Senta Berger

Senta Berger
Senta Berger

There’s a decent biog for Senta Berger on Wikipedia:

Senta Berger (born May 13, 1941) is an Austrian actress and producer, born in Vienna.

Berger’s parents were not rich, but they tried everything to meet the desires of their daughter. Her father was a musician. Senta first appeared on stage at the age of four, when her father accompanied her singing on the piano. At the age of five she started ballet lessons, but her dream of a career as a dancer was destroyed when her teacher did not like the physical changes in Senta during puberty.

Berger then took private acting lessons. In 1957, she won her first small role in a film. She applied for the Max Reinhardt Seminar, a famous acting school in Vienna, and was accepted. However, shortly afterwards she was forced to leave, because she had accepted a film role without permission. In 1958, she became the youngest member of the Josefstadt Theatre in Vienna. Her ambition endured to be a film actress.

More and more directors and producers wanted to work with her, for example Bernhard Wicki and Arthur Brauner, who produced the film The Good Soldier Schweijk with Berger and the German actor Heinz Rühmann. Brauner used Senta Berger in several films, but she soon tired of musicals. In 1962, she went to Hollywood and worked with stars such as Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Richard Widmark, John Wayne, and Yul Brynner. She returned to Germany to accept an offer for a series role, which would have brought an obligation of several years.

In 1963, Berger met Michael Verhoeven, son of the German film director Paul Verhoeven (not the Dutch Paul Verhoeven). They started their own film production company in 1965. In 1966, Senta and Michael married. In 1970, she starred for the first time in a film produced by her own company and directed by her husband. Other internationally successful films made by the duo included, amongst others, Die weiße Rose, The Terrible Girl (Das schreckliche Mädchen) and Mutters Courage. Berger continued to develop her European career in France and Italy.

In 1966, Berger co-starred with Kirk Douglas in the movie Cast a Giant Shadow. Berger played the role of Magda, a soldier in the army of Israel during the Israeli War of Independence (1948).

The birth of her two sons caused Senta to turn back to theatre work. She successfully played at the Burgtheater in Vienna, at the Thaliatheater in Hamburg and at the Schillertheater in Berlin. Between 1974 and 1982, she played the “Buhlschaft” in the play Jedermannn at the Salzburg Festival with Curd Jürgens and Maximilian Schell. One of her greatest movie roles of the period was co-starring with Schell and James Coburn and in the acclaimed war movie Cross of Iron (1977). In 1985-86, Berger started a comeback in front of German-speaking audiences in the very popular TV serial Kir Royal. Afterwards further serial hits followed, like The Fast Gerti, where she plays a taxi driver.

In the same year, she also started a career as a singer of Chansons. 2005 saw her in a beautiful and sad film, Einmal so wie ich will, as a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage who finds but turns her back on love when on holiday.

Since February 2003, Senta Berger has been president of the German Film Academy, which seeks to advance the new generation of actors and actresses in Germany and Europe. The Academy will decide the assignment of the German Film Awards in the future.

In the spring of 2006, her autobiography was published in Germany: Ich habe ja gewußt, daß ich fliegen kann (“I Knew That I Could Fly”). Among her memories of Hollywood are a less-than-subtle attempt by Darryl Zanuck to get her on his casting couch, and being called “You German pig” on her first day on the set of Major Dundee by a gaffer whose wife had lost her family in Auschwitz.

As well as acting in the US and Germany, Ms Berger also appeared in numerous international co-productions. She was a staple in German co-productions of the early 60s (such as Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (62) and Mario Camerini’s two Kali Yug films (63)), and in the early seventies she also appeared in several Italian films for a selection of high quality directors (Carlo Lizzani, Duccio Tessari, Valentino Orsini, Luigi Zampa).

She appeared in several spy films:

  • Diesmal muß es Kaviar sein (61)
  • Spy Hunt in Vienna (65)
  • Operazione San Gennaro (66)
  • Our Man in Marrakech (66)
  • Poppies Are Also Flowers (66)
  • The Quiller Memorandum (66)
  • The Ambushers (67) – Not Eurospy, but included as a prominent US spy film
  • To Commit A Murder (67)
  • The Swiss Conspiracy (76)

Here’s a fun clip from Operazione San Gennaro

And here’s a quick clip of Senta Berger in 2002

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