27 August 2017

Margot Hielscher (1919-2017)

Last Monday, 20 August, German singer, film actress and costume designer Margot Hielscher (1919-2017) passed away. She appeared in 60 films and 200 TV productions. Hielscher also represented Germany twice at the Eurovision Song Contest, in 1957 and 1958.

Margot Hielscher
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 230. 1941-1944. Photo: Hammerer / Wien-Film.

Margot Hielscher
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. 3854/1. 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Terra.

Margot Hielscher (1919-2017)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3410/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Terra.

Women are No Angels

Margot Hielscher was born in Berlin in 1919. Her father owned a travel agency.

From 1935 till 1939, she trained as a costume and fashion designer. Thus she met in Berlin the contemporary stars of the cinema and the music world. This stimulated her to study singing and acting, and she took classes with Albert Florath and Mary Koppenhöfer.

In 1939, she started to work as a costume designer for the Ufa. One of the first films on which she worked was the comedy Hurrah, Ich bin Papa!/Hurrah! I'm a Papa (Kurt Hoffmann, 1939) starring Heinz Rühmann. Reportedly, Rühmann later asked her to marry him, which she refused.

Soon she also was discovered as an actress. In 1940 she made her first film appearance in Das Herz der Königin/The Heart of the Queen (Carl Froelich, 1940) alongside the famous Zarah Leander. For the Terra studio she appeared in the romance Auf Wiedersehn, Franziska!/Goodbye, Franziska! (Helmut Käutner, 1941) starring Marianne Hoppe.

From 1942 on she worked for the Bavaria Studio in Munich. She played roles in several romantic comedies in which she also performed as a singer and she soon became one of the most popular actresses of the German cinema during the Second World War.

In 1943 she sang the song Frauen sind keine Engel (Women are No Angels) in the film with the same title by Willi Forst. It would become her best known song. During the war, Hielscher undertook several tours for the troops as a singer with the Big Band of Gene Hammers.

According to IMDb, Josef Goebbels thought her singing was too ‘American’. He insisted that she shouldn't play opposite Ferdinand Marian in the film Dreimal Komödie/3 x Comedy (Victor Tourjansky, 1944-1949) because she wasn't ‘German’ enough. At that time, all the film castings had to be agreed on by Goebbels. However, after another screen-test with some more ‘German’ make-up, Goebbels finally agreed on her casting.

Margot Hielscher
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. 3656/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Hämmerer / Wien Film.

Margot Hielscher (1919-2017)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, no. 1024.

Margot Hielscher in Salto Mortale (1953)
East-German postcard by VEB Volkskunstverlag Reichenbach, no. G 710. Photo: Komet-Film. Publicity still for Salto Mortale (Viktor Tourjansky, 1953).

Margot´s Revue

After the war, Margot Hielscher had her career high, when she appeared in front of enthusiastic GI’s with her show Margot´s Revue.

She contributed as a co-screenwriter to the film Hallo Fräulein/Hello Fraulein (Rudolf Jugert, 1949), which was partially based on her experiences of the immediate post-war period. While shooting this film, she also met her future husband, film composer Friedrich Meyer. 10 years later followed their wedding.

IMDb states that she decided to obtain a pilot's licence in Switzerland in 1952 because her friend Herbert von Karajan cynically told her that it was a good thing that there still were certain things that were only for men. Hielscher proved him wrong and passed her test.

In the 1950s, she focused on her singing career and many of her film appearances were only vocal numbers, such as in the Film Noir Nachts auf den Straßen/Detour (1952) starring Hans Albers and Hildegard Kneff.

She incidentally appeared in international films such as The Devil Makes Three (Andrew Marton, 1952) starring Gene Kelly, and Nel gorgo del peccato (Vittorio Cottafavi, 1954) with Franco Fabrizi.

Her voice was a mix of jazz vocals and operetta soprano. In 1957, Hielscher was chosen to represent Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Telefon, Telefon (Telephone, Telephone). The song finished 4th out of 10 songs, and gained a total of 8 points.

Hielscher was chosen again to represent Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest 1958 with the song Für Zwei Groschen Musik (Music For Two Pennies). The song finished 7th out of 10 songs, and gained a total of 5 points.

Margot Hielscher (1919-2017)
German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3663. Photo: Wesel / Berolina / Gloria. Publicity still for Hoch droben auf dem Berg (Géza von Bolváry, 1957).

Margot Hielscher
East-German postcard by Progress, 1955. Photo: Progress.

Margot Hielscher
German postcard. Photo: Sessner, Dachau.

Period Sex Comedy

Margot Hielscher went on to appear in countless TV shows and series till the late 1980s. Among her series were Salto mortale (1969) with Gustav Knuth, and the comedy series Suchen Sie Dr. Suk!/Are you looking for Dr. Suck! (1972) with Ferdy Maine.

For the Bayerischen Fernsehen (Bavaria TV), she was the host of the 1960s TV show Zu Gast bei Margot Hielscher (Hosted by Margot Hielscher), in which she received some 700 guests including Maurice Chevalier and Romy Schneider.

She incidentally played in films, including the period sex comedy Frau Wirtins tolle Töchterlein/The Countess Died of Laughter (Franz Antel, 1973) and the Thomas Mann adaptation Der Zauberberg/The Magic Mountain (Hans W. Geissendörfer, 1982) with Rod Steiger.

In 1991 and 1992 she performed in the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies alongside Eartha Kitt in the Theater des Westens (Theater of the West) in Berlin.

After roles in the TV series Rivalen der Rennbahn/Rivals at the Race Track (1989) and Der Nelkenkönig/The Carnation King (Franz Josef Gottlieb, 1994) she finally pulled back from the film business, but kept appearing regularly in the theatre.

Thus she performed in the Philharmonie München (Munich Philharmonic) in 2006, in the Philharmonie Berlin (Berlin Philharmonic) in 2007 and in the Komödie im Bayerischen Hof München (Comedy in the Bavarian Court Munich) in 2008, with Christian Ude.

In 1978 she received the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Germany’s Order of Merit) and in 1985 she was awarded with the Filmband in Gold for long and outstanding achievements in German film.

On 20 August 2017, Margot Hielscher passed a way in her hometown Münich in Varia in Germany. She was 97. Hielscher was married with the film composer Friedrich Meyer.

Scene from Hallo Fräulein/Hello Fraulein (Rudolf Jugert, 1949). Source: Alparfan (YouTube).

Margot Hielscher sang for Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest 1958, held in Hilversum, The Netherlands. Her song was Für Zwei Groschen Musik. Source: huelezelf (YouTube).

Sources: Alexander Darda (Margot-Hielscher.de), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line - German), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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