14 August 2014

Rex Gildo

German Schlager singer and actor Rex Gildo (1936-1999) was a teen idol in the 1960s and 1970s. The German Cliff Richard showed durability. In a career of 40 years, he sold around 39 million records and starred in more than 30 films.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. CK 352. Photo: Ufa.

Conny Froboess, Rex Gildo, Peter Krauss, Rolf Pinegger
German postcard by ISV, no. E 13. Photo: Constantin / Grimm. With Conny Froboess, Peter Kraus and Rolf Pinegger.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, nr. CK 370. Photo: Ufa.

Rex Gildo
Big Dutch postcard.

Sexy Rexy

Rex Gildo was born as Ludwig Franz Hirtreiter in Straubing, Bavaria, in 1936.

He later claimed to have been a member of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir before attending acting lessons at the Otto-Falckenburg-Schule in Munich.

The German TV documentary series Legenden/Legends (Ulrike Bremer, 2009) revealed that in fact he had worked in a decorating apprenticeship before he met Fred Miekley, who would become his manager and longtime companion and presumably paid for Gildo's acting, dancing and singing lessons.

However, Ludwig made his stage debut as Alexander Gildo with the Munich Kammerspiele theatre group in 1956, but he quickly moved on to TV and to the cinema.

Ada Tschechowa, manager of the Munich Kammerspiele, introduced him for his film début in Immer wenn der Tag beginnt/Whenever the Day Starts (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1957) opposite Ruth Leuwerik and Hans Söhnker.

In 1958 he already played his first leading part opposite teen idols Conny Froboess in the film Hula-Hopp, Conny/Hula Hoop, Conny (Heinz Paul, 1959).

In 1959, his future record producer Nils Nobach, offered him a contract at record label Electrola and gave him the stage name Rex Gildo, recordedly inspired by the phrase 'sexy Rexy'.

In the following years Gildo sang and played in such forgettable Schlagerfilms as Ja, so ein Mädchen mit sechzehn/Yes, Such a Girl of Sixteen (Hans Grimm, 1959) again with Conny Froboess, Meine Nichte tut das nicht/My Niece Doesn't Do That (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1960), Marina (Paul Martin, 1960), Schlagerparade (Franz Marischka, 1960) with Vivi Bach, Zwei blaue Vergissmeinnicht/Carnation Frank (Helmut M. Backhaus, 1963), and Apartmentzauber/Apartment Magic (Helmut M. Backhaus, 1963) with Helga Sommerfeld.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 4730.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by NS, no. 34.

Conny Froboess
Vintage card, with Conny Froboess and at far left Rex Gildo.

Rex Gildo, Rocco Granata
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 4687. Photo: Hafbo. Publicity still for the Schlagerfilm Marina (Paul Martin, 1960), which was distributed in Holland as Teenagers Schlager Parade. The girl between Rex Gildo and Rocco Granata is the female lead of the film, Italian actress Giorgia Moll.

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) with Gitte.

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

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by NSO. Sent by mail in 1963.

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5955.

Rex Gildo
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Hamburg, no. 5191. Photo: publicity still for Was ist den bloss - mit Willi los?/What Is the Matter with Willi? (Werner Jacobs, 1970).


Early 1960, Rex Gildo had his first hit song with Sieben Wochen nach Bombay/Seven Weeks to Bombay, which reached to #13 in the German charts.

Rex's schlagers would become million sellers in Germany, but less so abroad. His hits, such as Speedy Gonzales (1962), Goodbye Susanna (1965), and Fiesta Mexicana (1972) were sentimental, ‘fernweh’ (wanderlust) evoking music, often flavoured with Spanish or Mexican elements.

In 1962, he formed the very popular duo Gitte & Rex with Danish singer Gitte Hænning.

Together they starred in the musical Jetzt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich/The World Turns Just Around You Now (Wolfgang Liebeneiner. 1964).

The two were rumoured to be engaged to be married. 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.

Rex later had his own TV show, Gestatten - Rex Gildo/May I - Rex Gildo.

During the 1980s and 1990s, his popularity decreased and he felt pressured to maintain his public image. Reportedly he became a tragic figure who desperately tried to mask his age with wigs and a lot of make-up.

He died in 1999 aged 63, having spent three days in an artificially-induced coma after attempting suicide.

Although he married his cousin Marion Hirtreiter in 1974, after his death it was reported that he had been gay. Rex Gildo was buried next to his former longtime companion Fred Miekley.

His life was the subject of the beautiful Dutch documentary Rex Gildo - De val van een schlagerkoning/Rex Gildo - The Fall of a Schlager King (Hans Heijnen, 2003).

Rex Gildo
Dutch postcard, ca. 1961.

Rex Gildo
German postcard by ISV, no. E 15. Photo: Constantin/Grimm.

Rex Gildo
German postcard by Electrola, no. 902/70. Photo: Schneider, München.

Rex Gildo
German postcard by ISV, no. K 13.

Rex Gildo sings the title song of Zwei blaue Vergissmeinnicht/Carnation Frank (1963). Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).

Rex Gildo and Gitte Hænning sing Der Hokuspokus in Jetzt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich (1964). Source: rexgildofan (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D'Heil (Steffi-line), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Deborah Swain said...

a wonderful post about a star i'd never heard of...such a sad story ultimately, of yet another gay star who couldn't come out at the time...