11 July 2012

Ruth Hellberg

During the 1930’s and 1940’s German actress Ruth Hellberg (1906 - 2001) appeared in several films of her husband Wolfgang Liebeneiner. After their divorce she focused on her stage career.

 Ruth Hellberg
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2971/1, 1939-1940.

Ruth Hellberg was born Ruth Holl in 1906 in Berlin. She was the daughter of the director and theater director Fritz Holl and the actress and drama teacher Margit Hellberg. After attending drama school she made her debut at the State Theatre Meiningen in 1923. Then she joined the theater troupe Holtorf, where she first appeared as Viola in Shakespeare's As You Like It. That same year she became a member of the cooperative German Stage Workers (GDBA). Next she worked for Erich Ziegel at the Hamburger Kammerspielen, where she met Gustaf Gründgens. From 1938 to 1945 she played under the direction of Gründgens at the Berliner Staatstheater (Berlin State Theatre). She was first married to publisher Fritz Landshoff. The Jewish Landshoff went in 1933 in exile in Amsterdam, where he published for Querido many works of exile authors. One of his most famous publications was Klaus Mann's novel Mephisto in which Mann portrayed his ex-brother-in law, Gustaf Gründgens.

Ruth Hellberg
German postcard by Ross. Photo: Bavaria.

 Ruth Hellberg
German postcard by Das Programm von Heute, Berlin. Photo: Meteor / Tobis.

Tender Fable
Ruth Hellberg made her film debut in Was wissen denn Männer/What do men know (1933, Gerhard Lamprecht) with Toni van Eyck. That same year she married actor and director Wolfgang Liebeneiner. Under her husband’s direction she would have her greatest success in the title role of Yvette (1938, Wolfgang Liebeneiner) based on the oft-filmed Guy de Maupassant story of the same name. Ruth Hellberg plays a convent-educated girl who is unaware that her mother Oktavia (Käthe Dorsch) is a prostitute. Hal Erickson writes at AllMovie: “Reviewers in 1938 were pleasantly surprised that De Maupassant's tender fable was so well realized by director Wolfgang Liberneiner (sic), hardly a master of subtlety.” In subsequent years, she starred with Zarah Leander in Heimat/Homeland (1938, Carl Froelich), Heinrich George in Der Postmeister/The Postmaster (1940, Gustav Ucicky), and Paul Hartmann in the biography Bismarck (1940, Wolfgang Liebeneiner). In 1941 she and Liebeneiner were among the few courageous colleagues who attended the funeral of film star Joachim Gottschalk and his Jewish wife and son. The family had committed suicide to avoid transportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. In 1943 Hellberg and Liebeneiner divorced, and Liebeneiner soon married actress Hilde Krahl. Since then, Hellberg’s film appearances were rare. After the Second World War, she mainly worked as a stage actress. In addition, she has worked since 1948 in synchronization. She lent her voice to such internationally known colleagues as Vivien Leigh (for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and Anna Karenina (1948)), Elisabeth Bergner (The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) and Stolen Life (1939)), and Jeanne Moreau (Secrets d'alcôve/The Bed (1954)). From the 1960’s on she incidentally appeared in TV films. In the cinema she made a come-back in Volker Schlöndorff’s Strohfeuer/A Free Woman (1972) as the mother of the central character, played by Margarethe von Trotta. Her last film role was in 1991, when she appeared opposite Karin Baal in Im Kreis der Lieben/In the circle of love (1991, Hermine Huntgeburth). Ruth Hellberg died in 2001 in Feldafing, Germany. She was 94. Her son, Andreas Landshoff, also became a publisher. He married the Dutch actress, Yoka Berretty. They had two children, Yolante Berretty, and director Benjamin Landshoff.
 Ruth Hellberg
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3059/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Haenchen / Tobis.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.

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