|Born||Sybille Maria Christina Schmitz
2 December 1909
Düren, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
|Died||13 April 1955
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
|Spouse(s)||Harald G. Petersson|
Schmitz attended an acting school in Cologne and got her first engagement at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin in 1927. Only one year later, she made her film debut with Freie Fahrt (1928), which attracted her first attention from the critics. Her other early movies include Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), Dreyer's Vampyr (1932), and eventually F.P.1 (1932), where she played her first leading role.
Schmitz established herself as a prominent actress in the German cinema with the films which followed including Der Herr der Welt (1934), Abschiedswalzer (1934), Ein idealer Gatte (1935), and Fährmann Maria (1936). She also had roles in Die Umwege des schönen Karl (1937), Der Tanz auf dem Vulkan (1938), Die Frau ohne Vergangenheit (1939), Trenck, der Pandur (1940) and Titanic (1943). Sybille's career remained strong even though she was never sanctioned by the Reichsfilmkammer and ran afoul of Joseph Goebbels. However, her explicitly non-Aryan appearance relegated her mostly to femme-fatales or problematic foreign women.
After World War II, Schmitz was shunned by the German film community for continuously working during the Third Reich, and it became difficult for her to land roles. She appeared in supporting roles in such movies as Zwischen gestern und morgen (1947), Sensation im Savoy (1950), and Illusion in Moll (1952), but was beset with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, several suicide attempts and the committal to a psychiatric clinic. Her self-destructive behavior and numerous affairs with both men and women further alienated Sybille from the film industry and her own husband, screenwriter Harald G. Petersson.
Coincidently, the last film she made less than two years before taking her own life (1953's Das Haus an der Küste, now considered a lost film) had Sybille's character committing suicide as a last act of desperation. A much earlier film, Frank Wisbar's Die Unbekannte (1936) ends with the suicide of Sybille's character, also in a final act of desperate hopelessness.
On April 13, 1955, Schmitz committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills; she was 45 years old. At the time of her death, Sybille had been living in Munich with a woman named Ursula Moritz, a physician who allegedly sold her morphine at an inflated rate and kept Sybille doped up while squandering the little funds she had available to her. Schmitz's family claimed that once the actress proved to be of no use to Moritz, the "good doctor" facilitated her suicide. One year after Sybille Schmitz's death, charges were filed against Dr. Moritz for improper medical treatment.
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Schmitz's final years were used as the basis for Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1982 movie Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss. In 2000, she was the topic of a documentary titled Tanz mit dem Tod: Der Ufa-Star Sybille Schmitz (English: Dance with Death: The Ufa Star Sybille Schmitz), written and directed by Achim Podak.
Both the documentary and the Fassbinder film are available on the Criterion DVD release of Veronika Voss. A ghostly vampire featured in one of the Vampire Hunter D novels is named Sybille Schmitz; a reference to Schmitz's vampiric role in Vampyr.
- Polizeibericht Überfall (1928)
- Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (English title: Diary of a Lost Girl) (1929)
- Vampyr (1932)
- Rivalen der Luft (1933)
- Musik im Blut (1934)
- Sergeant Schwenke (1934)
- An Ideal Husband (1935)
- Punks kommt aus Amerika (1935)
- Stradivari (1935)
- If It Were Not for Music (1935)
- Ich war Jack Mortimer (1935)
- Fährmann Maria (1936)
- Die Leuchter des Kaisers (1936)
- Die Unbekannte (1936)
- Die Kronzeugin (1937)
- Signal in der Nacht (1937)
- The Roundabouts of Handsome Karl (1938)
- Es leuchten die Sterne (1938)
- Hotel Sacher (1939)
- Die fremde Frau (1939)
- Clarissa (1941)
- Wetterleuchten um Barbara (1941)
- Vom Schicksal verweht (1942)
- Die Hochstaplerin (1943)
- Titanic (1943)
- Das Leben ruft (1944)
- Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (1947)
- Die letzte Nacht (1949)
- Sensation in Savoy (1950)
- Die Lüge (1950)
- Kronjuwelen (1950)
- Illusion in Moll (1952)
- Das Haus an der Küste (1953)
- Brigitte Tast, Hans-Jürgen Tast: Dem Licht, dem Schatten so nah. Aus dem Leben der Sybille Schmitz, Kulleraugen - Visuelle Kommunikation Nr. 46, Schellerten 2015, ISBN 978-3-88842-046-7
- Stephens, Robert (2007). Germans on Drugs: The Complications of Modernization in Hamburg. University of Michigan Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-472-06973-6. Retrieved June 30, 2010.