• Indian summer

    Reminiscences of Margie Jürgens

  • Indian summer

    Reminiscences of Margie Jürgens

Reminiscences of Margie Jürgens

Bronzed and like a giant you stood before me. Your famously blue eyes looked at me. You opened your arms wide. And I had the courage to venture in – in January 1976 on Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas.

“My little girl,” my mother had once advised me, “if you believe he could be the right one, then go with him to a desert island and you will see whether it is for eternity.”

So there I was, on one of the most remote islands in the Caribbean and I saw it – in the one-roomed house, on the beach rising lunar white from the sea…

After living on the island for three months, we travelled to St. Paul de Vence where your house had just been finished. The eleventh one. Together we’ll start to furnish it.

St. Paul de Vence, 1976

St. Paul de Vence, around 1979

In Salzburg at Easter your friends look at me quizzically. In the past years they have seen so many faces at your side. And now there’s another one and she’s with child…

That’s when, for the first time, the tumultuous wave that is Curd Jürgens crashes over me. There’s never a dull moment. Paris, Berlin and Zurich, film, television and dubbing. Vienna, Bonn and London, interviews, receptions and prize-givings (at which you are still shy and excited like a seventeen-year-old school boy.)

So now I begin to take care of your appointment diary. Cross out, cancel. But the calendar is constantly full. Four weeks London: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977, D: Lewis Gilbert). Two months Salzburg: “Jedermann”. And, and, and.

We are not married and our life is heavenly. At the Queen’s reception in London, after the royal première of the Bond film, I mustn’t stand next to you because we are not a married couple. Reason enough for you to fix a date secretly in Nassau: our wedding is on the first day of spring, 21 March 1978.

Even when it comes to surprises you are better than the others. Once, when you can’t be in Saint Paul for my birthday, I am sent a hundred roses with my breakfast and when I am sitting alone at dinner that day, I hear the crackle of fireworks – and it’s all for me.

Sadly you don’t take care of your health. “It is more important to give the years more life than to give life more years”, you say. And so you work like someone possessed. You make day night and vice versa – just as it suits you.

Sometimes we can be indescribably lazy, best of all in Vienna in our tiny house in Enzesfeld. In the morning at seven we drive out with a picnic basket onto the golf course outside our door in the spectacular Rothschild Park, eat fattening strudel, go back to bed for a mid-day snooze and spend a pleasant evening listening to “Music for Dreaming”.

But you are afraid of this splendid idleness and your fear sends us back to the starting blocks: we set off for Moscow. You relish eating “zakuski”: they remind you of your parents and of your childhood. You work as hard as ever. Despite all rumours to the contrary, you don’t touch a drop of alcohol while you’re at work – but later drink the Russian film team under the table. Sometimes you feel a funny numbness in your leg. It could be smoker’s leg. The next time we’re in America we make a detour to see Dr. DeBakey in Houston, a man who has your complete confidence. It‘s not the legs. It’s the heart. And it means a triple-by-pass-operation.

Your first and only heart surgery. It’s successful. But now you need proof, proof that you are still the master of your senses and all your powers. And so it is that just two months later you are on tour with the one man play “Clarence Darrow”. You fill the stage, just you alone, for one and a half hours. And I am standing in the wings, alone and afraid…

“Sweetheart, have you ever been to Japan? No? Then I’ll accept the offer.” After a phone call with the Vienna Opera who want you for “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, you immediately begin to practise your lines for Selim Bassa, a role you last played 35 years ago…

Guest performance of the Vienna State Opera in Tokio, October 1980

“Let’s go to Saint Paul for a break, Curd.”

Of course. But then there’s this tempting offer from London. So, we’re off to the River Thames. Sir Alec Guinness comes to dinner and brings a handwritten list of the best shops and restaurants…

“We are intimately joined together by the infinitesimal roots of everyday life”, you say, and “The day is for work, the evening for my wife.”

And so, in front of all of our houses, I put a ‘Philemon and Baucis bench’, an Indian summer bench, such as you want for your old age. Every evening, when we are alone once more, we sit there with a tea-coloured whisky and put the world – or only us – to rights, or are just close together.

“There are furrows in which I let no one see inside” – your Bismarck oath is breached on this bench. And the more I see inside you, the more I admire you, the happier you make me feel. You taught me to give the years more life.

But why did you never tell me how hard that would be without you.

Margie Jürgens

In: Hans-Peter Reichmann (ed.): Curd Jürgens. Frankfurt am Main 2000/2007 (Kinematograph No. 14)

Translation: Elizabeth Ward