Nationality: German; acquired Austrian citizenship after World War II. Born: Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens, in Munich, Germany, 13 December 1915; appeared in American films as Curt Jurgens, Curt Juergens, Curd Jüergens, and Curt Jürgens. Education: Herder-Realgymnasium in Berlin; private acting lessons. Family: Married 1) Lulu Basler (actress), 1938; 2) Judith Holzmeister (actress), 1947; 3) Eva Bartok (actress), 1955; 4) Simone Bicheron (model), 1958; 5) Margie Schmitz, 1977; no children. Career: Reporter for the Acht Uhr Abendblatt, Berlin, 1933; film actor, from 1935; actor on stage, Metropoltheater, Berlin, 1936–37, Theater am Kurfürstendamm and Komödie, 1937–38, Volkstheater, Vienna 1938–39, and Burgtheater Vienna, 1939–53. Awards: Volpi Cup for Best Actor, Venice Film Festival, for Les Héros sont Fatigués, 1955; German Film Prize Filmband in Gold, 1959; Josef Kainz Medal, 1966; honorary professor at the Austrian Academy of Arts, 1976; Cross of Merit of Germany, 1981. Died: Vienna, Austria, 18 June 1982; buried in a grave of honor at the Central Cemetary in Vienna.
Films as Actor:
Königswalzer (The King's Waltz) (Maisch) (as Emperor Franz Joseph)
Die Unbekannte (The Unknown Woman) (Wysbar) (as Hans Wellenkamp); Familienparade (Family Parade) (as Herr Acke)
Zu neuen Ufern (To New Shores) (Sierck) (as a young man in the House of Lords); Liebe kann lügen (Love Can Lie) (Helbig) (as Student Holder Engström); Tango Notturno
Salonwagen E 417 (Private Car E 417) (Verhoeven)
Herz ohne Heimat (Heart without Home) (Linnekogel); Weltrekord im Seitensprung (World Record in Infidelity) (Zoch); Operette (Forst) (as Carl Millöcker)
Wen die Götter lieben (Whom the Gods Love) (Hartl) (as Emperor Josef II); Stimme des Herzens (The Voice of the Heart) (Meyer)
Ein Glücklicher Mensch (A Happy Man) (Verhoeven); Frauen sind keine Engel (Women Are No Angels) (Forst) (as Bandini)
Kleine Sommermelodie (Little Summer Melody) (von Collande); Ein Blick zurück (Am Vorabend; A Look Back) (Menzel)
Das singende Haus (The Singing House) (Antel)
An klingenden Ufern (On Resounding Shores) (Unterkircher); The Mozart Story, Leckerbissen (Taste Treats); Der Engel mit der Posaune (The Angel with the Trumpet) (Hartl) (as Graf Traun); Der himmlische Walzer (The Heavenly Waltz) (von Cziffra); Hin und her (Back and Forth) (Lingen); Verlorenes Rennen (Lost Race) (Neufeld)
Wiener Mädel (Viennese Maidens) (Forst) (as Graf Lechenberg); Lambert fühlt sich bedroht (Lambert Feels Threatened) (von Cziffra); Hexen (Witches) (Schott-Schöbinger)
Schuß durchs Fenster (A Shot through the Window) (Breuer); Prämien auf den Tod (Premiums for Death) (Jürgens) (+ sc with Kurt Heuser); Ein Lächeln im Sturm (A Smile in the Storm) (Chanas); Küssen ist keine Sünd' (Kissing Is No Sin) (Marischka) (as Kammersänger Felix Alberti); Das Kuckucksei (The Cuckoo's Egg) (Firner); Gestörte Hochzeitsnacht (Disturbed Wedding Night); Gute Nacht, Mary (Weiss); Pikanterie (Delicacy) (Braun)
Der schweigende Mund (The Silent Mouth) (Hartl); Gangsterpremiere (+ d, sc with Franz Gribitz and Aldo von Pinelli); Geheimnis einer Ehe (Secret of a Marriage) (Weiss)
Haus des Lebens (House of Life) (Hartl); Knall und Fall als Hochstapler (Knall and Fall As Swindlers) (Marischka); 1. April 2000 (Liebeneiner) (as Capitano Heracles); Du bist die Rose vom Wörthersee (You Are the Rose of Wörthersee) (Marischka); Praterherzen (Prater Hearts; Das Leben ist stärker) (Verhoeven)
