Curd Jürgens (commonly billed as “Curt Jurgens” in anglophone countries) was one of the most successful European film actors of the 20th Century. He was born Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens on December 13, 1915, in Solln, Bavaria, in Hohenzollern Imperial Germany, a subject of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Of Franco-German parentage, Jürgens — who was born during the closing days of the second year of the First World War — would abandon the country of his birth after the end of World War II: Jürgens became an Austrian citizen in 1945 and lived part-time in France.
Jürgens entered the journalism profession after receiving his education, and married Louise Basler, an actress. Basler, the first of his five wives, encouraged him to switch careers and become an actor. He learned his new profession on the Vienna stage, which retained his loyalty even after he became an global film star. Jürgens was sent to a concentration camp for “political unreliables” in 1944, due to his anti-Nazi opinions. It was this experience in Nazi Germany that led him to become an Austrian citizen after the war.
His appearance in The Devil’s General (1955) (“The Devil’s General” (1955)), established him as a star of German cinema, and his role as Brigitte Bardot’s older lover in Roger Vadim’s …And God Created Woman (1956) (And God Created Woman (1956)) made him an international star. Always interested in multilingual European actors with good looks and talent, Hollywood beckoned the 6′ 4″ Jürgens, casting him in The Enemy Below (1957) as a WWII German U-boat commander in a duel with American destroyer commander Robert Mitchum. He constantly was in demand to play Germany military officers (e.g., The Longest Day (1962), the most expensive black-and-white film ever made) — indeed, his last role was as “The General” in the miniseries Smiley’s People (1982) — and Germanic villains (e.g., “Cornelius”, the cowardly and treacherous trading company representative, in Lord Jim (1965)) for the rest of his life. One of his most famous roles in the English-language cinema was as the James Bond villain, “Karl Stromberg”, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); it was Moore’s favorite Bond film.
Jürgens considered himself primarily a stage actor and often performed on the Vienna stage. Though the world knew him as a cinema actor, he also directed several films and wrote several screenplays and an autobiography, “Sixty and Not Yet Wise” (1975). His death from a heart attack in 1982 in Vienna was front-page news across Austria and Germany.
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