Horst Buchholz

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Horst Buchholz
Horst Werner Buchholz

(1933-12-04)4 December 1933
Berlin, Germany
Died3 March 2003(2003-03-03) (aged 69)
Berlin, Germany
Years active1951–2003
Spouse(s)Myriam Bru (m. 1958–2003)

Horst Werner Buchholz (4 December 1933 – 3 March 2003) was a German actor and voice actor who appeared in more than sixty feature films from 1951 to 2002. During his youth, he was sometimes called "the German James Dean".[2] He is perhaps best known in English-speaking countries for his role as Chico in The Magnificent Seven (1960),[3] as a communist in Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three (1961), and as Dr. Lessing in Life Is Beautiful (1997).

Early life[edit]

Horst Buchholz was born in Berlin, the son of Maria Hasenkamp. He never knew his biological father, but took the surname of his stepfather Hugo Buchholz, a shoemaker, whom his mother married in 1938.[4] His half-sister Heidi, born in 1941, gave him the nickname "Hotte", which he kept for the rest of his life.[4]

During World War II, he was evacuated to Silesia, and at the end of the war, he found himself in a foster home in Czechoslovakia. He returned to Berlin as soon as he could.

He barely finished his schooling before seeking theater work, first appearing on stage in 1949. He soon left his childhood home in East Berlin to work in West Berlin. He established himself in the theater, notably the Schiller Theater, and also on radio.[4]

Early film career[edit]

Buchholz expanded into film work by doing foreign-language voice dubbing, for example Lampwick in Pinocchio and Ben Cooper in Johnny Guitar.[5]

In 1951 he started getting small uncredited on-screen parts in films like Warum? (1951) and Adventure in Berlin (1952).

He had a larger role in Marianne of My Youth (1954), directed by Julien Duvivier and was in a TV movie Die Schule der Väter . He was in Sky Without Stars (1955) from Helmut Käutner and Regine (1956).


Horst Buchholz, late 1950s

His youthful good looks next brought him a part in Die Halbstarken (1956), which made him a teen favorite in Germany; an English-dubbed version was released in the US as Teenage Wolfpack, with Buchholz billed as "Henry Bookholt" and promoted as a new James Dean.[6]

He was in King in Shadow (1957) then The Girl and the Legend (1957) with Romy Schneider. Full-fledged stardom resulted from Confessions of Felix Krull (1957), in which he played the lead; it was directed by Kurt Hoffmann and based on the novel by Thomas Mann. He made another with Schneider, Monpti (1957) aka Love from Paris.

In 1958 Buchholz married French actress Myriam Bru. They had two children. That year he starred in Two Worlds (1958), Wet Asphalt (1958), and Auferstehung (1958) aka Resurrection.

English-language films[edit]

Buchholz's gravestone in Berlin. The word below his name means "actor". Below his birth and death dates it says in German, "Love the world and the world will love you".

Buchholz began appearing in English-language films in 1959, when he co-starred in the British production Tiger Bay with Hayley Mills. It was a notable success.

He returned to Germany for Ship of the Dead (1959), then accepted an offer from Hollywood to play a young aspiring gunslinger in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Arriving in the US with time to spare before filming began, Buchholz lingered in New York and appeared on Broadway in a short-lived adaptation of Cheri (1959) before continuing westward.

After The Magnificent Seven, which went on to become a classic, Buchholz played in the romantic drama Fanny (1961) with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier, and the Berlin-set comedy One, Two, Three (1961), directed by Billy Wilder. Though filmed in Mexico, France and Germany respectively, these were Hollywood productions and Buchholz had begun a period of residence in Los Angeles. He proved to be popular with American audiences, but several missed opportunities thwarted the upward trajectory of his career and it began to stall. Filming schedule conflicts prevented him from accepting the offered roles of Tony in West Side Story (1961) and Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Instead he played the lead in Nine Hours to Rama (1963) for Twentieth Century Fox and The Empty Canvas (1963), shot in Italy with Bette Davis. He returned to Broadway to appear in Andorra (1963) which only had a short run.

International star[edit]

On the advice of his agent, like many other actors who were asked, he turned down the starring role in A Fistful of Dollars (1964). He was in Marco the Magnificent (1965) with Anthony Quinn; That Man in Istanbul (1965), a Eurosopy film; Johnny Banco (1967), a comedy with Yves Allégret; and Young Rebel (1967), a biopic of Miguel de Cervantes with Gina Lollobrigida. He guest starred on The Danny Thomas Hour (1968).