Man nennt es Liebe (It's Called Love) (Reinhardt); Musik bei Nacht (Music at Night) (Hoffmann); Der Letzte Walzer (The Last Waltz) (Rabenalt) (as Graf Sarassow); Alles für Papa (Everything for Dad) (Hartl) (as Clemens Haberland); Meines Vaters Pferde (My Father's Horses) (Lamprecht); Rummelplatz der Liebe (Circus of Love) (Neumann) (as Toni)
Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr (Afraid to Live; The Confession of Ina Kahr) (Pabst); Eine Frau von heute (A Woman of Today) (Verhoeven); Gefangene der Liebe (Prisoners of Love) (Jugert); Orient Express (Bragaglia/Rosselini); Des Teufels General (The Devil's General) (Käutner) (as General Harras); Du bist die Richtige (You Are the Right One) (Engel/von Baky)
Les Héros sont fatigués (The Heroes Are Tired; Heroes and Sinners) (Ciampi); Du mein stilles Tal (My Quiet Valley) (Steckel) (as Gerd); Die Ratten (The Rats) (Siodmak); Liebe ohne Illusion (Love Without Illusion) (Engel); Teufel in Seide (Devil in Silk) (Hansen) (as Thomas Ritter)
Michel Strogoff (Der Kurier des Zaren) (Gallone) (as Strogoff); Et Dieu créa la femme (. . . And God Created Woman) (Vadim) (as Eric Carradine); Die Goldene Brücke (The Golden Bridge) (Verhoeven); Londra chiama Polo Nord (The House of Intrigue; London Calling North Pole) (Coletti) (as Bernes); Ohne dich wird es Nacht (Without You It Grows Dark) (+ d, sc) (as Robert Kessler)
Les Espions (The Spies) (Clouzot) (as Agent Alex); Oeil pour oeil (An Eye for an Eye) (Cayatte) (Doktor Walter); Amère victoire (Bitter Victory) (Ray) (Major Brand); The Enemy Below (Powell) (as Von Stolberg); Tamango (Berry) (Captain Reinker)
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Robson) (as Captain Lin Nan); Me and the Colonel (Glenville) (as Colonel Prokoszny); Der Schinderhannes (Duel in the Forest) (Käutner) (as Johann Bückler, "Schinderhannes"); This Happy Feeling (Edwards) (as Preston Mitchell); Le Vent se lève (Time Bomb) (Ciampi) (as Eric Muller)
Ferry to Hong Kong (Gilbert) (as Mark Bertram Conrad); The Blue Angel (Dmytryk) (as Professor Rath); Wernher von Braun (I Aim at the Stars) (Thompson) (as Wernher von Braun); Katja, die ungekrönte Kaiserin (Magnificent Sinner) (Siodmak) (as Zar Alexander II)
Gustav Adolfs Page (Hansen) (Gustav Adolf); Die Schachnovelle (Brainwashed; The Royal Game; Three Moves to Freedom) (Oswald) (as Werner von Basil); Bankraub in der Rue Latour (Bank Robbery In The Rue Latour) (+ d, as Cliff MacHardy)
Le Triomphe de Michel Strogoff (The Triumph of Michael Strogoff) (Tourjansky) (as Michel Strogoff)
Il Disordine (Disorder) (Brusati) (as Carlo's Father); I Dongiovanni della Costa Azzurra (Beach Casanova) (Scala); Die Dreigroschenoper (Three Penny Opera) (Staudte) (as Macheath); The Longest Day (Annakin/Marton/Wicki) (as Major General Gunther Blumentritt); The Miracle of the White Stallions (Hiller) (as General Tellheim)
Of Love and Desire (Rush) (as Paul Beckmann); Begegnung in Salzburg (Encounters in Salzburg) (Friedmann) (as General Hans Wilke); Château en Suède (Nutty, Naughty Chateau) (Vadim) (as Hugo Falsen); Hide and Seek (Endfield) (as Hubert Marek); Psyche '59 (Singer) (as Eric Crawford); Les Parias de la gloire (Decoin)
Lord Jim (Brooks) (as Cornelius); DM-Killer (Thiele)
Das Liebeskarussell (Who Wants to Sleep?) (Thiele) (Stefan von Cramer)
The Defector, Das Geheimnis der gelben Mönche (How to Kill a Lady; The Secret of the Yellow Monks; Target for Killing) (Köhler); Der Kongreß amüsiert sich (The Congress Enjoys Itself) (Radvanyi); Zwei Girls vom roten Stern (An Affair of States; Duel à la Vodka) (Drechsel); Le Jardinier d'Argenteuil (The Gardener of Argenteuil) (Le Chanois)
