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Showing posts with label Willy Birgel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Willy Birgel. Show all posts

07 July 2013

Lotte Koch

German-Belgian actress Lotte Koch (1913-2013) appeared in anti-British propaganda films of the Ufa, but she also starred in Morituri (1948), the first German film about concentration camps and the Holocaust. With Marta Eggerth, she was the longest living Ufa star, but last May Koch passed away. She was 100.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 156, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3733/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Die Pfeffermühle
Lotte Koch was born as Luise Charlotte Koch in Brussels, Belgium in 1913. After finishing school, she visited the Hochschule für Bühnenkunst (School of Performing Arts) in Dusseldorf, where she studied under Louise Dumont. She received her first theatre engagement in 1931 in Heidelberg. She was then engaged by the noted Schauspielhaus Zurich (1935-1937), where she played classical heroines as Luise in Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) by Friedrich Schiller and Helena in Jean Giraudoux's Der trojanische Krieg findet nicht statt (The Trojan war will not take place), both under the direction of Leopold Lindtberg. In Zürich, she also performed in Klaus and Erika Mann’s cabaret Die Pfeffermühle. In 1936 she made her film debut in the Johann Nepomuk Nestroy adaptation Lumpacivagabundus/Lumpaci the Vagabond (Géza von Bolváry, 1936) with Paul Hörbiger and Heinz Rühmann. Then followed a pause in her film career of four years. In the meantime, she played on stage at the Volkstheater Wien (National Theatre Vienna) (1938-1939) and the Hamburger Kammerspiele (Hamburg Kammerspiele).

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 3325/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3568/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 3204/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

MorituriDuring the Second World War, Lotte Koch regularly appeared in UFA productions, both in leading and supporting roles. She played in the historical melodrama, Das Herz der Königin/The Heart of the Queen (Carl Froelich, 1940) starring Zarah Leander. The film made selective use of the tragic life story of Mary, Queen of Scots and her execution by Queen Elizabeth I for anti-British propaganda purposes. Her other films included the drama Friedemann Bach (Traugott Müller, Gustaf Gründgens, 1941) with Gustaf Gründgens as the son of Sebastian Johann Bach, and the anti-British thriller Anschlag auf Baku/Attack on Baku (Fritz Kirchhoff, 1942) starring Willy Fritsch and René Deltgen. In these films she was often cast as the assistant, a typical cliché role for women in the films of the Third Reich. After the war, Koch co-starred in the drama … und über uns der Himmel/City of Torment (Josef von Báky, 1947). She played a young war widow opposite Hans Albers as a returning war veteran who has trouble finding work. A special film was Morituri (Eugen York, 1948) in which she played the lead. The story was based in part on the life of producer Artur Brauner. It tells of the escape of Nazi concentration camp prisoners and how they manage to hide and evade recapture, though faced with constant danger and starvation. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival 1948. In Germany, Morituri was a commercial disaster, with audiences hissing and booing. A theatre in Hamburg was vandalized, after which other theatre owners, fearful of reprisal by Nazi sympathizers, refused to show the film. In her last film, the comedy Käpt'n Bay-Bay (Helmut Käutner, 1953) she was again the partner of Hans Albers. In 1953 Lotte Koch finished her film career almost entirely. She worked for television and theatre. In 1971, she did her last screen role in the TV series Motiv Liebe/Motive Love (Hermann Leitner, 1971). Lotte Koch was married to actor Ernst von Klipstein, who had been her co-star in Das Schwarze Schaf/The Black Sheep (Miroslav Cikán, 1944) and three other films. Later, she married his brother, Dieter von Klipstein. She lived in an elderly home in Unterhaching in the south of Germany. There, Lotte Koch had her 100th birthday on 9 March this year. She passed away two months later.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3847/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Lotte Koch
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3462/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Willy Birgel, Lotte Koch
German postcard by Das Illustrierte Blatt. Photo: Ufa/Lindner. Publicity still for Das Herz der Königin/Mary Queen of Scots (Carl Froelich, 1940) with Willy Birgel.

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Hanns-Georg Rodek (Die Welt- German), AllMovie, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb. And thanks to Marlène Pilaete for additional information.

06 March 2011

Willy Birgel

German actor Willy Birgel (1891-1973) started his film career when he was already over 40. He was the charming grand seigneur of the Ufa films of the 1930s. Despite his many appearances in Nazi propaganda films, he became again a very busy film actor in the German cinema of the 1950s.

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3617. Photo: Ufa / Binz.

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3659/2. Photo: Ufa / Binz.

