Curd Jürgens

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Curd Jürgens
Jürgens in 1976
Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens

(1915-12-13)13 December 1915
Died18 June 1982(1982-06-18) (aged 66)
Vienna, Austria
Years active1935–1982
Height1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
  • Lulu Basler
    (m. 1938; div. 1947)
  • (m. 1947; div. 1955)
  • (m. 1955; div. 1956)
  • Simone Bicheron
    (m. 1958; div. 1977)
  • Margie Schmitz
    (m. 1978)
AwardsVolpi Cup for Best Actor
1955 The Heroes Are Tired

Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens (13 December 1915 – 18 June 1982) was a German-Austrian stage and film actor. He was usually billed in English-speaking films as Curt Jurgens. He was well known for playing Ernst Udet in Des Teufels General. His English-language roles include James Bond villain Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Éric Carradine in And God Created Woman (1956), and Professor Immanuel Rath in The Blue Angel (1959).

Early life[edit]

Jürgens was born on 13 December 1915 in the Munich borough of Solln, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire. His father, Kurt, was a trader from Hamburg, and his mother, Marie-Albertine, was a French teacher.[1][2] He had two elder twin sisters, Jeanette and Marguerite.[3] He began his working career as a journalist before becoming an actor at the urging of his actress wife, Louise Basler. He spent much of his early acting career on the stage in Vienna. Due to serious injuries that he sustained in a car accident in the summer of 1933, he was unable to have children.[4]

Early Films[edit]

Jurgens made his film debut in The Royal Waltz (1935) playing Franz Joseph I of Austria. He was in the comedy Family Parade (1935) and had a small part in The Unknown (1936), Love Can Lie (1937) and Tango Notturno (1937).

World War Two[edit]

During the war, Jurgens appeared in Operetta (1940) (playing Carl Millöcker), Whom the Gods Love (1942) (as Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor), and Women Are No Angels (1943).

Jürgens was critical of Nazism in his native Germany. In 1944, after filming Wiener Mädeln, he got into an argument with Robert Kaltenbrunner (brother of high-ranking Austrian SS official Ernst Kaltenbrunner), SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny and a member of Baldur von Schirach's staff in a Viennese bar without knowing who they were. After this event, Jürgens was sent to a labor camp for the "politically unreliable" in Hungary. After a few weeks he managed to escape and went into hiding.[2][5][6][7] Jürgens became an Austrian citizen after the war.

Post-war career[edit]

After the war Jurgens appeared in The Singing House (1948) and The Angel with the Trumpet (1948). He had a romantic lead in On Resonant Shores (1948) and was in The Heavenly Waltz (1948), Lambert Feels Threatened (1949), and Bonus on Death (1950).

Jurgens was now regularly in starring roles: Der Schuß durchs Fenster (1950), Kissing Is No Sin (1950), The Disturbed Wedding Night (1950), and A Rare Lover (1950). He had a support role in House of Life (1952), 1. April 2000 (1952), Rose of the Mountain (1952), They Call It Love (1953), and Music by Night (1953). Jurgens was in an operetta, The Last Waltz (1953) with Eva Bartok, whom he married. He starred in Everything for Father (1954), and A Woman of Today (1954). Another movie with Bartok, Circus of Love (1954) was a co production with a US company. After Prisoners of Love (1954) he did another co production, Orient Express (1954) and then was in The Confession of Ina Kahr (1955).

International star[edit]

Jurgens' breakthrough screen role was in Des Teufels General (1955, The Devil's General) a fictional portrayal of World War I flying ace and World War II Luftwaffe general Ernst Udet. He was then in Love Without Illusions (1955) and Die Ratten (1955), directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Maria Schell. The Heroes Are Tired (1955) was a co production with France co starring Yves Montand. Devil in Silk (1956) co starred Lili Palmer.

Jurgens made The Golden Bridge (1956) then Without You All Is Darkness (1956) with Bartok. He had a lead part Roger Vadim's film Et Dieu... créa la femme (And God Created Woman) starring Brigitte Bardot, which was a huge box office success internationally. After an Italian movie The House of Intrigue (1956) Jurgens played the title role in Michel Strogoff (1956) which was another big hit, the most popular film of the year in France.

