Hamburg/Palm Springs.

On the screen, he was a big game hunter and officer, an outdoorsman and a sunny boy – among German actors, one of the few world stars.

The blonde with blue eyes and a striking face stood in front of the camera in Hollywood with colleagues such as James Stewart, Claudia Cardinale and Sean Connery. He has worked with directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Richard Attenborough and Laurence Olivier. Hardy Krüger first had a quick career in post-war Germany, then he was an internationally popular movie hero as a “German hero” and idol. He died Wednesday at his adopted home in Palm Springs at the age of 93, his agency said Thursday, citing his wife.

“Eberhard Glückspilz comes to Hollywood” – that’s how the Berliner, born Franz Eberhard August Krüger, described him in retrospect. He found he had had a “wonderful life” and remained “curious and eager” for more into old age. Although he repeatedly referred to the capital as his real home (“My home is Berlin, I also want to be buried here”), he commuted between Hamburg and California for most of his life. life. He was not just a “globe-trotter” on television, for which Krüger visited spectacular regions as a writer, director and main actor in the series of the same name.

At 15 for the first time in front of the camera

The young Hardy, who was only 17 at the end of the war, left very early in the world: at 15, the son of parents enthusiastic about Hitler was discovered for the Nazi film “Junge Adler”, after the war he tried his luck as an actor in Hamburg. He had a career on German stages and as an eternal sunny boy in German entertainment films. But he also assiduously stuffed the English vocabulary and worked on his German accent. When he took on the leading role of German flight officer Franz von Werra in the British production “One came through” (1956), he also made his international breakthrough.

In the English press, Krüger becomes the ambassador of his country and the doors open in Hollywood. Krüger toured with John Wayne (“Hatari!”, 1962) and with James Stewart and Peter Finch (“Flight of the Phoenix”, 1965). He was the lead actor in about 75 films, including adventure roles, often standing officer figures. French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour became a friend of his when they made the anti-war film “Taxi nach Tobruk” (1960). “You can count on Hardy unconditionally,” Aznavour said. Krüger also appeared on camera with Catherine Deneuve, Yul Brynner, Orson Welles and Richard Burton.

In 1963, the French production “Sundays with Sybill” received an Oscar – “the fact that its main actor Hardy Krüger was not nominated was due to Hollywood’s notorious timidity towards foreign actors in the ‘time”, wrote the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” when it honored him on the occasion of his 80th birthday. She also recalled the question that Krüger had asked himself several times in his career: “Are you German? His “Aryan” appearance could have been fatal to the actor, since Hollywood repeatedly offered him Nazi roles – but “Krüger turned them into character studies”.

From rascal to character actor

With his choice of roles, he succeeded in overcoming the negative cliché of the “ugly German” on screen. And he managed the leap from the eternal bright-eyed rascal of easy hits like “The South Sea Girl” (1950) to a serious actor like in the modern version of Helmut Käutner’s “Hamlet” “The rest is silence” (1959). “I built a career through the movies I didn’t do,” he said himself. He chose very carefully the filmmakers he worked with – “so I was close to the best directors”.

But when the world television star became the “globe-trotter”, his international career came to a halt. “You can’t stay away from Hollywood for ten years with impunity,” Kruger later said. He was referring to the time when he fascinated viewers with his personal travel diaries: he spoke of his television trips from 1987 to 1995 for ARD as a “globe-trotter”. The enthusiastic amateur pilot also wrote the book “A farm in Africa”. Krüger, who bought the “Hatari! “, lived for a long time in Tanzania and went bankrupt with his “Momella Game Lodge”.

He also liked to reminisce about the filming of “Hatari!” » with John Wayne with an anecdote in one of his books: « Bottoms up! – with this toast Wayne toasted her at the time. Krüger had been warned against him: “Never drink with the man. And don’t talk to him about politics.” But as he faced him, Wayne immediately announced, “Kid, we’ll have a drink at the bar later.” Krüger was able to prepare himself with three spoonfuls of corn oil and the “Brandy. French. Dreistöckig” to a double before it got serious – and finally the young German drank the American star under the table.

three marriages

His memoir “Wanderjahre” was followed by other books such as “Zarte Blume Hoffnung”, after a long break he was seen again in a TV drama (“Family Secrets”) in 2011. Krüger has been married three times , since 1978 to Anita Krüger. Two of his three children followed in his footsteps as actors.

Meanwhile, Krüger himself was involved in another project: a few days before his 85th birthday, he launched an initiative against right-wing violence. In his case, it was the actors Hans Söhnker and Albert Florath who radically changed his point of view. “In six months, they managed to turn Adolf Hitler’s student into an anti-Nazi,” he said during the presentation of the project in Hamburg. In his latest book, “What life allows itself – My Germany and me”, he takes up the subject and recounts his upbringing in Nazi Germany.

His co-writers and agents at the time, Olaf Köhne and Peter Käfferlein, wrote in the announcement of Krüger’s death on Thursday: “The actor, writer and globetrotter has worked his whole life to prevent the crimes Nazis are not forgotten. The fight against racism and the education of young people were the work of his personal life. His warmth of heart, his joie de vivre and his unwavering sense of justice will make him unforgettable.” (dpa)