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Hildegard Knef Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (17)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 28 December 1925Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Date of Death 1 February 2002Berlin, Germany  (lung infection)
Birth NameHildegard Frieda Albertine Knef
Height 5' 6¼" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was born on December 28, 1925 in Ulm, Germany. In 1940, she began studying acting. Even before the fall of the Third Reich, she appeared in several films, but most of them were only released after the war. To avoid being raped by Soviet soldiers, she dressed like a young man and was sent to a camp for prisoners of war. She escaped and returned to war-shattered Berlin where she played her first parts on stage. The first German movie after World War II, Murderers Among Us (1946), made her a star. David O. Selznick invited her to Hollywood and offered her a contract - with two conditions: Hildegard Knef should change her name into Gilda Christian and should pretend to be Austrian instead of German. She refused both and returned to Germany. In 1951, she provoked one of the greatest scandals in German film history when she appeared naked on the screen in the movie Die Sünderin (1951). The Roman Catholic Church protested vehemently against that film, but Hildegard just commented: "I can't understand all that tumult - five years after Auschwitz!"

With the support of her first husband, the American Kurt Hirsch, she tried a second time to launch a Hollywood career, changed her family name from Knef to Neff (because Americans could not pronounce Knef), but the only worthwhile part she got was a supporting role in the Hemingway adaptation of The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952). She became a leading lady in German, French and British films. Finally, America offered her another chance, this time on the stage. She achieved a kind of stardom as Ninotchka in the very popular Broadway play, "Silk Stockings". In 1963, she began a new career as a singer and surprised the audience with her typical, deep, smoky voice and the fact that many lyrics of her songs were written by herself. In 1970, she wrote the autobiographical bestseller "Der Geschenkte Gaul". She got sympathy from all over the world for her fight against cancer, which she defeated several times.

After the German reunification, Hildegarde Knef moved back to Berlin and died at age 76 of a lung infection on February 1, 2002.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Yancey

Spouse (3)

Paul von Schell (1977 - 1 February 2002) (her death)
David Cameron (30 June 1962 - 4 June 1976) (divorced) (1 child)
Kurt Hirsch (15 December 1947 - 15 January 1952) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Typical deep smoky voice

Trivia (17)

Known in the United States as Hildegard Neff, but she used her real name when performing back home in Germany.
Close personal friend of Marlene Dietrich, despite being in the legend's international shadow for much her career.
Was the cover girl for Modern Man Magazine in August 1956.
Sister-in-law of Catherine Schell.
Knef launched a career as a singer in the 1960s and wrote her bestselling autobiography "Der geschenkte Gaul - Bericht aus meinem Leben" ("The Gift Horse - Report from my life") in 1970.
Her nude scene as "Marina" in Die Sünderin (1951), the first in German filmmaking, drew the criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
Ella Fitzgerald called her "the best singer without voice".
Became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1950.
Gave birth to her daughter Christina (Tinta Knef) on 16 May 1968.
Hildegard trusted her clothing and gowns to one person who was based in New York. It was Irish-born Thomas Starr, grandfather of fashion designer Karen Starr-DelloIacono.
Mother-in-law of Peter Gardiner.
Her first American film was to be The Big Lift (1950) in which she would have co-starred with Montgomery Clift. Shortly before filming began, the producers got word that she had had an affair with a Nazi officer during World War II and fired her from the movie. Cornell Borchers replaced her. Later, she was lined up for the leads in Elia Kazan's Man on a Tightrope (1953) and in the film version of the musical Silk Stockings (1957) in which she had starred on Broadway. Gloria Grahame and Cyd Charisse were cast instead. When she refused to appear in Abandon Ship (1957) (Mai Zetterling took over her role), 20th Century Fox released her from her contract. She would never appear in an American film again.
Told her biographer Christian Schröder in 2000 that her favorite pictures were Murderers Among Us (1946), Film Without a Name (1948), Svengali (1954), Port of Desire (1958) and Jeder stirbt für sich allein (1976). Her least favorite of her own movies was Escape from Sahara (1958) which was one of the biggest flops in post-war Germany and practically ended her film career.
According to her book, "The Gift Horse", she was the last person John Garfield spoke to before he died.
Provided the voice for Grandmother Willow on the German soundtrack version of Walt Disney's "Pocahontas".
When interviewed by Harald Schmidt in his talkshow, she revealed that Twentieth Century Fox had planned to campaign for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 'Decision before dawn' but withdrew because of politics (she was German).
According to her memoirs "The Gift Horse", she found out that she had won the Best Actress award in Locarno for her role in "Film ohne Titel" by reading an article about her success in a newspaper - one year after the award was announced at the festival!.

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