21 April 2013

Ursula Grabley

1930’s ‘Girl of Today’ Ursula Grabley (1908 - 1977) was a German actress appeared in more than 60 films and TV productions and also in many stage plays. In 1939 her successful film career was interrupted by a dispute with Nazi Minister Joseph Goebbels.

Ursula Grabley
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 6525. Photo: Verleih Leopold Hauk.

Pageboy Haircut
Ursula Margarete Marie Feodora Grabley was born in Woltersdorf near Berlin in 1908. She was the daughter of the physician Dr. Paul Ludwig Grabley and his wife Johanna Elisabeth née Rohrbeck. She received private lessons and attended 'Mädchenpensionate' (girl boarding schools) in Weimar and Wolfenbüttel. In Hamburg, she had lessons in modern dance at the School of Rudolf von Laban. Grabley had her first stage experience at the Hamburger Kammerspiele, a private theatre in Hamburg. There she met actor Viktor de Kowa, who became her husband in 1926. From 1927, they worked at the Volksbühne in Berlin. Here Grabley celebrated her first success as a soubrette in the comedy Jill und Jim (Jill and Jim). After this success followed appearances in noted Berlin theaters as the der Komischen Oper (Comic Opera), the Deutsches Theater and the Theater under den Linden. Her pageboy haircut and confident-boyish behavior corresponded with the image of the ‘Girl of Today’ in 1930. Ursula Grabley received many film offers, both for leading and supporting roles. In 1929 she had made her film debut in the silent circus film Katharina Knie (1929, Karl Grune) featuring Carmen Boni. Grabley mostly appeared in comedies, often as the girl next door. She co-starred with Harry Liedtke in ...und das ist die Hauptsache!?/That's All That Matters!? (1931, Joe May), with Conrad Veidt in the comic action film Der schwarze Husar/The Black Hussar (1932, Gerhard Lamprecht), and with Brigitte Helm in Der Läufer von Marathon/The Marathon Runner (1933, Ewald André Dupont). She played the lead as a criminal secretary in the crime film Kampf um Blond/Battle for Blonde (1933, Jaap Speyer). Other popular films were the Marika Rökk musical Heisses Blut/Hot blood (1936, Georg Jacoby), and the musical Hurra! Ich bin Papa!/Hurrah! I'm a Papa (1939, Kurt Hoffmann) starring Heinz Rühmann.

Ursula Grabley, Georg Bauer
German card. Photo: Bavaria. Publicity still for IA in Oberbayern/1A in Upper Bavaria (1937, Frans Seitz). Caption: "Ein lustiger Zeitvertreib für Ursula Grabley und Georg Bauer in dem film IA in Oberbayern". (A fun pastime for Ursula Grabley and Georg Bauer in the film IA in Oberbayern/1A in Upper Bavaria).

Resolute Mothers
In 1939, Ursula Grabley had a dispute with Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. After that she did not receive any more film roles, and for years, she was forced to work in the theatre. At the end of the war period she got roles again in films like Solistin Anna Alt/Soloist Anna Alt (1944, Werner Klingler) with Anneliese Uhlig, and the poetic romance Unter den brücken/Under the bridges (1944, Helmut Käutner) with Hannelore Schroth and Carl Raddatz. However, she first had to play in the propaganda film Das Leben geht weiter/Life goes on (1945, Wolfgang Liebeneiner) with Gustav Knuth, which was never finished. After the war, Grabley lived in Hamburg, where she co-founded the cabaret Rendezvous. She gave guest performances in 'Kammerspiele', with Willy Maertens at the Thalia Theater and at the Jungen Theater. In the cinema of the 1950’s, she portrayed resolute mothers. Films include Vatertag/Father’s Day (1955, Hans Richter) with Grethe Weiser, and Die Nacht vor der Premiere/The night before the premiere (1959, Georg Jacoby) starring Marika Rökk. Later she was known from the television series Der Kommissar/The Commissioner (1969-1972), Der Alte/The Old Fox (1977), Tatort (1975) and Derrick (1977). She also worked as a voice actor and dubbed Lucille Ball and Paulette Godard in German. While on a stage tour with Die Katze auf dem heissen Blechdach (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) by Tennessee Williams, Ursula Grabley died after suffering a stroke in Brilon, Germany in 1977. She was married to Viktor de Kowa till 1941. Her second husband was Edgar Heyl.

Ursula Grabley and Anny Ondra in a scene from Ein Mädel vom Ballett/A Girl from the Chorus (1937, Carl Lamac). Source: OndraLamac (YouTube).

Sources: Film-Zeit.de (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos) (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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