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Elke Sommer Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (10) | Personal Quotes (6) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 5 November 1940Berlin, Germany
Birth NameElke Schletz
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

This gorgeous Teutonic temptress was one of Hollywood's most captivating imports of the 1960s. Blonde and beautiful, Berlin-born Elke Sommer, with her trademark pouty lips, high cheekbones and sky-high bouffant hairdos, proved irresistible to American audiences, whether adorned in lace or leather, or donning lingerie or lederhosen. She was born in Berlin-Spandau on November 5, 1940 with the unlikely name of Else Schletz-Ho to a Lutheran minister and his wife. The family was forced to evacuate to Erlangen, during World War II in 1942, a small university town in the southern region of Germany. It was here that her parents first introduced her to water colors and her lifelong passion for painting was ignited. Her father's death in 1955, when she was only 14, interrupted her education and she relocated to Great Britain, where she learned English and made ends meet as an au pair. She eventually attended college back in Germany and entertained plans to become a diplomatic translator but, instead, decided to try modeling.

After winning a beauty title ("Miss Viareggio Turistica") while on vacation in Italy, she caught the attention of renowned film actor/director Vittorio De Sica and began performing on screen. Her debut film was in the Italian feature, Men and Noblemen (1959), which starred DeSica and was directed by Giorgio Bianchi. Following a few more Italian pictures, which included her first starring role in Love, the Italian Way (1960), also directed by Bianchi, Elke began making a name for herself in German films, as well, and gradually upgraded her status to European sex symbol. A pin-up favorite, she appeared fetchingly in both dramas and comedies, with such continental features as Daniella by Night (1961), Sweet Ecstasy (1962) and her first English-speaking picture, Why Bother to Knock (1961), to her credit.

Hollywood naturally became intrigued and she moved there in the early 1960s to try and tap into the foreign-born market. Her sexy innocence made a vivid impression in the all-star, war-themed drama, The Victors (1963), the Hitchcock-like thriller, The Prize (1963), for which she won a "Best Newcomer" Golden Globe Award, and, especially, A Shot in the Dark (1964), the classic bumbling comedy where she proved a shady and sexy foil to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clousseau. She grew in celebrity, which was certainly helped after showing off her physical assets, posing for spreads in Playboy Magazine. In the meantime, she was appearing opposite the hunkiest of Hollywood actors including Paul Newman, James Garner, Glenn Ford and Stephen Boyd.

Always a diverting attraction in spy intrigue or breezy comedy, she was too often misused and setbacks began to occur when the quality of her films began to deteriorate. The tacky Hollywood entry, The Oscar (1966), the Bob Hope misfire, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), the tired Dean Martin "Matt Helm" spy spoof, The Wrecking Crew (1968), and her title role in the tasteless Cold War comedy, The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968), starring Hogan's Heroes (1965) alumnus, Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer and Leon Askin, proved her undoing.

The multilingual actress, whose career took her to scores of different countries over time and benefited from speaking seven languages fluently, resorted to a number of low-budget features in Europe, including two Italian horror movies directed by Mario Bava that have now gone on to become cult classics: Baron Blood (1972) and The Exorcist (1973) rip-off, Lisa and the Devil (1973). The latter movie actually was a guilty pleasure. "Lisa" was re-released in 1975 as "The House of Exorcism" and added more footage of a demonic Elke, Linda Blair style, spewing frogs, insects, green pea soup and a slew of cuss words! In England, she good-naturedly appeared in the "comedy" films, Percy (1971), and its equally cheeky sequel, It's Not the Size That Counts (1974), which starred Hywel Bennett (later Leigh Lawson) as the first man to have a penis transplant(!). She also showed up in one of the later "Carry On" farces, entitled Carry on Behind (1975).

