19 July 2014

Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)

Yesterday, Austrian film actor and talk show host Dietmar Schönherr died. Since 1944, Schönherr had appeared in 120 films, often as the athletic and romantic hero. As a voice actor he was the German voice of James Dean. Dietmar Schönherr passed away on the island of Ibiza in Spain, aged 88.

Dietmar Schönherr
Belgian postcard by Cox, no. 49.

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, no. V 327. Photo: Mondial - Gloria-Film / Lilo. Publicity still for Rosenmontag/Love's Carnival (Willy Birgel, 1955).

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no. 2645. Photo: CCC / Deutsche Film Hansa / Grimm. Publicity still for Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/To be a big lady once (Erik Ode, 1957).

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. A 1606. Photo: Grimm / Kurt Ulrich / Bavaria. Publicity still for Schwarzwälderkirsch/Black Forest Cherry (Géza von Bolváry, 1958).

Ufa Propaganda Film

Dietmar Schönherr was born as Dietmar Otto von Schönleiten in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1926. He was born into a military family. His grandfather was a general, and his father, Otto Schönherr Edler von Schönleiten served as an officer in the Austrian General staff. After the Anschluss, the family left for Potsdam, where Dietmar studied at the Victoria- (now Helmholtz-) Gymnasium.

Film director Alfred Weidenmann discovered him there and asked the 17-year old for the leading part in the Ufa propaganda film Junge Adler/Young Eagles (Alfred Weidenmann, 1943) starring Willy Fritsch. His film salary was higher than what his father had earned in a year.

In May 1944, he signed as a volunteer for the army, but deserted in the final days of World War II. This experience made him a peace activist and humanist.

In 1946 Schönherr started an architecture studies, but soon returned to acting. He appeared in films like the French-Austrian sports comedy Les amours de Blanche Neige/Wintermelodie/Winter Melody (Edi Wieser, 1947).

From 1947 till 1952 he worked for the Austrian radio as a speaker, actor, reporter, director and author. Then he moved to Köln (Cologne) to work as a moderator and author for the WDR radio.

In 1955 his breakthrough came with the romantic film drama Rosenmontag/Love's Harmony (Willy Birgel, 1955), with Ruth Niehaus and Elma Karlowa.

Schönherr became popular as a film, theatre and TV actor. He played in more than 100 films, made hundreds of TV productions, performed on the stages of all the German speaking countries but also in Tel Aviv.

As a voice actor he became the German voice of James Dean in Jenseits von Eden/East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 1955), ...denn sie wissen nicht, was sie tun/Rebel Without A Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) and Giganten/Giant (George Stevens, 1956). He also dubbed Sidney Poitier, Audie Murphy, and Steve McQueen in Thomas Crown ist nicht zu fassen/The Thomas Crown Affair (Norman Jewison, 1956).

Dietmar Schönherr
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden-Westf., no. 2331. Photo: Corona / Schorcht / Lilo. Publicity still for Preis der Nationen/Das Mädchen Marion/Price of the Nations (Wolfgang Schleif, 1956).

Dietmar Schönherr
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa), Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4236. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Filipp / Wernerpress / Ufa.

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 876. Photo: Wessely / Union-Film / Börczök. Publicity still for Die unvollkommene Ehe/The imperfect marriage (Robert A. Stemmle, 1959).

Dietmar Schönherr
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 536. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: CCC-Gloria Film / Grimm. Still for Du bist wunderbar/You are wonderful (Paul Martin, 1959).

Space Patrol

During the 1950s, Dietmar Schönherr was the athletic and romantic hero in popular films like the musical comedy Bonjour, Kathrin (Karl Anton, 1956) with Caterina Valente, the Heimatfilm Der schwarze Blitz/The Black Blitz (Hans Grimm, 1958) featuring former Ski-champion Toni Sailer, and the romance Ingeborg (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1960), but he also appeared in more serious films.

Interesting are La donna dell'altro/Jons and Erdme (Victor Vicas, 1959) starring Giulietta Masina, and the psychological thriller Schachnovelle/Brainwashed (Gerd Oswald, 1960), based on the novel by Stefan Zweig.

In the 1960s he appeared in films like Die Glucklichen Jahre der Thorwalds/The Happy Years of the Thorwalds (John Olden, Wolfgang Staudte, 1962) an adaptation of John B. Priestley's play Time and the Conways, the comedy Kohlhiesels Töchter/Kohlhiesel's Daughters (Axel von Ambesser, 1962) featuring Liselotte Pulver, the thriller Die Nylonschlinge/Nylon Noose (Rudolf Zehetgruber, 1963) with Helga Sommerfeld, and Das Geheimnis der chinesischen Nelke/Secret of the Chinese Carnation (Rudolph Zehetgruber, 1964) with Paul Dahlke.

His most popular role was Major Cliff Allister McLane in the first German Sci-fi series, Raumpatrouille/Space Patrol (1966) with Eva Pflug and Claus Holm. This series about the fantastic adventures of spaceship Orion, is still a cult phenomenon in German speaking countries.

In 1965, Dietmar Schönherr married Danish singer and film star Vivi Bach. Together they moderated the innovative and beloved TV show Wünsch Dir was (Do A Wish) from 1969 till 1973.

In 1973 he became the first talk show host on German TV in Je später der Abend (How Later The Evening). Privately, he often fought for peace and other social causes. From 1985 on, he supported solidarity programs in Nicaragua.

Schönherr also worked as an author of novels, children’s books and travel books like Nicaragua mi amor (1985), and translated books by André Gide and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Among his later films were Raffl (Christian Berger, 1984), the thriller Brandnacht/Night on Fire (Markus Fischer, 1993) with Bruno Ganz, the comedy Back in Trouble (Andy Bausch, 1997), and the drama Leo und Claire/Leo & Claire (Joseph Vilsmaier, 2001).

His final film appearance was a role in the Swiss comedy Handyman (Jürg Ebe, 2005). He continued to appear on TV.

In 1972 and 1999, Schönherr was awarded the Goldene Kamera, and in 1999 he also won the Heinz Galinski-Preis.

For years, Dietmar Schönherr and Vivi Bach lived happily on the Spanish island Ibiza. There first Vivi died in 2013, and yesterday, 15 months later, her husband passed away in a hospital on the island. Dietmar Schönherr was 88.

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. F 71. Photo: Lantin.

I.M. Dietmar Schönherr (1926-2014)
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no 146. Photo: Lantin.

Ingrid Andree, Dietmar Schönher
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin., no. 1847, 1963. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: publicity still for Treibjagd auf ein Leben/Drive on a life (Ralph Lothar, 1961) with Ingrid Andrée.

German Trailer of Schachnovelle/Brainwashed (1960). Source: Filmportal.de (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-line)(German), Prisma.de (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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