The Karate Killers (The Five Daughters Affair) (Shear) (as Carl von Kesser); Dalle Ardenne all'inferno (Dirty Heroes) (de Martino) (as General von Keist); Der Lügner und die Nonne (The Lier and the Nun) (Thiele) (as the Cardinal); Niente rose per OSS 117 (OSS 117 Murder for Sale) (Cerrato/Desagnat) (as the Major)
Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: Ratlos (The Artist in the Circus Dome: Clueless; Artists under the Big Top: Perplexed); Babeck (Becker—mini, for TV) (as the man in the wheelchair); Der Arzt von St. Pauli (The Doctor of St. Pauli) (Thiele) (as Dr. Jan Diffring); The Invincible Six (The Heroes) (Negulesco) (as Baron); The Assassination Bureau (Dearden) (as General von Pinck)
Battle of Britain (Hamilton) (as Baron von Richter); La Legione dei dannati (Legion of the Damned) (Lenzi); Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins (On the Reeperbahn at Half Past Midnight) (Olsen); Bitka na Neretvi (The Battle of Neretva) (Bulajic) (as German General); Cannabis (FrenchIntrigue) (Koralnik) (as Emery); Hello-Goodbye (Negulesco) (as Baron de Choisis)
Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält (Austria 1700; Burn, Witch, Burn; Mark of the Devil); Millionen nach Maß (Neureuther—for TV); Ohrfeigen (Box on the Ears); Der Pfarrer von St. Pauli (The Priest of St. Pauli) (Olsen); Das Stundenhotel von St. Pauli (Hotel by the Hour) (Olsen); The Mephisto Waltz (Wendkos) (as Duncan Ely)
Nicholas and Alexandra (Schaffner) (as the German Consul); Fieras sin jaula (Bitter Whisky) (Logar) (as Roland); Käpt'n Rauhbein aus St. Pauli (The Captain from St. Pauli) (Olsen); Profession: Aventuriers (Profession: Adventurers) (Mulot); À la guerre comme à la guerre (How Do I Become a Hero?) (Borderie) (as Russian General); Kill! Kill! Kill! (Gary) (as the Chief)
Willi Tobler und der Untergang der 6. Flotte (Willi Tobler and the Decline of the 6th Fleet) (as V. Carlowitz—for TV)
The Fall of Eagles (Cartier/Lindsay-Hogg/Cunliffe/Davies—for TV) (as Otto von Bismarck); Undercovers Hero (Soft Beds and Hard Battles) (Boulting) (as General von Grotjahn); The Vault of Horror (Further Tales from the Crypt) (Baker)
Fräulein Else (Miss Else) (Haeusserman—for TV) (as Dorsay); Die gelbe Nachtigall (Antel—for TV); Cagliostro (Pettinari) (as Cardinal Braschi); Radiografia di una Svastika
Der Zweite Frühling (The Second Spring) (Lommel) (as Fox); Auch Mimosen wollen blühen (The Mimosa Wants to Blossom Too) (Mewes); Folies bourgeoises (The Twist) (Chabrol) (as jeweller); Povero Cristo (Carpi); Ab morgen sind wir reich und ehrlich (Rich and Respectable) (Antel)
The Spy Who Loved Me (Gilbert) (as Carl Stromberg)
Rot, rot, tot (Red, Red, Dead) (Mezger—for TV); Missile X—Geheimauftrag Neutronenbombe (Cruise Missile; Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident; Teheran Incident) (Martinson) (as Baron); Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (Just a Gigolo) (Hemmings) (as Prince); Steiner—Das eiserne Kreuz, Part 2 (Breakthrough) (McLaglen) (as General Hoffmann); La lunga strada senza polvere (Tau)
Berggasse 19 (19 Berg Street) (Haeusserman) (as Sigmund Freud); Goldengirl (Sargent) (Dr. Serafin); La Gueule de l'autre (Tchernia) (as Wilfrid); Die Patriotin (The Female Patriot); Warum die UFOs unseren Salat klauen (Why UFOs Steal Our Salad) (Pohland); Teheran-43 (The Eliminator) (Alov/Naoumov) (as Maitre Legraine)
The Sleep of Death (The Flying Dragon; The Inn of the Flying Dragon) (Calvin Floyd) (as the count); Collin (Schulze-Rohr—for TV)
Smiley's People (Langton—for TV) (as the General)
By JÜRGENS: books—
Geliebter Michael (play), performed in Munich, 1946.