Buchholz starred in Astragal (1969), How, When and with Whom (1969), The Dove Must Not Fly (1970), and The Saviour (1971). He returned to Hollywood lead roles briefly with The Great Waltz (1971) playing Johann Strauss.

Buchholz starred in ...But Johnny! (1973), and The Catamount Killing [fr] (1974). He appeared on German television in shows like Die Klempner kommen (1976).

Supporting actor[edit]

Buchholz moved into supporting roles in films like The Savage Bees (1976), Raid on Entebbe (1976), Dead of Night (1977), and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1978). He guest starred on episodes of Logan's Run, Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels, and How the West Was Won and had the lead in Women in Hospital (1977) and had a good role in The French Atlantic Affair (1979).

Buchholz was in From Hell to Victory (1979), and Avalanche Express (1979). He had the co lead in Berlin Tunnel 21 (1981) and was top billed in Aphrodite (1981). He guest starred on Derrick and had a support part in Sahara (1983).

Later career[edit]

Buchholz focused on Germany: Funkeln im Auge (1984), and Wenn ich mich fürchte (1984). He went to Hollywood for parts in Code Name: Emerald (1985) and Crossings (1986).

Buchholz's credits include Affari di famiglia (1986), Die Fräulein von damals (1986), and Der Schatz im Niemandsland (1987). He had the lead in And the Violins Stopped Playing (1989) and support one in Escape from Paradise (1990).

Buchholz turned up in Aces: Iron Eagle III (1992), Touch and Die (1992), Faraway, So Close! (1993), The Cave of the Golden Rose 4 (1995), Tödliches Erbe (1995), Der Clan der Anna Voss (1995), Maître Da Costa, and The Firebird (1997). He portrayed Dr. Lessing in Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning Life Is Beautiful (1997).

He was in Geisterstunde - Fahrstuhl ins Jenseits (1997), Der kleine Unterschied (1997), Dunckel (1998), and Der kleine Unterschied (1998). He returned to America for Voyage of Terror (1998).

Buchholz's last performances include Kinderraub in Rio - Eine Mutter schlägt zurück (1998), Heller als der Mond (2000), The Enemy (2001), Der Club der grünen Witwen (2001), Traumfrau mit Verspätung (2001), Detective Lovelorn und die Rache des Pharao (2001), Abschnitt 40 (2001), Atlantic Affairs (2002) and In der Mitte eines Lebens (2003).

Personal life and death[edit]

Usually reticent about his private life, in a 2000 interview in the German magazine Bunte, Buchholz publicly came out, saying, "Yes, I also love men. Ultimately, I'm bisexual. ... I have always lived my life the way I wanted."[7] He explained that he and his wife of nearly 42 years had a stable and enduring arrangement, with her life centered in Paris and his in Berlin, the city that he loved.[7] Their son Christopher Buchholz, also an actor and the producer of the feature-length documentary Horst Buchholz...Mein Papa (2005), has publicly acknowledged his father's bisexuality.[8]

Buchholz died unexpectedly at the age of sixty-nine in the Berlin Charité from pneumonia that developed after an operation for a hip fracture. Berlin was the city to which his loyalty was constant, and he was buried there in the Friedhof Heerstraße.

Cultural References[edit]

In "Diane Chambers Day", the 22nd episode of the fourth season of the TV series Cheers, Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) remarks: "I never miss a Horst Buchholz film."

Selected filmography[edit]

Dubbing roles[edit]


  1. ^ "Horst Buchholz, 69; Actor Was Known as the James Dean of German Cinema". latimes.
  2. ^ Giardina, A. (2003). "THE LIVES THEY LIVED; The German James Dean". The New York Times Magazine, 28 December 2003. Accessed 2 March 2014 (access free as of same date).
  3. ^ "Horst Buchholz will always be fondly remembered for playing Chico". Paul Page, quoted in Horst Buchholz biography. Accessed 1 May 2012
  4. ^ a b c The pre-1952 portion of this biography incorporates information derived from the German Wikipedia article w:de:Horst Buchholz[better source needed]
  5. ^ https://www.synchronkartei.de/darsteller/1166
  6. ^ As documented by the US film poster
  7. ^ a b As reported in B.Z., 9 November 2000. In German. Accessed 27 February 2014. English translation of "Ja, ich liebe auch Männer. Letztlich bin ich bisexuell. ... Ich habe mein Leben immer gelebt, wie ich wollte." per Google Translate.
  8. ^ Buchholz, C. (2005). "Horst Buchholz...My Papa" (English version of the program note for the 2005 Berlinale international film festival). Accessed 27 February 2014.

External links[edit]