The Deutsches Filminstitut / Deutsches Filmmuseum presents the bequest of Curd Jürgens as a virtual exhibition

Curd Jürgens: stage, film and television actor, director, writer, singer, bon vivant and world star. He was not like Marlene Dietrich, who, as if it were possible to forestall the transience of the body and to survive with objects, meticulously kept everything of and pertaining to herself. Unlike Romy Schneider, Curd Jürgens has no active fan base that collects each and every keepsake and preserves them in carefully guarded inventories. The preserved estate, which is presented here in a virtual exhibition, is a store-house whose composition is haphazard, and consequently of such interest. The photos, letters and screenplays served as Curd Jürgensʼ own recollection of private and professional events. Even though it contains several thousand newspaper clippings, the collection does not aim to be exhaustive, and does not completely document his whole life and career. What it does document are the things which Curd Jürgens himself considered important – his theatre work, his personal projects, both realised and unrealised, and the records pertaining to his position as artist.

    (1957, D: Dick Powell)

    (1955, D: Robert Siodmak)

    (1956; D: Roger Vardim)

    (1955; D: Helmut Käutner)

    (1977; D: Lewis Gilbert)

    (1960; D: Gerd Oswald)

    (1958, D: Helmut Käutner)

What picture has been preserved of Curd Jürgens (* 13 December 1915 in Munich, † 18 June 1982 in Vienna) who, in December 2015, would have been 100 years old? Certainly one part of it is Brigitte Bardot’s endearing phrase the armoire normande which to this day is still mistranslated as “Norman wardrobe” and so also repeatedly quoted. It is the sonorous, smoky whisky voice and the recitative sing-song of „60 Jahre, und kein bißchen weise“ (“60 years, and not a bit wise”). It is also the actor with the roles that he played which we remember. In film that was his Harras (DES TEUFELS GENERAL / The Devilʼs General, 1955, D: Helmut Käutner), his Bruno Mechelke (DIE RATTEN / The Rats, 1955, D: Robert Siodmak), Schinderhannes (SCHINDERHANNES, 1958, D: Helmut Käutner) and his Werner von Basil (DIE SCHACHNOVELLE / The Chess Novella 1960, D: Gerd Oswald), perhaps his Mack the Knife (DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER / The Threepenny Opera, 1963, D: Wolfgang Staudte), and many of his officersʼ roles, not least his Stromberg (JAMES BOND 007 – THE SPY WHO LOVED ME 1977, D: Lewis Gilbert). In the theatre “Richter in eigener Sache”, “Judge and Judged” his “Clarence Darrow” and the “Jedermann” at the Salzburg Festival.

Film clips

And it is the star, the world star who understood like no other how to conjoin the private with the professional and was able at the same time to separate them. For decades, the attention of critics and audiences focused on his private life which he proffered with passion in the public spotlight. His motto It is important to give the years more life than the life years” arouses curiosity to this day, even admiration. At the very least his male and female readership was able to share in his life via press reports and photos. Curd Jürgens met demand with additional background information and intimate details. In his autobiographical novel “… und kein bißchen weise” (“… and not a bit wise”) there are not only anecdotes from his life or from his filmmaking; he speaks openly about his sometimes difficult relationships with girlfriends and wives. Under the premise of I don’t care what the press writes about me, the main thing is they spell my name right” he willingly opened up his world for home stories – accounts of the life of the star: a prestigious lifestyle, residences in sunny places, five marriages and numerous love affairs, minor scandals, a circle of friends from the international jet-set, appropriate car brands – putting the spotlight on the public Jürgens, a professional in (his own) PR.

But as well he managed to conceal his private life and direct the spotlight on things of secondary importance. In the estate there is ample evidence of these often reproduced images, both his own and those of other people. The known is confirmed, the lesser known is developed, and the hitherto unknown is made accessible to analysis. The virtual exhibition offers the opportunity, digitally and interactively, to rediscover anew the person and media professional Curd Jürgens, the one we do not know from reports in the popular press and the one who is known, through his theatre, film and television appearances.

The presentation in virtual space offers a unique opportunity to experience objects from the estate of Curd Jürgensʼ anytime, anywhere and to relate to them in a new, interactive and intensive way. Film clips can be viewed alongside documents about their creation, and production stills also illustrate the shooting of the film. Previously unpublished personal diary entries and other personal writings of Curd Jürgens, in which he deals critically with the work of an actor, are made available as digital copies, as transcripts and are voiced by the actor Frank Muth. The resulting multimedia tour through Jürgensʼ professional and private life can both confirm and demolish stereotypes. It not only traces the image and work of a single person, but also makes contemporary history tangible. From personal (post-) war experiences to meetings with politicians, artists and the international jet set of the 20th century.