. . . und kein bisschen weise (autobiographical novel), Locarno, 1976.
Der süsse Duft der Rebellion (novel), Munich, 1980.
By JÜRGENS: articles—
Becker, Rolf, and Inge Cyrus, "Der Star wird abserviert," interview in Der Spiegel (Hamburg), vol. 16, no. 33, 15 August 1962.
On JÜRGENS: books—
Patalas, Enno, Sozialgeschichte der Stars, Hamburg, 1963.
Troller, Georg Stefan, Pariser Gespräche: Ein Buch von Lebenskunst und Liebesdingen, Frankurt am Main, 1972.
Kupfer, Peter, Leute von heute, Tulln, 1976.
Bandmann, Christa, Es leuchten die Sterne, Munich, 1979.
Jürgens, Simone, Das geborgte Glück, Düsseldorf, 1979.
Ball, Gregor, Curd Jürgens: Seine Filme—sein Leben, Munich, 1982.
Jürgens, Margie, editor, Curd Jürgens: Wie wir ihn sahen, Erinnerungen von Freunden, Munich and Vienna, 1985.
Weissensteiner, Friedrich, Publikumslieblinge: Von Hans Albers bis Paula Wessely. Vienna: Kremayr & Scheriau, 1993.
On JÜRGENS: articles—
Bock, Hans Michael, editor, "Curd Jürgens—Schauspieler," in Cinegraph: Lexikon zum deutschsprachigen Film, no date.
* * *
Curd Jürgens grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Neu-Westend, Berlin, the son of a French mother and a successful wholesale dealer in caviar, a foreshadowing of his later lifestyle. His aristocratic bearing, his tall, stately appearance, and his talent for languages formed the foundation of his career.
Since he wanted to become a writer, the eighteen-year-old Jürgens took a job as a reporter for the Acht-Uhr Abendblatt. He married actress Lulu Basler after conducting an interview with her. She and her mother, Maria Solani, a former silent film star, encouraged the strikingly handsome young man to become a film actor. To prepare himself, he read film magazines and took private acting lessons. When he applied for a job at the Ufa Studio in Neu-Babelsberg, he was discovered by Willi Forst, who hired him for the role of the young emperor Franz Joseph in Königswalzer (1935). The very next year Jürgens starred in Familienparade (1936), based on Georg Kaiser's Kolportage. In 1937 he was cast opposite Zarah Leander, the Swedish actress who was a celebrated film star in Germany, in Zu neuen Ufern (directed by Detlef Sierck). In this tendentious, anti-British film depicting the attempts of the former British penal colony Australia to achieve independence, Jürgens played a representative of the House of Lords.
In 1938, shortly before the Anschluss, Jürgens moved to Vienna after marrying Lulu Basler. The marriage did not last long, because their work kept them separated. Jürgens' career continued to advance rapidly, and he was hired at the Volkstheater. Initially the tall, blonde, blue-eyed German was regarded with suspicion; people considered him a Nazi. He lived in the so-called "skyscraper" in the center of Vienna, the favorite apartment house of artists and actors. Unknowingly, he not only moved into the former apartment of Hans Jaray, the popular film and stage star who had to emigrate, but he also assumed Jaray's position at the Volkstheater.
In the winter of 1939, at the age of 23, Jürgens became a member of the prestigious Burgtheater. He was soon welcomed into aristocratic circles, enjoying life at the Heurigen in the Viennese wine villages of Grinzing and Neustift, and for the rest of his life he remained attached to Vienna. His film career also flourished. In Karl Hartl's Mozart film Wen die Götter lieben, Jürgens as Emperor Franz Joseph must appear to play the violin. A genial trick was employed: Willi Boskovsky, the concert master of the Viennese Philharmonic, "loaned" him his bow arm.
