Hildegard Knef

Hildegard Knef was born in Ulm in 1925 and is one of the German icons of the post-war years, gaining international attention with her acting, singing and literary abilities. Her performance as the concentration camp inmate Susanne Wallner in the first German post-war film “The Murderers are Among Us” secured the actor a 7-year contract with a US film producer that opened the door to a Hollywood career. In 1948 Knef, at that time an American citizen, won the Best Actress award at the Locarno Film Festival for her role as Christine Fleming in Rudolf Jugert’s “Film Without a Title” and her nude scene in Willi Forst’s “The Sinner” in 1951 caused an international scandal. Just a few years later, Knef achieved notable success in the leading role in Cole Porter’s Broadway production ‘Silk Stockings’. After a contract dispute with 20th Century Fox, she left the USA in 1957 and took part in several film and tv productions in France, Germany and England. Alongside her acting work, from the 1960s onwards she also pursued a career singing chansons, in which she made guest appearances at venues including the Berliner Philharmonie with her distinctive, smoky voice. Later in her career, having found a home in Berlin, she focussed increasingly on her own life story, writing a number of autobiographical books. Knef died in 2002 after a lengthy illness and left a body of work behind that was honoured retrospectively in numerous places, amongst them the Deutsche Kinemathek and Berlin’s Gay Museum.

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