Thursday, August 3, 2006

Kurt Kreuger R.I.P.

Actor Kurt Kreuger died July 12, 2006 at the age 89 from a stroke. Kreuger was perhaps best known for playing both Nazis and film noir villains in several movies.

Kreuger was born on July 23, 1916 in Michenberg, Germany. He grew up in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Kreuger studied both economics and medicine, but ultimately chose acting for a career. Kreuger made his film debut in Mystery Sea Raider (directed by Edward Dmytryk) in 1940. In 1941 he appeared on Broadway in the drama Candle in the Wind. The next few years Kreuger would appear in various bit parts, usually as various German or Nazi military officers. His breakthrough role came in Sarhara in which he played Captain von Schletow, the German fighter pilot shot down and held captive by an American tank crew. Unfortunately, Kreuger found himself typecast as a Nazi in Hollywood films. He played Nazi officers in None Shall Escape, Hotel Berlin, and Paris Underground.

Fortunately, following World War II, Kreuger began to appear in parts other than Nazis and assorted German officers. Starting with The Spider in 1945, Kreuger would play a succession of bad buys in film noir movies. He played what could have been a break through role in the Preston Sturges film Unfaithfully Yours. In the black comedy, Kreuger appeared as Anthony, a scoundrel who openly flirts with the wife of insanely jealous symphony conductor Sir Alfred de Carter (played by Rex Harrison). Unfortunately, Harrison's lover at the time, Carole Landis, committed suicide and Twentieth Century Fox, fearing a scandal, failed to promote the movie. It died at the box office and in doing so left his careers in the doldrums. After another role as another German officer in Spy Hunt in 1950, Kreuger left the United States and Twentieth Century Fox in hopes of a film career in Europe.

In Europe Kreuger appeared in such films as Die Blaue Stunde directed by Veit Harlan and La Paura directed by Roberto Rosellini. Unfortunately, none of the films he made in Europe were successes. Starting in 1955 with a guest appearance on Crusader, the majority of Kreuger's work was in television . He made guest appearances on such series as The Five Fingers, 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Combat, Mission Impossible, The Wild Wild West, and Get Smart. Eventually he went into real estate, in which he literally made millions of dollars.

Kreuger's later film work included the role of U-boat navigator Von Holen in The Enemy Below, the sadistic Captain Marcheck in Legion of the Doomed, and James Clark in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. While at 20th Century Fox in the Forties he was their third most request male pinup.

Much over the years was made of Kreuger's blond good looks, although I think it was more important to note that he did have considerable talent. His performances in Sahara and Unfaithfully Yours were impressive. It is sad that he spent much of his career typecast as Nazi officers (a fact which he always resented), as he was capable of so much more. Er wird vermißt.

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