Jürgens' mentor Willi Forst included him in almost all his films: as the composer Millöcker in Operetta, as "Bandini" in Frauen sind keine Engel, and as the Austrian ambassador Count Lechenperg in Forst's major production Wiener Mädel. Forst delayed completion of this film to save his crew of thousands from being sent to the front during World War II. During the filming Jürgens was attracted to the leading lady Judith Holzmeister, a fervent anti-Nazi and daughter of the world famous architect Clemens Holzmeister, who built the Salzburg Festival Theater. Shortly before the end of the war, despite Forst's support, Jürgens, classified as politically unreliable, was assigned to a work unit in the provinces.
In the chaotic postwar period Jürgens kept performing by organizing a theater tour in Bavaria before returning to Austria. To enable him to tour with the Burgtheater in Switzerland, he was granted Austrian citizenship. His wedding to Judith Holzmeister in Vienna with Willi Forst as his best man was treated as a major news event. Clemens Holzmeister built the couple a villa in fashionable Grinzing. In postwar Austria, where film was flourishing, Jürgens co-authored with his friend Kurt Heuser the screenplay Prämien auf den Tod (1949) and directed the film. Jürgens also wrote, directed, and starred in a second film, Gangsterpremiere.
While performing with Oskar Werner in the French film Sturm über Alaska—for which the outdoor scenes were filmed in the Tyrol—the studio shots took Jürgens to Paris. At this time his home was the car, the plane, the film studio. One of his great assets as a European film star was his ability to dub his own films in his inimitable whiskey voice in Italian and French. A tour through the United States under the auspices of an exchange program opened a new world for him. The filming of Orient-Express, a German-French-Italian coproduction, took him to Rome for the first time. His tempestuous love affair with Eva Bartok kept his name in the scandal sheets. When he was making the film Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr with director G.W. Pabst in Germany, he cancelled his Burgtheater contract; he no longer wished to be a performing government official.
The now cosmopolitan Jürgens exchanged Berlin and Vienna for the in-places of the beautiful and rich in St. Tropez, London, and Rome. His wealth, fame, love affairs, and parties made more headlines in the illustrated and scandal magazines than his films. Following his divorce from Judith Holzmeister, he had a short-lived marriage with Eva Bartok. He enjoyed a major success in Des Teufels General, based on Carl Zuckmayer's play; Jürgens played the honorable pilot General Harras, who sells his soul to the devil because of his love of flying.
In 1957 Jürgens successfully made the leap to Hollywood, starring in Bitter Victory with Richard Burton. He now held court from his estate in Cap Ferrat near Monaco. Although he had a reputation for high living, he worked steadily and hard, making one film after the other, always with reliably good performances, although many of them with weak scripts. In another big war film, The Enemy Below (1957), he played an educated and sympathetic German submarine captain engaged in a life and death struggle with an American destroyer commander (Robert Mitchum). Hollywood filmmakers no longer deemed it necessary to present every German as a fanatical Nazi; they needed the German market.
For his next wife, the Algerian model Simone Bicheron, Jürgens acquired a home in Gstaad for the winter and exchanged his house in Cap Ferrat for a rose farm in Venice for the summers. To enable him to move internationally easily, he kept houses and apartments in New York, Paris, Vienna, Zurich and the Bahamas.
As an internationally acclaimed star, Jürgens made films with leading actresses like Brigitte Bardot (Et Dieu créa la femme), Ingrid Bergman (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness), and Lilli Palmer (Teufel in Seide). He starred with Danny Kaye in Me and the Colonel, based on Franz Werfel's comedy. Despite his many international movie roles, Jürgens returned occasionally to the theater: he played Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival, Sigmund Freud at the Theatre du Gymnase in Paris, and guest starred at the Vienna Burgtheater in Bertolt Brecht's Galilei Galilei. His continuous travel and indulgent lifestyle with alcohol and drugs resulted in a major heart operation and poor health in his last years. He married a last time, to Margie Schmitz. His flamboyant lifestyle sometimes overshadowed his accomplishments as a beloved actor in 152 films. Six years before his death, the German with the Austrian passport, whom the press liked to call the "German oak," wrote his autobiography, an engaging reflection with literary quality. It was severely criticized at the time because of its candidness. In the memory of his friends Curd Jürgens remains forever the cultivated gentleman with the French manners; in the memory of his many fans he will always personify the true film star.
—Gertraud Steiner Daviau