Senta Berger

Senta Berger

Italian postcard by Rotalcolor, Milano, no. 251.

Beautiful Austrian actress Senta Berger (1941) received many awards for her work in theatre, film and television, including a Golden Globe Award and a Goldene Kamera. She played in many European co-productions as well as a sex bomb in some Hollywood movies of the 1960s. Berger works now also as a producer of internationally acclaimed films and as a bestselling author.

Senta Berger was born in Vienna, Austria in 1941 as the daughter of Therese Jany, a teacher, and Josef Berger, a musician. She first appeared on stage at the age of four, where her father accompanied his daughter’s singing on the piano. At the age of five she started ballet lessons , but Senta was asked to leave at 14 because she had ‘developed’ too much. She then took private acting lessons and appeared as an extra in the comedy Du bist die Richtige/You Are The Right One (1955, Erich Engel, Josef von Báky) starring Curd Jürgens. In 1957, she won her first small role in Die unentschuldigte Stunde/The Unexcused Hour (1957), one of the last films directed by Willi Forst. She applied for the Max Reinhardt Seminar, a famous acting school in Vienna, but she was expelled shortly afterwards after accepting a small role in the film The Journey/Die Reise (1959, Anatole Litvak) without permission. Only 17, she became the youngest member of the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna in 1958, and played a role in Luigi Pirandello’s Enrico IV. Film producer Arthur Brauner offered her a role opposite German star Heinz Rühmann in the deft satire Der brave Soldat Schweijk/The Good Soldier Schweijk (1960, Axel von Ambesser). Brauner then signed her a contract for several films, and cast her in Schlagerfilms like O sole mio (1960, Paul Martin) and Adieu, Lebewohl, Goodbye (1961). She soon got tired of them, but Maria Brauner, the producer’s wife, helped her to get a part next to O.W. Fischer and Eva Bartok in the thrillers Es muß nicht immer Kaviar sein/Operation Caviar (1961, Geza von Radvanyi) and Diesmal muß es Kaviar sein/This time it has to be caviar (1961, Geza von Radvanyi). These spy thrillers, based on the novels by Johannes Mario Simmel, meant her breakthrough. Berger became a staple in European co-productions like Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes/Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962, Terence Fisher, Frank Winterstein) starring Christopher Lee, and Kali-Yug, la Dea della Vendetta/Vengeance of Kali (1963, Mario Camerini) with Lex Barker. On invitation of Richard Widmark, with whom she had appeared in the cold war adventure film The Secret Ways (1961, Phil Karlson), she went to Hollywood. There she appeared in the anti-war drama The Victors (1963, Carl Foreman) and in The Waltz King (1963, Steve Previn), a two-parter in the TV series Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Though an actress of more than average talent, Berger was regarded as just another European sex bomb by most Hollywood publicity flacks. She was offered a five-year-contract by a major Hollywood studio, but she decided to return to Germany.

During the shooting of the comedy Jacky und Jenny/Jacky and Jenny (1964, Victor Vicas), Senta Berger met Michael Verhoeven, son of the German film director Paul Verhoeven (not the Dutch Paul Verhoeven). They started their own film production company Sentana-Filmproduktion in 1965 and married the following year. Berger continued to develop her international career and played with such stars as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, and Yul Brynner. She appeared in numerous Eurospy films such as the Italian crime comedy Operazione San Gennaro/Operation San Gennaro (1966, Dino Risi), the British comedy Our Man in Marrakech (1966, Don Sharp) with Tony Randall, and the French thriller Peau d’Espion/To Commit a Murder (1967, Edouard Molinaro) with Louis Jourdan. One of her best known Hollywood movies is the western Major Dundee (1965, Sam Peckinpah) with Charlton Heston. At the Celluloid Heroes blog Paul McElligott writes: “Major Dundee is one of Sam Peckinpah’s early works, a highly stylized Western that fits perfectly the outsized performances of its stars, Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. Neither the story, the dialogue or the acting can be called realistic, but it is what it claims to be, a rousing entertainment.” In Cast a Giant Shadow (1966, Melville Shavelson) with Kirk Douglas, she played the role of Magda, a soldier in the Israeli army during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. That same year she was also a German schoolteacher involved in neo-Nazi activity opposite Max von Sydow and George Segal in the spy film The Quiller Memorandum (1966, Michael Anderson). A curio is the short film Vienna (1967, Orson Welles) in which Welles is wandering through Vienna, remembering The Third Man and then, aided by Berger and Mickey Rooney, he suddenly stumbles into a spy satire which is, according to the IMDb reviewer, “simply hilariously funny”. In 1967, Berger acted also in the pilot for the American television TV series It Takes a Thief (1968) starring Robert Wagner. She reprised her role in the series in 1969, in an episode in which her character was killed off.

