19 September 2013

Gitte Hænning

Danish singer and film actress Gitte Hænning (1946) rose to fame as a child star in the 1950s. As Gitte she became one of the most famous Schlager (hit music) singers of the German and Danish languages.

Gitte Haenning
German postcard by ISV, no. K 23. Photo: E. Schneider.

Teenager Star

Gitte was born as Gitte Hænning-Johansson in 1946 in Århus, Denmark. At the age of eight, she made her debut on Danish television together with her father, singer-composer Otto F. Hænning. She sang the song Giftes med farmand (I Marry Daddy).

In 1956 she made her film debut in the Danish family film Den kloge mand/The Wise Man (Jon Iversen, 1956).

She moved to Sweden in 1958. Her first hit in Swedish was Tror du jag ljuger (Do You Think I Lie to You?) from 1961.

Gitte Hænning
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no AX 4632. Photo: Hafbo-Film. Publicity still for Schlagerparade 1960/Teenager Parade (Franz Marischka, 1960).

Schlager Films

As a teenager, Gitte sang popular hits in German, English, Italian and Danish, going on to top the Danish and Swedish charts in the 1960s, and eventually in Germany with the huge hit single, Ich will 'nen Cowboy als Mann (I Want a Cowboy for My Husband). The recording sold 1.05 million copies by mid 1965, earning Gitte a gold disc.

Because her name was relatively unique, she was known primarily without her surname Gitte in Europe. She sang her songs in several Schlager films such as the German Schlagerparade (Franz Marischka, 1960) and the Austrian Liebesgrüße aus Tirol/Love Greetings From Tyrol (Franz Antel, 1964) with Peter Weck.

She also starred in the Danish films Ullabella (Ole Walbom, 1961), Prinsesse for en dag/Princess for a Day (Finn Henriksen, 1962) and Han, Hun, Dirch og Dario/He, She, Dirch and Dario (Annelise Reenberg, 1962).

Gitte Haenning
Dutch promotion card by NV Bovema, Heemstede. Photo: His Master's Voice. Gitte is sitting here at the Singel in Amsterdam. In the background the Munt tower is visible.


In 1962 Gitte Hænning attempted to compete for Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest with Jeg Snakker med mig Selv (I Talk To Myself) but was disqualified because the composer Sejr Volmer-Sørensen had whistled the song in the canteen of the Danish broadcasting company DR.

Her success continued after famous duets with Rex Gildo as 'Gitte & Rex', including the Number 1 hit Vom Stadtpark die Laternen (The Lanterns of the Park).

Together they also appeared in such popular films as Jetzt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich/The World Turns Just Around You Now (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1964) and the TV-film Mit dreißig Schlagern um die Welt/With 30 Hits Around the World (Charles Kerremans, 1967).

Gitte Haenning
Dutch postcard, sent by mail in 1964. Photo: His Master's Voice.

Publicity Stunt

Gitte and Rex were even rumoured to be engaged to be married for a while. Later Gitte recalled that it was just a publicity stunt by the record company, and she was so sore about it that she broke off the collaboration with Gildo.

In 1973 she competed for Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Junger Tag (Younger Day).

Gitte made an attempt to represent Luxembourg in 1978 with the song Rien qu'une femme (Nothing But a Woman) but she lost out to the group Baccara.

Gitte Haenning, Rex Gildo
German postcard by Friedrich-W. Sander-Verlag, Minden/Westf. in the Kolibri series. Photo: Wiener Stadthalle / Constantin. Publicity still for Jezt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich/The World Turns Just Around You Now (1964).

Gitte Haenning, Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by SYBA, no. 36.

Icon of Emancipation

Since the late 1950s, Gitte Hænning has appeared in more than 300 TV shows (incl. some personality shows) in several European countries (most in Germany and Denmark). She was among the most popular Schlager singers of the post-war era, and continued to be popular in Germany and Denmark even as American music increasingly dominated the airwaves in the 1970s.

Surprisingly at the time, she recorded a jazz album with The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band in 1968.

Through the ensuing decades her singles still reached the German charts, but never with the same success she had enjoyed in the 1960s. In the early 1980´s, she changed her image and sang more serious songs such as Freu dich bloß nicht zu früh, the German version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Take that look of your Face, or Ich will alles (I want everything), making her an icon of emancipation in Germany.

Gitte Hænning
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 199.

Her True Passion

Gitte's last film appearance was in Baltic Storm (Reuben Leder, 2003), a British-German thriller starring Greta Scacchi and Donald Sutherland. Since 2004, she has been on tour Gitte Wencke Siw together with Norwegian singer Wencke Myhre and Swedish singer Siw Malmkvist.

Gitte Hænning has been married once: to Jo Geistler from 1972 till their divorce in 1974. After living together with director Pit Weyrich in the 1980s, she has been the longtime companion of musical producer Friedrich Kurz.

Although Gitte Hænning is a successful singer of popular music, her true passion has always been singing jazz. A number of compilation albums of Gitte have been recently released in Germany, among them a biographical DVD, all to commemorate one of the most famous singers of the German and Danish languages.

Video about the disqualification of the Danish entry Jeg Snakker med mig Selv in 1962. Source: Luxemburgo221 (YouTube).

Gitte sings Junger Tag at the Eurovision Song Contest 1973. Source: Euroencyclopedic (YouTube).

Sources: GitteHaenning.info, Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Wonderful post. I've got EuroSong fever. I'll have to breakout my old Father Ted episodes ;)