Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy 75th Birthday Götz George

Götz George was born in Berlin, Germany on July 23, 1938. His father Heinrich George was a famous film and theater star, his mother Berta Drews was a well-known character actress. George is named after his father's favorite character, Götz von Berlichingen. His father was imprisoned by the Soviets and starved in the Soviet concentration camp Sachsenhausen Speziallager Nr. 7 Sachsenhausen. George grew up in Berlin with his elder brother Jan and his mother. He went to school in Berlin-Lichterfelde and later attended the Lyzeum Alpinum in Zuoz, Switzerland.
George made his stage debut in 1950, performing a role in William Saroyan's Mein Herz ist im Hochland. From 1955 to 1958 he also studied at the Berlin UFA-Nachwuchsstudio, though he received the crucial part of his acting education between 1958 and 1963.
Hansgünther Heyme signed him in 1972 to the Kölner Schauspielhaus, where George played Martin Luther in Dieter Forte's Martin Luther und Thomas Münzer. His most important stage achievement, in his own opinion, was the lead role in Büchner's Dantons Tod during the Salzburger Festspiele in 1981. In 1986 and 1987 George, together with Eberhard Feik and Helmut Stauss, stage-managed Gogol's Revisor. Performing in Anton Tschechow's Platonov, George went on his hitherto last theater tour.
In 1953 he was able to get a small film role next to Romy Schneider in “Wenn der weiße Flieder wieder blüht”. In the same year he played, as he would often do from then on, next to his mother in Shakespeare's Richard III. After small movie parts during the 1950s, Götz George broke through with audiences and critics in the film “Jacqueline” (1959). George was awarded the Bundesfilmpreis and the Preis der Filmkritik for his role. In 1962 he received the Bambi Award as the most popular actor.
In the sixties, George got the chance to show that he is able to do more than playing sappy peasants, through roles in movies such as “Kirmes”, playing a desperate Wehrmacht deserter, and “Herrenpartie”. More often, though, he performed in comedies and action-oriented movies which benefited from his physical presence. He became well-known to a broad audience when, during his theater tour in Göttingen, Horst Wendlandt persuaded him to play in one of the Karl May series of films, which he started in 1962 with “The Treasure of Silver Lake”. It was originally planned to give George the lead role of the farmer son Fred Engel, but this plan was abandoned when Lex Barker was hired to play the role of Old Shatterhand. George performed all stunts himself, even in his lead role as sheriff in “The Man Called Gringo” in 1965 and “Frontier Hellcat (1964) as Martin Baumann, Jr. and “The Halfbreed” (1966) as Jeff Brown.
In the 1970s he turned primarily to stage roles and to television, including the many episodes of ‘Der Komissar’, ‘Tatort’, ‘Derrick’, and ‘Der Alte’ for which he would become famous. It was not until 1977 that he was cast in a prominent role again, playing Franz Lang in “Aus Einem Deutschen Leben”, a character modeled after Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höß.
George probably had his greatest popular success in the eighties on TV: in ‘Tatort’ episodes of the WDR, broadcast from 1981 to 1991, he portrayed proletarian police officer Horst Schimanski, who eventually became cult in German TV. In 1984 and 1987 he again won the Bambi Award as the most popular actor. The series of Schulz & Schulz movies, starting in 1989 and dealing with the issue of the German reunification, gave him the opportunity to show his talents as a comedian in a double role, as did the role of the industry consultant Morlock in the series of the same name, which is rather far removed from the roughneck charm of senior commissar Schimanski.
Among George's most impressive roles in the nineties were his appearances in the television movie “Der Sandmann”, in which he portrayed the alleged serial killer and writer Henry Kupfer as a cold, calculating and manipulative intellectual, and in the television movie “Die Bubi-Scholz-Story”, the trauma of an aged, broken boxer.
Today we celebrate Götz George’s 75th birthday.

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