Irene von Meyendorff

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Irene von Meyendorff

Irene von Meyendorff (6 June 1916 in Tallinn – 28 September 2001 in Hampshire) was a German actress.

She was married five times, her fourth husband was James Robertson Justice.


Irene von Meyendorff was of Baltic German origin, born in 1916 in Tallinn (then Reval), Estonia as the eldest child of a German-Baltic aristocrat. Her birth name and title was Baroness Irene Isabella Margarete Pauline Caecila von Meyendorff. In the early 1930s she came to Berlin to work as a cutter in the UFA film studios of Babelsberg. Her beauty soon landed her first film roles and the attention of Joseph Goebbels, whose infamous nickname "Bock von Babelsberg" (the horny goat of Babelsberg) - referring to his constant meddling in the affairs and actresses of the Babelsberg film studios - is credited to Irene von Meyendorff. Representing the purest ideal of Aryan beauty, the actress portrayed mostly noble participants. The sale of her promotional post cards shows that she was the number 1 pin-up girl among the German Army during the WW II.

Today, she is best remembered for her work in two notorious but artistically superior films by the propaganda director Veit Harlan: "Opfergang" (The Rite of Sacrifice) in 1944, where she was cast as the second leading lady, and "Kolberg" in 1945, where she has a small but memorable role of the Queen of Prussia Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The production of these elaborately produced color films was strictly supervised by Goebbels; Kolberg was the most expensive film ever produced in Germany (with the budget of 8,5 million Reichsmarks), produced to celebrate the 12th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's ascend to power, opening on 30th January, 1945.

She was one of the stars of the German cinema who wasn't banned from working after the war, so she continued her career with mostly supporting roles. In 1961 she met British actor James Robertson Justice, fell in love with him and left her third husband Pit Severin, a journalist from Hamburg, to follow James Robertson Justice to England. She all but gave up acting, returning only briefly in such films as the costume drama Mayerling (1968).

She became a British citizen in 1967, and changed her name to Irina. A series of strokes gradually prevented James Robertson Justice working and led to his bankruptcy. Earning her living as a teacher at a local Language School, Irina nursed him until his death in 1975. After 14 years of living together, they were finally married on his deathbed in hospital. 8 years after James Robertson Justice's death in 1975, she subsequently married his best friend and their neighbour, the millionaire and philanthropist Keith "Toby" Bromley.

Even at the age of 70 she sailed to the Arctic and the Orinoco River. On September 28, 2001, she died in Hampshire.

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