In 1970 Senta Berger appeared in the Italian caveman spoof Quando le Donne Avevano la Coda/When Women Had Tails (1970, Pasquale Festa Campanile), which was a surprising box-office hit in Italy. Her participation in this banal sex-comedy lead Hal Erickson at AllMovie to the conclusion that “by 1970, Senta Berger evidently gave up any hopes of being taken seriously.” That year though, she also starred for the first time in a film produced by her own company and directed by her husband, Wer im Glashaus liebt/He Who Loves in a Glass House (1970, Michael Verhoeven). Two years later she featured in Volker Schlöndorff’s Die Moral der Ruth Halbfass/Morals of Ruth Halbfass (1972, Volker Schlöndorff) followed by the leading role in Der scharlachrote Buchstabe/The Scarlet Letter (1973, Wim Wenders). And in Italy she appeared in several films for high quality directors such as Roma Bene (1971, Carlo Lizzani), L’Amante dell’orsa maggiore/The Smugglers (1972,Valentino Orsini), Bisturi: La Mafia Bianca/Hospitals: The White Mafia (1973, Luigi Zampa) and L’Uomo Senza Memoria/ Man Without a Memory (1974, Duccio Tessari) opposite Luc Merenda. Following the birth of her two sons, Simon (1972) and Luca (1979), Berger returned to theatre work. She played at the Burgtheater in Vienna, at the Thaliatheater in Hamburg and at the Schillertheater in Berlin. Between 1974 and 1982, she played the Buhlschaft in the play Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival with Curd Jürgens and later Maximilian Schell in the title role. She also co-starred with Schell and James Coburn in the war film Cross of Iron (1977, Sam Peckinpah).

In 1985, Senta Berger started a comeback in front of German-speaking TV audiences in the popular, ironic mini-series Kir Royal (1985-1986, Helmut Dietl), about a Munich gossip reporter and the city’s legendary high society circles. Further serial hits followed, like Die schnelle Gerdi /The Fast Gerti (1989, Michael Verhoeven), where she played a Munich cab driver. In the same year, she also started a career as a singer of Chansons. She continued to work in Italy and appeared opposite Marcello Mastroianni in Le Due Vite di Mattia Pascal/The Two Lives of Mattia Pascal (1985, Mario Monicelli), based on a Luigi Pirandello story. Berger and Verhoeven produced acclaimed and internationally successful films including Die weiße Rose/The White Rose (1982, Michael Verhoeven) and Das schreckliche Mädchen/The Terrible Girl (1990, Michael Verhoeven), both starring Lena Stolze. During the 1990’s she was mostly seen as smart, sexy and honest women on TV. In 1991 she played an acclaimed role in the marriage drama Sie und Er/She and He (1991, Frank Beyer). Series followed like Lilli Lottofee (1992, Michael Verhoeven) and the series Ärzte/Doctors (1994-1996). Then she played parts in Sandra Nettelbeck‘s film debut Mammamia (1998), Bin ich schön?/Am I Beautiful (1998, Doris Dörrie) and the TV film Trennungsfieber/Divorce Fever (2000, Manfred Stelzer). Since February 2003, Berger has been president of the German Film Academy, which seeks to advance the new generation of actors and actresses in Germany and Europe. The Academy will decide the assignment of the German Film Awards in the future. 2005 saw her in the cinemas in Einmal so wie ich will/For Once As I Want It (2005, Vivian Naefe) opposite Götz George, as a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. She finds love on holiday, but turns her back on the relationship. In the spring of 2006, Berger’s autobiography was published in Germany: Ich habe ja gewußt, daß ich fliegen kann (I Knew That I Could Fly). It became a bestseller. Among her memories of Hollywood are a less-than-subtle attempt by Darryl Zanuck to get her on his casting couch, and being called ‘You German pig’ on her first day on the set of Major Dundee by a gaffer whose wife had lost her family in Auschwitz. Senta Berger is still married to director and producer Michael Verhoeven and they are the parents of actors Simon and Luca Verhoeven. She lives in Grünwald near Munich, Germany. Recently she worked for TV in the mini-series Four Seasons (2008, Giles Foster) with Tom Conti and Michael York. In 2011 she can be seen in the film Ruhm/Fame (2011, Isabel Kleefeld) and for 2012, a reunion is planned with her Kir Royal director Helmut Dietl with the comedy Berlin-Mitte (2012, Helmut Dietl).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Paul McElligott (Celluloid Heroes), Senta Berger Fanwebsite, Lenin Imports, The Wild Eye, Wikipedia and IMDb.

Posted by Truus, Bob & Jan too! on 2015-03-17 06:12:33

Tagged: , Senta Berger , Senta , Berger , German , Film Star , European , Actress , Darstellerin , Schauspielerin , Deutsch , Film , Kino , Cine , Cinema , Picture , Screen , Movie , Movies , Filmster , Star , Vintage , Postcard , Postkarte , Carte , Postale , Cartolina , Tarjet , Postal , Postkaart , Briefkaart , Briefkarte , Ansichtskarte , Ansichtkaart , Beautiful , Sexy , Rotalcolor , Rotalfoto

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *