13 January 2016

Ruth Leuwerik (1924-2016)

Yesterday, actress Ruth Leuwerik passed away. In the 1950s she and co-star O.W. Fischer were Germany's favourite couple. The German box office queen played Maria in Die Trapp-Familie (1956), the original version of The Sound of Music. She was 91.

Ruth Leuwerik
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin-Tempelhof (Ufa), no. CK 117. Retail price: 30 Pfg. Photo: Arthur Grimm.

Ruth Leuwerik
Belgian postcard by Edition H. Troukens, Hofstade. Photo: Ufa.

Ruth Leuwerik
German postcard printed by ISV, no. H 49.

Ruth Leuwerik (1924-2016)
Big German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. FP 4. Photo: Theo Huster.

Dieter Borsche

Ruth Leuwerik was born in Essen, Germany, in 1924. She made her stage debut during the war with the touring company of the Landestheaters Münster.

Her film career started with a supporting role in 13 unter einem Hut/13 Under a Hat (Johannes Meyer, 1950), but the film was not a hit.

When she was introduced to film actor Dieter Borsche, he made her his leading lady in Vater braucht eine Frau/Father Needs A Woman (Harald Braun, 1952).

The comedy became a surprise hit and the two leads immediately made another box office smash, Die große Versuchung/The Big Temptation (Rolf Hansen, 1952).

In 1953 she had her definitive breakthrough with four films. In the romantic melodrama Ein Herz spielt falsch/A Heart's Foul Play (Rudolf Jugert, 1953) she played for the first time with O.W. Fischer. They became the beloved Traumpaar (Dream couple) of the German public.

In Königliche Hoheit/His Royal Highness (Harald Braun, 1953) she was an American heiress raised in Europe, who falls in love with a handsome but shy German prince (Dieter Borsche). The story was adapted from a novel by Thomas Mann, who was pleased with the film version.

Ruth Leuwerik
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 3331. Photo: Ufa / Arthur Grimm / Divina Film.

Ruth Leuwerik
Dutch postcard, no. 63.

Ruth Leuwerik
Dutch postcard, no. 5942. Photo: Gloria.

Ruth Leuwerik (1924-2016)
Dutch postcard by DRC Holland, no. 3015. Photo: Arthur Grimm / Divina / Gloria Film / Ufa.


Ruth Leuwerik played in many costume pictures, including Ludwig II/Mad Emperor: Ludwig II (Helmut Käutner, 1955) as Elisabeth of Austria with O.W. Fischer as her nephew Ludwig II, and Rosen im Herbst/Roses in the Autumn (Rudolf Jugert, 1955), based on Theodor Fontane’s Effi Briest. It seemed to become her trademark.

Her career was revitalized with Die Trapp-Familie/The Trapp Family (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1956) and the sequel Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika/The Trapp Family in America (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1958) about the free spirited nun and nanny Maria who becomes Baroness Von Trapp.

At IMDb, Maurice de Saxe writes about Die Trapp-Familie: "Largely forgotten today, the pic holds up quite well. The story is not too exciting, there's nothing that might offend blue-noses and all takes place against an pastoral background of green meadows and snow-capped mountains. Ruth Leuwerik does what she can with the wafer-thin part and her warmth and natural beauty prevent the whole thing form being too syrupy."

Together with the box office success of the war camp drama Taiga (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1958) these films made her the most popular German film star of the late 1950s. She was beloved by female filmgoers, because of her independent, professionally successful characters.

In the 1960s her film popularity waned. The well-intended but somewhat muddled Die Rote/Redhead (Helmut Käutner, 1962) sealed her fate as box-office cyanide after a string of flops. But according to reviewer Jan de Witt at IMDb her performance in this film is "very subtle, giving the over-complicated story its little coherence."

After this film she started to work mainly for TV, including guest appearances in the Krimi series Derrick (1978-1983). Her last film was Unordnung und Fruehes Leid/Disorder And Early Torment (Frans Seitz, 1977) with Martin Held.

Among her many awards are the Filmband in Gold in 1974 and the Großen Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Germany's Cross of merit) in 1980.

Ruth Leuwerik died in Munich on 12 January 2016. She was married three times, to actor Herbert Fleischmann, singer-conductor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and to Dr. Heinz Purper.

Ruth Leuwerik
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H, Minden/Westf., no. 397. Photo: Weisse / Divina / Gloria.

Ruth Leuwerik
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 4262. Photo: Ufa/Film-Foto / Leo Weisse / Divina Film.

Ruth Leuwerik
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. FT 33. Photo: CCC / Gloria / Grimm. Publicity still for Auf Wiedersehen, Franziska!/Goodbye, Franziska! (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1957).

Scene from Die Trapp-Familie/The Trapp Family (1956). Source: Melanie Zander (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line) (German), Maurice de Saxe (IMDb), Jan de Witt (IMDb), AllMovie, Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.


Deborah Swain said...

i'm ashamed to say that i didn't know there WAS an "original version" of The Sound of Music called Die Trapp-Familie! once again, i've learned something new here...

Beth Niquette said...

I had no idea there was an earlier original version of the Sound of Music. Thank you for sharing this--and for all your research. I think you are amazing.

I like this lady's strong jawline. She has a strength about her which I admire.

Happy PFF!

Funoldhag said...

Such beautiful people in your posts. I watched the clip but, of course, did not know what they were saying. Still enjoyed seeing the actors. If I were ten or even five years younger, I probably would take advantage of Hannah's being in Africa to go there. It's kind of beyond me now to take such a long trip. However, I am sure both her sisters and parents will probably make the trip sometime over the next two years. Happy PFF Bob! Carol