Staatsschauspieler
Wilhelm Maria (Willy) Birgel was born in 1891, in Köln (Cologne), Germany. He was the son of Johann Heinrich Birgel, a goldsmith and engraver, and his wife Henriette (born Dreyers). Willy began his acting career in 1912 on the stage in Köln. In the following years he played in theatres in Bonn, Dessau, Köln and Koblenz. The first World War interrupted in 1915 his career and he was wounded while serving with a German artillery unit in Serbia. After the war he continued his stage career in the theatre of Aachen. In 1924 he became a company member of the Nationaltheater of Mannheim, where he had triumphs with roles like Faust and Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust I, Franz Moor in Schiller’s Die Räuber/The Robbers and the title characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Richard III. His film debut came rather late. He was already over forty years old before he got his first major film role as the English Camp Commandant in Ein Mann will nach Deutschland/A Man Wants to Get to Germany (1934, Paul Wegener). This Ufa-production portrayed a German engineer (Karl Ludwig Diehl) living in South America who hears in 1914 of the war in Europe. He has only one thought: home to Germany to help a fatherland under attack. The film showed of the kind of German values that were emphasized in Nazi Germany. Other films he made for the National Socialist Regime included Unternehmen Michael/The Private's Job (1937, Karl Ritter), Feinde/Enemies (1940, Viktor Tourjansky) with Brigitte Horney, and Kameraden/Comrades (1941, Hans Schweikart). In 1937, Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels named Birgel Staatsschauspieler (Actor of the State), the highest honor for German actors at the time. Beside the propaganda films, he starred in several popular entertainment films becoming an unlikely public favorite. Birgel had his first leading part in Fürst Woronzeff/Prince Woronzeff (1934, Artur Robison). He appeared as a chivalrous aristocrat and distinguished gentleman in Das Mädchen Johanna/Joan of Arc (1935, Gustav Ucicky) with Gustaf Gründgens and Heinrich George, in Schlussakkord/Final Accord (1936, Detlev Sierck/Douglas Sirk) with Lil Dagover, and in Fanny Elssler (1937, Paul Martin) with Lilian Harvey. Great successes were Zu neuen Ufern/To New Shores (1937, Douglas Sirk) and Der Blaufuchs/The Blue Fox (1938, Viktor Tourjansky), both in which he appeared at Zarah Leander's side. Meanwhile he also had success on stage at the Berliner Volksbühne. Till the end of the war he continued his career with films like Der Fall Deruga/The Deruga Case (1938, Fritz Peter Buch), Maria Ilona (1939, Géza von Bolváry) opposite Paula Wessely, Das Herz der Königin/The Heart of a Queen (1940, Carl Froelich) with Zarah Leander, ...reitet für Deutschland/Riding for Germany (1941, Arthur Maria Rabenalt), the Rudolf Diesel biography Diesel (1942, Gerhard Lamprecht), and Der Majoratsherr (1944, Hans Deppe).

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3659/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Ufa / Binz.

Willy Birgel, Lotte Koch
German postcard by Das Illustrierte Blatt. Photo: Ufa / Lindner. Publicity still for Das Herz der Königin/Mary Queen of Scots (1940, Carl Froelich) with Lotte Koch.

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Werbedrück Rudolf Stepanek, München. Photo: Gloria / Lilo. Publicity still for Sterne über Colombo/Stars Over Colombo (1953, Veit Harlan) and Die Gefangene des Maharadscha/Circus Girl (1954, Veit Harlan).

On the Allied Black-list
After World War II, Willy Birgel was on the Allied black-list and did not make another film until 1947. Director Harald Braun and producer Erich Pommer offered him a role in Zwischen gestern und morgen/ Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (1947, Harald Braun) with Hildegard Knef. By the 1950’s, he was back on the level of his pre-war popularity. He often appeared together with superstar Hans Albers, for example in Vom Teufel gejagt/Hunted by the Devil (1950, Viktor Tourjansky). He specialized in supporting roles as the elderly grand seigneur and also of the father figure, and appeared in many Heimatfilms, for example Heidi (1952, Luigi Comencini), and Johannisnacht/Midsummer Night (1956, Harald Reinl) with Hertha Feiler. In the 1960’s, Birgel was able to make the transition to television. In the cinema he was seen in films like Frau Cheneys Ende/The End of Mrs. Cheney (1961, Franz Josef Wild) with Lilli Palmer, and Sommersprossen/Beyond Control (1968, Helmut Förnbacher). Interesting was Schonzeit für Füchse/No Shooting Time for Foxes (1966, Peter Schamoni) in which Birgel made fun of his own image. The film won the Silver Bear of the Berlin Film Festival. In 1966 Birgel himself won the Bundesfilmpreis, a honorary award for his continued outstanding individual contributions to the German film over the years. He was also awarded the Bambi in 1960 and the Filmband im Gold in 1964 and 1966. His last film was the Italian film Il Gesto/The Gesture (1973, Marcello Grottesi). Willy Birgel died in 1973 of heart failure, in Dübendorf, Zürich, Switzerland. He was buried in his birth city, Köln. Birgel was married twice: first to actress Carola Cajetan, with whom he had a son, and later to actress Charlotte Michael, with whom he had a daughter. Both his marriages ended in a divorce.

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3876/1. Photo: Ufa / Binz, Berlin.

Willy Birgel
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 204, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz.

Sources: Wikipedia, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), and IMDb.