Elke Sommer

Biography

Date of Birth 5 November 1940, Berlin, Germany Birth Name Elke Schletz Height 5' 7" (1.70 m) Mini Biography This gorgeous Teutonic temptress was one of Hollywood's most captivating imports of the 1960s. Blonde and beautiful, Berlin-born Elke Sommer, with her trademark pouty lips, high cheek bones and sky-high bouffant hair-dos, proved irresistible to American audiences whether adorned in lace or leather, or donning lingerie or lederhosen. She was born in Berlin-Spandau on November 5, 1940 with the unlikely name of Else Schletz-Ho to a Lutheran minister and his wife. The family was forced to evacuate to Erlangen during WWII in 1942, a small university town in the southern region of Germany. It was here that her parents first introduced her to water colors and her life-long passion for painting was ignited. Her father's death in 1955 when she was only 14 interrupted her education and she relocated to Great Britain where she learned English and made ends meet as an au pair. She eventually attended college back in Germany and entertained plans to become a diplomatic translator, but instead decided to try modeling. After winning a beauty title ("Miss Viareggio Turistica") while on vacation in Italy, she caught the attention of renowned film actor/director Vittorio De Sica and began performing on screen. Her debut film was in the Italian feature Uomini e nobiluomini (1959) [Men and Noblemen] which starred DeSica and was directed by Giorgio Bianchi. Following a few more Italian pictures, which included her first starring role in Femmine di lusso (1960) [Love, the Italian Way], also directed by Bianchi, Elke began making a name for herself in German films as well and gradually upgraded her status to European sex symbol. A pin-up favorite, she appeared fetchingly in both dramas and comedies with such continental features as De quoi tu te mêles Daniela! (1961) [Daniella by Night], Douce violence (1962) [Sweet Ecstasy] and her first English-speaking picture Don't Bother to Knock (1961) to her credit. Hollywood naturally became intrigued and she moved there in the early 1960s to try and tap into the foreign-born market. Her sexy innocence made a vivid impression in the all-star, war-themed drama The Victors (1963), the Hitchcock-like thriller The Prize (1963), for which she won a "Best Newcomer" Golden Globe Award, and especially A Shot in the Dark (1964), the classic bumbling comedy where she proved a shady and sexy foil to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clousseau. She grew in celebrity, which was certainly helped after showing off her physical assets posing for spreads in Playboy Magazine. In the meantime she was appearing opposite the hunkiest of Hollywood actors including Paul Newman, James Garner, Glenn Ford and Stephen Boyd. Always a diverting attraction in spy intrigue or breezy comedy, she was too often misused and setbacks began to occur when the quality of her films began to deteriorate. The tacky Hollywood entry The Oscar (1966), the Bob Hope misfire Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), the tired Dean Martin Matt Helm spy spoof The Wrecking Crew (1969) and her title role in the tasteless Cold War comedy The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968) starring "Hogan's Heroes" alumnus Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer and Leon Askin proved her undoing. The multi-lingual actress, whose career took her to scores of different countries over time and benefited from speaking seven languages fluently, resorted to a number of lowbudget features in Europe, including two Italian horror movies directed by Mario Bava that have now gone on to become cult classics: Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga (1972) [Baron Blood] and "The Exorcist" rip-off Lisa e il diavolo (1974) [Lisa and the Devil]. The latter movie actually was a guilty pleasure. "Lisa" was re-released in 1975 as "The House of Exorcism" and added more footage of a demonic Elke, Linda Blair style, spewing frogs, insects, green pea soup and a slew of cuss words! In England she good-naturedly appeared in the "comedy" films Percy (1971) and its equally cheeky sequel Percy's Progress (1974), which starred Hywel Bennett (later Leigh Lawson) as the first man to have a penis transplant(!). She also showed up in one of the later "Carry On" farces entitled Carry on Behind (1975). Elke fared better on TV where she appeared in the TV pilot Probe (1972) (TV) opposite 'Hugh O'Brian', as well as the well-made 1980s mini-movies Inside the Third Reich (1982) (TV)_ Jenny's War (1985) (TV), Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) (TV) and "Peter the Great" (1986). A delightful personality on the talk show circuit, the lovely Elke also made appearances as a cabaret singer and in time put out several albums. She found a creative outlet on stage too with such vehicles as "Irma la Douce," "Born Yesterday," "Cactus Flower," "Woman of the Year" and "Same Time, Next Year". The veteran actress has since focused more on book writing and painting than she has on acting. Holding her first one-woman art show at the McKenzie Galleries in Beverly Hills in 1965, her artwork bears an exceptionally strong influence to Marc Chagall and she at one point hosted a mid-80s PBS series ("Painting with Elke") that centered on her artwork, which has now exhibited and sold for more than 40 years. Nevertheless, on occasion she tackles an acting role, often in her native Germany. Divorced from writer and journalist Joe Hyams, whom she met when he interviewed her for a Hollywood article (he recently died in November of 2008), she has been married since 1993 to hotelier Wolf Walther. IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net Spouse Wolf Walther (29 August 1993 - present) Joe Hyams (19 November 1964 - 1981) (divorced) Trivia Measurements: 36-22-36 (source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine). In the 1960s, while living in Beverly Hills, she and her then husband, Joe Hyams, believed their house to be haunted. Cousin of Gudy Somer. Hosted the 1981 Miss Universe pageant along with Bob Barker. When she appeared in Carry on Behind (1975), she received £30,000. She became one of the only two actors in the films (with Phil Silvers) to receive the highest ever Carry On salary. Kenneth Williams only received £5,000, a sixth of what she received. After becoming "Miss Viareggio" during a holiday in Italy, she was discovered by director Vittorio De Sica (1958). Currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and works as a painter, mostly influenced by Marc Chagall. She's the daughter of a Lutheran minister who died when she was only fourteen. Cousin of Brazilian 1974 Miss Universe Mariza Sommer. She was nominated for a 1975 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Guest Artist for her performance in the play, "Born Yesterday," at the Drury Lane Theatre North in Chicago, Illinois. Personal Quotes I've had a wonderful career. I've made all kinds of films and played everything from a hooker to a nun. I know I've become quite a fine actress through my stage work and taking my job seriously -- and just living longer. [on her painting] I'd rather be known as a painter who acts than as an actress who paints.