Elke fared better on television, where she appeared in the television pilot, Probe (1972), opposite Hugh O'Brian, as well as the well-made 1980s miniseries, Inside the Third Reich (1982), Jenny's War (1985), Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) and Peter the Great (1986). A delightful personality on the talk show circuit, the lovely Elke also made appearances as a cabaret singer and, in time, put out several albums. She found a creative outlet on stage too with such vehicles as "Irma la Douce", "Born Yesterday", "Cactus Flower", "Woman of the Year" and "Same Time, Next Year".

The veteran actress has since focused more time on book writing and painting than she has on acting. Holding her first one-woman art show at the McKenzie Galleries in Beverly Hills in 1965, her artwork bears an exceptionally strong influence to Marc Chagall and she, at one point, hosted a mid-1980s PBS series ("Painting with Elke"), that centered on her artwork, which has now exhibited and sold for more than 40 years. Nevertheless, on occasion, she tackles an acting role, often in her native Germany. Divorced from writer and journalist Joe Hyams, whom she met when he interviewed her for a Hollywood article (he recently died in November 2008), she has been married since 1993 to hotelier Wolf Walther.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Wolf Walther (29 August 1993 - present)
Joe Hyams (19 November 1964 - 1981) (divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Sky-high bouffant hairstyle
Blue-green eyes and full lips
Highly defined cheekbones
Seductive husky voice

Trivia (10)

In the 1960s, while living in Beverly Hills, she and her then husband, Joe Hyams, believed their house to be haunted.
Cousin of Gudy Somer and Brazilian 1974 Miss Universe Mariza Sommer.
Hosted the 1981 Miss Universe pageant along with Bob Barker.
When she appeared in Carry on Behind (1975), she received £30,000. She became one of the only two actors in the films (with Phil Silvers) to receive the highest ever Carry On salary. Kenneth Williams only received £5,000, a sixth of what she received.
After becoming "Miss Viareggio" during a holiday in Italy, she was discovered by director Vittorio De Sica (1958).
Currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and works as a painter, mostly influenced by Marc Chagall.
She's the daughter of a Lutheran minister, who died when she was only 14.
She was nominated for a 1975 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Guest Artist for her performance in the play, "Born Yesterday", at the Drury Lane Theatre North in Chicago, Illinois.
Was considered for the leading female role in the Elvis Presley movie G.I. Blues (1960), but the role was eventually played by Juliet Prowse.
She was awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on December 7, 2001.

Personal Quotes (6)

I've had a wonderful career. I've made all kinds of films and played everything from a hooker to a nun. I know I've become quite a fine actress through my stage work and taking my job seriously -- and just living longer.
[on her painting] I'd rather be known as a painter who acts than as an actress who paints.
I have no recollection of the 1960s or 1970s at all because I was working constantly. I had no time to live, or to evaluate my career, or even to speculate about what was going to become of me.
[on Mario Bava] I loved Bava with all my heart. He was everything to me -- a father figure, a lover figure. He was very quiet -- as quiet as Italians can be -- but he had incredible energy. He spoke very broken English, so we always conversed in Italian. His son Lamberto [Lamberto Bava] was the assistant director and he loyally followed all of 'Papa's' instructions. Bava was quite a patriarch among the whole group of actors and technicians.
[on Oliver Reed] Ollie is a real character. But the English are all a little crazy, anyhow. Everybody has their little idiosyncrasies; Ollie just has more than most people. Off the set, he's very unpredictable. But on the set, he's fine. When he's working, he shows up on time and is very disciplined -- regardless of what happened to him the night before.
[2014] I was in New York City starring in "Tamara" and had to stay there for four months. So I had to find an apartment but they were excruciatingly expensive, tiny and loud. As I knew the managing director of the Essex House, I wanted to talk to him about renting a room but the hotel had a new managing director, a man by the name of Wolf Walther. So we met. For him, it was love at first sight. For me, it took a little longer, but not much longer. As you may know, "Tamara" is a play, in which the audience follows the actor of their choice, and as you may also know, my husband is 6'5" and hard to miss. I saw him every night in the audience, following me. Every night. And that was the beginning of the greatest love story of my life, still unfolding and getting better by the day.

Salary (1)

Carry on Behind (1975) £30,000

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