Although she was upstaged by both Trenker and the Alps, according to Hans Wolstein at AllMovie, Ullrich gave a thoughtful performance and was equally praised for her performance in Max Ophüls screen adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play Liebelei/Flirtation (1933), which some thought she stole outright from its star, Magda Schneider.

This was followed by Vorstadtvarieté/Suburban Variety (Werner Hochbaum, 1934). With her big eyes and an idiosyncratic voice with a slightly ironic undertone, she often embodied a tomboy in her early films. I.S. Mowis at IMDb: "the ideal 'girl next door' type, tomboyish, spirited, charming and witty."

Luise Ullrich, Luis Trenker
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 6651. Photo: Verleih Muschak & Co / Deutsche Universal Film. Publicity still for Der Rebell/The Rebel (1932) with Luis Trenker.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Das Programm von Heute, Zeitschrift für Film und Theater G.m.b.H., Berlin. Photo: Ufa / Quick.

Luise Ullrich
Dutch postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8875/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Fanal / Europa. Publicity still for Regine (Erich Waschneck, 1935).

Luise Ullrich and Adolf Wohlbrück in Regine (1935)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8937/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Fanal-Europa. Publicity still for Regine (Erich Waschneck, 1935) with Adolf Wohlbrück.


Luise Ullrich played her first leading role as a maid in Regine (Erich Waschneck, 1934). Other prestigious films were Viktoria (Carl Hoffmann, 1935), a romance based on a novel by Knut Hamsun, and Schatten der Vergangenheit/Shadows of the Past (Werner Hochbaum, 1936) in which she played two sisters opposite Gustav Diessl.

Ich liebe dich/I Love You (Herbert Selpin, 1938) even became a blockbuster. Her co-star Viktor de Kowa was also in real life her partner for seven years.

Another big hit was Annelie (Josef von Báky, 1941), about a young woman who always comes too late. At the Venice Film Festival, Luise won the Coppa Volpi (Volpi Cup) for Best Actress. Annelie became the main morale-booster of World War II for Germany. The Ufa production grossed an impressive six and a half million Reichsmark.

Next she appeared in Der Fall Rainer/The Rainer Case (Paul Verhoeven, 1942) with Paul Hubschmid. She played the title figure in Nora (Harald Braun, 1944), a butchered version of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll's House that came complete with an uplifting ending and none too subtle touches of anti-Semitism.

In 1938, Luise Ullrich had turned down an offer from MGM boss Louis B. Mayer and she had gone instead to South America. There she had met Count Wulf Diether Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, director of Munich-Riem airport. In 1942 the two married. They would have two daughters, Gabriela and Michaela.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Photo: Atelier Binder.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Photo: Minerva / Europa.

Luise Ullrich
Belgian card. Photo: G. Mauquoy, Anvers (Antwerp).


After the war Luise Ullrich appeared mainly on the Munich stage. In the cinema, she moved from delicate fresh girl parts to more mature roles in films like Nachtwache/Night Watch (Harald Braun, 1949), Um Thron und Liebe/Sarajevo (Fritz Kortner, 1955), and Ein Student ging vorbei/A Student Walked Past (Werner Klingler, 1960).

In Rainer Werner Fassbinder's TV Mini-Series Acht Stunden sind kein Tag/Eight Hours Are Not a Day (1972) she played a strong-minded grandmother opposite Hanna Schygulla and Gottfried John.

On TV she was also seen in the classic TV Krimi series Der Kommissar/The Chief Inspector (1970). In addition to her acting roles Luise Ullrich wrote several minor novels and the autobiography Komm auf die Schaukel, Luise (Come on the swing, Louise) (1973).

In 1973, the actress was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Germany’s Cross of Merit) and in 1979 the Filmband in Gold for her life's work, her last major award.

Luise Ullrich spent most of her remaining years writing and painting. One of her last works was an Australian travel memoir, published in 1985. That same year she died of cancer in München (Munich), Germany. Ullrich was 74. A street in the city centre of Munich is named after her.

Luise Ullrich
German postcard by Gloria Palast, Berlin. Photo: publicity still for Eine Frau von Heute/A woman of today (Paul Verhoeven, 1954).

Final scene of Liebelei/Flirtation (1933). Source: BD130 (YouTube).

Luise Ullrich sings Waiting (I´m waiting) in Schatten der Vergangenheit/Shadows of the Past (1936). Source: Alparfan (YouTube).

Sources: Hans J. Wollstein (New York Times / Rovi), Stephanie D´heil (Steffi-line)(German), I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.

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