Hildegard Knef, aged 69, at her last concert (March 5, 1995) in Berlin
|Born||December 28, 1925
|Died||February 1, 2002 (aged 76)
|Occupation||Actress, singer, writer|
Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was born in the German city of Ulm (December 28, 1925 - February 1, 2002) and was a German actress, singer and writer. She was billed in some English language films as Hildegard Neff or Hildegarde Neff.
She began studying acting in 1940, aged 14. She appeared in several films even before the fall of the Third Reich, but most were not released until after World War II. She was forced to dress as a young man to avoid being raped by the Soviet soldiers and was sent to a POW camp.
Her best-known film roles were as:
She also appeared in a number of 1960s low budget films such as Hammer films The Lost Continent.
David Selznick invited her to Hollywood, but she refused to agree to the conditions of the contract which reportedly included changing her name to Gilda Christian and pretending to be Austrian rather than German.
Years later, Knef's first husband, an American named Kurt Hirsch, encouraged her to try again for success in the USA. She changed her name from Knef to Neff and achieved a measure of stardom on Broadway as “Ninotchka” in the Cole Porter musical, Silk Stockings.
She began a new career in 1963 as a singer and surprised her audiences with the deep, smoky quality of her voice and the many lyrics, which she wrote herself. Fans around the world rallied in her support as she defeated cancer several times. She returned to Berlin after the reunification.
In the 1960s and 1970s she enjoyed considerable success as a singer of German chansons, which she often co-wrote. The song she is mostly remembered for is "Für mich soll's rote Rosen regnen" ("It shall rain red roses for me"). She is also known for her version of the song "Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin" ("I've got a suitcase left in Berlin"). She sold more than three million records in total.
She published several books. Her autobiography Der geschenkte Gaul - Bericht aus einem Leben (The Gift Horse - Report of a Life) from 1970 was a candid recount of her life in Germany during and after World War II. It became the best-selling German book after World War II. Her second book "Das Urteil" ("The Verdict") from 1975 was a moderate success. It dealt with her struggle with breast cancer.
She was married three times and had a daughter, Christina (born May 16, 1968) by her second marriage, to David Cameron.
Knef died from emphysema, aged 76, on February 1, 2002.