Jurgens was now an international film star. He did Bitter Victory (1957) with Richard Burton and director Nicholas Ray, Les Espions (1957) for Henri-Georges Clouzot then appeared in his first Hollywood film, The Enemy Below (1957), in which he portrayed a German U-boat commander. Michael Powell wanted Jurgens to play Heinrich Kreipe in Ill Met By Moonlight (1957) but the Rank Organisation would not pay his fee.[8]

Jurgens starred in a French film, Tamango (1958), opposite Dorothy Dandridge with whom he had an affair.[9] Jurgens went to Hollywood to appear in This Happy Feeling (1958) for Blake Edwards, Me and the Colonel (1958) with Danny Kaye and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) with Ingrid Bergman, which was very popular. An item in Variety in April 1958 said he was "well on the way to becoming another middleaged matinee idol in the Ezio Pinza tradition saying he'd "appeared in 89 pictures and an equal number of plays. In 1957 he starred in seven films, four made in France in English, French and German versions and three produced on the coast."[10]

In Germany Jurgens was in Der Schinderhannes (1958) then for Rank, and he co-starred opposite Orson Welles in Ferry to Hong Kong (1959), which was a huge box office flop in England and America. In Hollywood he starred in the remake of The Blue Angel (1959) opposite May Britt. He made Magnificent Sinner (1959) with Romy Schneider. In June 1959 Jurgens said he wanted to mix Hollywood films with non-Hollywood films so world producers did not forget him. Variety called him "the most active international star in the world today".[11]

Jurgens starred in I Aim at the Stars (1960). While promoting the latter he announced he had formed his own company Cinestar and would no longer make German films now that producers had set a maximum fee of $25,000.[12]

He did Brainwashed (1960), a Rank film shot in Germany, then Gustav Adolf's Page (1960) and Bankraub in der Rue Latour (1961), which he also directed.

Jurgens appeared in a sequel to his earlier hit, The Triumph of Michael Strogoff (1962) and was in Disorder (1962) with Louis Jourdan. He played the German general Günther Blumentritt in The Longest Day (1962).

Jurgens starred in Don Giovanni della Costa Azzurra (1962) and made Miracle of the White Stallions (1962) for Disney, Of Love and Desire (1963) for Fox, and Nutty, Naughty Chateau (1963) for Vadim. In England Jurgens appeared in Hide and Seek (1964) then made Encounter in Salzburg (1964), Les Parias de la gloire (1964), the British Psyche 59 (1964) and Lord Jim (1965).

Later career[edit]

Jurgens began to move down the cast list in Who Wants to Sleep? (1966), Target for Killing (1966), The Gardener of Argenteuil (1966), Dirty Heroes (1967), The Karate Killers (1967), and OSS 117 – Double Agent (1968). He had a lead in The Doctor of St. Pauli (1968) and supported in The Assassination Bureau (1969), Battle of the Commandos (1969), On the Reeperbahn at Half Past Midnight (1969), Battle of Britain (1969), Battle of Neretva (1970).

Later, in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), he played the villain Karl Stromberg, a sociopathic industrialist seeking to transform the world into an ocean paradise. His last film appearance was as Maître Legraine, beside Alain Delon and Claude Jade in the spy-thriller Teheran 43 (1981). In English-language television, he played Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in several episodes of the BBC series Fall of Eagles (1974) and appeared as General Vladimir in the BBC's Smiley's People (1982).


Although he appeared in over 100 films, Jürgens was also a notable stage actor. He was member of several theatres in Vienna (Volkstheater 1938–1941, Burgtheater 1940–1953 and 1965–1968, and others). He played the title role of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's play Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival from 1973 until 1977 – arguably the most high-profile role for a German-speaking male actor. In 1966 he appeared in a short run on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre opposite Geraldine Page, directed by George Schaefer.[13]

His last stage appearance was with the Vienna State Opera on 9 March 1981 as Bassa Selim in Mozart's opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail.[14] He also directed a few films with limited success, e.g. Bankraub in der Rue Latour, and wrote screenplays, e.g. Bonus on Death.

He titled his 1976 memoir ... und kein bißchen weise (And Not At All Wise).[15][16]

Jürgens provided the German voice of the journalist in the 1980 German dub of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.

Personal life[edit]

Jürgens maintained a home in France, but frequently returned to Vienna to perform on stage. He died there from a heart attack on 18 June 1982. He had suffered a heart attack several years before. During this heart attack he had a near-death experience where he claimed he died and went to hell. Jürgens was interred in the Vienna Central Cemetery.

He was 1.92 metres (6 ft 4 in) tall.[17] Brigitte Bardot nicknamed him "the Norman Wardrobe" during their work for Et Dieu... créa la femme.[18]

At some point Jürgens had affairs with actresses Romy Schneider (in 1957) and Dorothy Dandridge.[19] After a two-year affair, his relationship with his young lover Mathilda Mizart ended in 1974 when she died in an accident.[20]

Jürgens was married to:

  1. Lulu Basler, actress (15 June 1937 – 8 October 1947) (divorced)
  2. Judith Holzmeister (16 October 1947 – 1955) (divorced)
  3. Eva Bartok (13 August 1955 – 1956) (divorced)[21]
  4. Simone Bicheron (14 September 1958 – 1977) (divorced)
  5. Margie Schmitz (21 March 1978 – 18 June 1982) (his death)


Jürgens' grave in the Vienna Central Cemetery

Jürgens died on June 18, 1982 of multiple organ failure at the Rudolfstiftung hospital in Vienna at the age of 66, before the German version of the thriller film Teheran 43 was completed. His role as dubbing voice had to be replaced by Wilhelm Borchert.

His burial was in the Vienna Central Cemetery in a grave of honor (Group 32C No. 54). [22] It took place on June 22, 1982 in the first and only night ceremony from 9 p.m. to 21 hours. His widow and one of his older sisters with his children and some 3,000 fans gathered at the graveside. An formation of the Austrian Air Force flew over the cemetery in his honor.[23]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Curt Jurgens, War Films' Star". The New York Times. UPI. June 18, 1982. Archived from the original on 2013-06-21. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Luce, William P. (27 July 1977). "The Man You'll Love to Hate". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-02-22. Retrieved 2022-04-13.
  3. ^ "Childhood and Youth – Nachlass Curd Jürgens". Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  4. ^ Specht, Heike (2015). Curd Jürgens: General und Gentleman. Die Biographie (in German). Aufbau Digital. ISBN 9783841210302.
  5. ^ Zäuner, Günther. Wien – Wo Persönlichkeiten zu Hause waren (PDF) (in German). p. 69.
  6. ^ "Curd Jürgens 102" (in German). Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  7. ^ Karney, Robyn (1984). The Movie Stars Story. Crescent Books.
  8. ^ Powell, Michael (1992). Million Dollar Movie. p. 355. ISBN 9780679434436.
  9. ^ >Bogle, Donald (1998). Dorothy Dandridge : a biography. p. 382.
  10. ^ "What Do International Stars Have?". Variety. April 1958. p. 24.
  11. ^ Williams, Whitney (June 1959). "Jurgen's Credo: Keep Hollywood Not Enough". Variety. p. 5.
  12. ^ "Curt Jurgens Won't Make Any More German Films". Variety. 14 September 1960. p. 13.
  13. ^ The Great Indoors by Irene Kamp, Eugene O'Neill Theatre, January 17 – February 5, 1966, Playbill
  14. ^ Die Entführung aus dem Serail, 9 March 1981, Vienna State Opera
  15. ^ Jürgens, Curd. ... und kein bißchen weise, Munich, Droemer Knaur (1976). ISBN 3-85886-054-9.
  16. ^ "Curd Jürgens". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  17. ^ Sill, Oliver (1991). Zerbrochene Spiegel (in German). Walter de Gruyter. p. 227. ISBN 978-3-11-012697-6. Retrieved 8 May 2009. quoting Holba et al. Reclams deutsches Filmlexikon, Stuttgart 1984, p. 181, ISBN 978-3-15-010329-6
  18. ^ "Curd Jürgens im Porträt" (in German). Hubert Burda. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  19. ^ Balfanz, Eckhard (10 June 2012). "Liebesbeweise: Romy Schneider liebte Curd Jürgens – für 2 Wochen". Die Welt.
  20. ^ "Filmfestspiele Cannes, 1973 – Nachlass Curd Jürgens".
  21. ^ "Eva Bartok, 72, Actress in Films of 50's and 60's" (obituary), AP in The New York Times, 5 August 1998
  22. ^ Hedwig Abraham. "Kunst und Kultur in Wien – Zentralfriedhof, Ehrengräber". Retrieved 2012-04-27.
  23. ^ "23.2.1955: Filmpremiere von „Des Teufels General"". KalenderBlatt 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2010-02-23.

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