Curd Jürgens was one of the most famous German actors of the 20th century: With roles in German film classics such as The Devil’s General (1955), but also his role in the cult film series James Bond, Curd Jürgens remains an unforgotten actor to this day.
Jürgens had a multi-faceted repertoire of roles: in addition to his work as an actor, he also recorded numerous records during his career.
Curd Jürgens & Gert Fröbe
During his training as an actor in Berlin, Curd Jürgens met the young Gert Fröbe. The two were connected by a friendship and they had one thing in common: Gert Fröbe played the James Bond villain in Goldfinger (1964) and Curd Jürgens played Bond antagonist Karl Stromberg in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.
Jürgens and Fröbe were both German-speaking actors who became famous far beyond the borders of Europe.
Youth & Education
Curd Jürgens grew up in a German-French home: his mother was French and his father of German descent. Thus, Jürgens grew up bilingual and was fluent not only in German but also in French.
During his school years in Berlin, Curd Jürgens discovered his passion for acting: He decided to take acting lessons. In his thirties, Curd Jürgens was a journalist for a Berlin evening paper: during an interview he met the actress Lulu Basler, who was to play a decisive role in Jürgens’ education and career.
Austrian actor and director Willi Forst recognized Curd Jürgens’ potential: he hired Jürgens for the film Königswalzer [King’s Waltz] (1935).
Jürgens was initially skeptical about the medium of film: After all, he had developed his passion for acting not in front of the camera, but on a theater stage.
Although Jürgens only appeared in two scenes in the film Königswalzer, he was hired for numerous films in the years to come: Curd Jürgens’ role in the musical film Operetta (1940, directed by Willi Forst) is considered one of his best acting performances in his early career: In the film, Curd Jürgens embodied the Austrian operetta composer Carl Millöcker. For the second time, it was Willi Forst who helped Jürgens to build his career.
In 1943 Willi Forst engaged the young Curd Jürgens for the third time for one of his films: In Women Are No Angels, Curd Jürgens was for the first time given a role in which he is seen throughout the whole film.
Film and theatre star
Curd Jürgens played his last major role before the end of World War II in the 1944 film Eine kleine Sommermelodie [A Little Summer Melody]. This was the first time Curd Jürgens was considered a movie star, although he had already appeared in nearly a dozen films.
In addition to his film work, Curd Jürgens was also a sought-after theater actor: in 1938, Curd Jürgens stood in for Hans Jaray, who had emigrated to the United States.
At that time, Jürgens played the role of Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet. In the thirties and forties, Curd Jürgens starred in numerous plays staged at Vienna’s Burgtheater. When Vienna was destroyed by the war in 1945, he improvised his own theatre stage with the name “Munich Guest performance stage Curd Jürgens“, where he staged his own plays for a short time.
Shortly after the Second World War, the Viennese director Berthold Viertel came to the Vienna Burgtheater: under Berthold Viertel, Curd Jürgens learned a new approach to acting. Viertel is said to have taught Curd Jürgens the tools that later made him a successful and sought-after actor. Some sources claim that Curd Jürgens became a sophisticated actor who could play character roles only because of Berthold Viertel’s influence. During this time, Curd Jürgens also developed his image as a grand seigneur, which was to accompany him during the next few years and serve him faithfully.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
After World War II, a unique opportunity presented itself to Curd Jürgens: he was invited to travel to the United States and get a taste of the film industry there. As a participant in an exchange program, Curd Jürgens was to give lectures in America about European theater: He traveled across the States for nearly seven weeks, visiting various universities and theaters.
Curd Jürgens’ trip to America was a turning point in his film career…
Simon von Ludwig
Curd Jürgen’s estate was one of the main sources for this article.