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Elisabeth Bergner Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (5)

Overview (3)

Born in Drohobycz, Galicia, Austria-Hungary [now Drohobych, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine]
Died in London, England, UK
Birth NameElisabeth Ettel

Mini Bio (1)

Elisabeth Bergner was the daughter of the merchant Emil Ettel and his wife Anna Rosa Wagner. She grew up in Vienna, and she made her theatre debut in Innsbruck in 1915. In 1916 she obtained a contract in Zürich, where she played Ophelia next to the famous Alexander Moissi, who fell in love with her. The next stage in her career was Vienna, where she posed as a model for the talented but deeply unhappy sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck. He fell in love with her, but she rejected him; his suicide soon afterwards shocked her. After performing in Vienna and Munich she came to Berlin in 1921. There she played in productions by Max Reinhardt and became a very popular actress.

During her early years as an actress, she was often helped by the poet and critic Albert Ehrenstein, whom she called Xaverl. Ehrenstein was also in love with her. At one time she promised him a child but changed her mind. Ehrenstein wrote numerous poems for her, but often she kept him at a distance. However, their friendship lasted and they continued to exchange letters.

She made her film debut in Der Evangelimann (1924). In 1924, director Paul Czinner gave her a part in Husbands or Lovers (1924). This was the beginning of their successful professional collaboration as well as their personal relationship. Her most successful silent movie was Fräulein Else (1929).

Bergner and Czinner were both Jews, and after the Nazis came to power, they emigrated to Vienna and then London, where they were married. She learned English and was able to continue her career. In London, she became friendly with G.B. Shaw and J.M. Barrie, who after a long hiatus from writing drafted a play for her; the result, The Boy David (1936), unfortunately was not successful. She also appeared as Gemma Jones in the movie version of Escape Me Never (1935) by Margaret Kennedy, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Her movie The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) was forbidden in Germany.

During her London years, she sent much of her money to relatives and friends in need, among them Ehrenstein. Bergner's only Hollywood movie, Paris Calling (1941), failed to attract attention. On Broadway, she fared better and was very successful in The Two Mrs. Carrolls. While appearing in it, she encountered a young aspiring actress who stood in the alley outside the theater every night and claimed to have seen every performance; Bergner befriended and later hired her but broke with her after the young actress -- who called herself Martina Lawrence, the name of one of Bergner's twin characters in Stolen Life (1939) -- became over-interested in all aspects of Bergner's life. Bergner later recounted this story to her friend Mary Orr, a writer, who turned it into the short story "The Wisdom of Eve" -- which was the basis for the movie All About Eve (1950).

After the war, Bergner worked in New York for a few years; in 1950, she returned to England. She gave acclaimed Bible readings in Israel in English, German and Hebrew. In Germany, she resumed her stage career, and in 1959 she stunned audiences and critics in Berlin with her performance in Geliebter Lügner, a German version of Jerome Kilty's Dear Liar, a play based on the letters exchanged between G.B. Shaw and actress Stella Campbell. In 1961, she returned to the movies, and in 1970 she made her directorial debut. Her last stage appearance took place in 1973 (Her husband had died in 1972).

In 1978, a volume of her memoirs was published, in which she shared some of her secrets with the public, such as Lehmbruck's obsession with her. In 1979 she received the Ernst Lubitsch Prize and in 1982 the Eleonora Duse Prize. She discussed a possible return to Vienna with Bruno Kreisky, but she died from cancer at her home in London in 1986. In Seglitz (Berlin), a city park was named after her.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Androom and Anonymous

Spouse (1)

Paul Czinner (9 January 1933 - 22 June 1972) (his death)

Trivia (5)

As of 2013, she is one of six women who has received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for a performance directed by her spouse, namely for Escape Me Never (1935) direct by Paul Czinner. The other five are Frances McDormand for Fargo (1996) (directed by Joel Coen), Gena Rowlands for A Woman Under the Influence (1974) & Gloria (1980) (both directed by John Cassavetes), Julie Andrews for Victor Victoria (1982) (directed by Blake Edwards), Joanne Woodward for Rachel, Rachel (1968) (directed by Paul Newman), and Jean Simmons for The Happy Ending (1969) (directed by Richard Brooks). Jules Dassin also directed his future wife Melina Mercouri in a Best Actress Oscar nominated performance (Never on Sunday (1960)), but they weren't married yet at the time of the nomination.
An incident with a fan / aspiring actress in 1943-1944, while Bergner was performing in the hit play "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" on Broadway, inspired Mary Orr to write her short story "The Wisdom of Eve". The story was ultimately filmed as All About Eve (1950).
Although it is inaccurate to say she is actually a character in Peter Handke's "anti-play," "The Ride Across Lake Constance," her name is used as a designation of a character, as are the names of other celebrated actors of the German cinema, Erich von Stroheim, Heinrich George, Emil Jannings, Henny Porten and the twins Alice Kessler and Ellen Kessler.
British actor Griffith Jones, who starred with Bergner in Escape Me Never (1935), named his daughter, British actress Gemma Jones, after Bergner's character in that film.
She and Bette Davis overlapped in two ways: Davis starred in A Stolen Life (1946), a remake of Stolen Life (1939), in which Bergner starred; and Davis starred in All About Eve (1950), which was based on an incident that actually happened to Bergner.

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