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Known For
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A Shot in the Dark

Maria Gambrelli

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Lisa and the Devil

Lisa Reiner

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Parmis les vautours

Annie Dillman

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Carry On Behind

Prof Anna Vrooshka

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The Wrecking Crew

Linka Karensky

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Deadlier than the Male

Irma Eckman

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The Prize

Inger Lisa Andersson

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Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!

Didi

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The Art of Love

Nikki Dunnay

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Zeppelin

Erika Altschul

Starring In
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37

Toni Simon

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Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape

Herself (archive footage)

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Das Leben ist zu lang

Alfis Mutter

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Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Kay Bergdahl in 'The Oscar' (archive footage)

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Flashback

Frau Lust

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Alles nur Tarnung

Die Bösen: Jutta

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Severed Ties

Helena Harrison

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Der Stein des Todes

Kris Patterson

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Anastasia - The Mystery of Anna

Isabel Von Hohenstauffen

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Lily In Love

Alicia Braun

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The Double McGuffin

Madame Kura

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The Fantastic Seven

Rebecca Wayne

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A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Miss Pelham

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The Prisoner of Zenda

The Countess

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I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses

Magdalene Kruschen

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The Astral Factor

Chris Hartman

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One Away

Elsa

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Pronto a Uccidere

Perrone's Secretary

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Carry On Behind

Prof Anna Vrooshka

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The House of Exorcism

Lisa Reiner

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And Then There Were None

Vera Clyde

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One or the Other

Miezi

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It's Not the Size that Counts

Clarissa

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Lisa and the Devil

Lisa Reiner

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Die Reise nach Wien

Toni Simon

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Baron Blood

Eva Arnold

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Zeppelin

Erika Altschul

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The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz

Paula Schultz

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The Wrecking Crew

Linka Karensky

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Deadlier than the Male

Irma Eckman

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Die Hölle von Macao

Lilly Mancini

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Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!

Didi

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The Oscar

Kay Bergdahl

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Intriga en Venecia

Sandra Fane

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Tausend Takte Übermut

Herself

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The Dolls

Ulla (segment "Trattato di Eugenetica, Il")

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Hotel der toten Gäste

Herself

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The Art of Love

Nikki Dunnay

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Parmis les vautours

Annie Dillman

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A Shot in the Dark

Maria Gambrelli

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The Prize

Inger Lisa Andersson

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The Victors

Helga Metzger

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Verführung am Meer

Eva

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Das Mädchen und der Staatsanwalt

Renate Hecker

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Daniella by Night

Daniella

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Don't Bother to Knock

Ingrid

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Auf Wiedersehn

Suzy Dalton

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Lampenfieber

Evelyne

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Urlatori Alla Sbarra

Giulia Giommarelli

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Love, the Italian Way

Greta

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Uomini e nobiluomini

Caterina

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Das Totenschiff

Mylene, ein Französisches Mädchen

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Am Tag als der Regen kam

Ellen

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The Jukebox Kids

Giulia Cesari

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The Swiss Conspiracy

Rita Jensen

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