Karlheinz Böhm

Karlheinz Böhm

Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom 1960
Born (1928-03-16)16 March 1928
Darmstadt, Germany
Died 29 May 2014(2014-05-29) (aged 86)
Grödig, Austria
Occupation Actor
Years active 1948–2014
Spouse(s) Elisabeth Zonewa (1954–1957) 1 Child
Gudula Blau (1958–1962) 3 Children
Barbara Lass (1963–1980) 1 Child
Almaz Böhm (1991–2014 his death) 2 Children
Karlheinz Böhm, 2009

Karlheinz Böhm (16 March 1928 – 29 May 2014), sometimes referred to as Carl Boehm or Karl Boehm, was an Austrian actor and philanthropist. He took part in 45 films and became well known in Austria and Germany for his role as Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in the Sissi trilogy and internationally for his role as Mark, the psychopathic protagonist of Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell.[1] He was the founder of the trust Menschen für Menschen (“Humans for Humans”), which helps people in need in Ethiopia. He also received honorary Ethiopian citizenship in 2003.

Early life

He had two citizenships because his father was the Austrian conductor Karl Böhm, while his mother was the German-born soprano Thea Linhard.[2] He was an only child, and spent his youth in Darmstadt, Hamburg and Dresden. In Hamburg he attended elementary school and the Kepler-Gymnasium (a grammar school). Faked papers (claiming he had a lung disease)[3] enabled him to emigrate to Switzerland in 1939,[4] where he attended the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, a boarding school. In 1946, he moved to Graz with his parents, where he graduated from high school the same year. He originally intended to become a pianist but received poor feedback when he auditioned. His father urged him to study English and German language and literary studies, followed by studies of history of arts for one semester in Rome after which he quit and returned to Vienna to take acting lessons with Prof. Helmuth Krauss.

Acting career

From 1948 to 1976 he acted in about 45 films and also in theatre. With Romy Schneider, he starred in Sissi (1955), the first of a film trilogy, as the Emperor Franz Joseph, with Schneider as his wife, Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The role for a time limited him to one specific genre as an actor, but Böhm's best known English language film was a dramatic change of image.[5] In Peeping Tom (1960) he played the psychopath Mark Lewis. The director Michael Powell cast him in the role because he felt Böhm might understand the character's experience of an overbearing father. The film's initial rejection hurt both the actor and Powell, for Powell professionally as well as emotionally, but it is now regarded as a classic.[6]

Briefly, in the early 1960s, Böhm worked in the American film and television industry. He played Jakob Grimm in the MGM-Cinerama spectacular The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Ludwig van Beethoven in the Walt Disney film The Magnificent Rebel. The latter film was made especially for Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color television anthology series, but was released theatrically in Europe.[7] He appeared in a villainous role as the Nazi-sympathizing son of Paul Lukas in the MGM film Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (all 1962), a remake of the 1921 silent Rudolph Valentino film.

During 1974 and 1975, Böhm appeared prominently in four consecutive films from prolific New German Cinema director Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Martha, Effi Briest, Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fox and His Friends), and Mutter Küsters' Fahrt zum Himmel (Mother Küsters' Trip to Heaven).

Bohm's voice acting work included narrating his father's 1975 recording of Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev and in 2009 as the German voice for Charles Muntz, villain in Pixar's tenth animated feature Up.

Charitable work

From 1981, when he founded Menschen für Menschen (Humans for Humans), Böhm was actively involved in charitable work in Ethiopia, for which in 2007 he was awarded the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood among Peoples. In 2011 Karlheinz Böhm and his wife Almaz were awarded the Essl Social Prize for the project Menschen für Menschen.[8]

Personal life

Böhm's first wife was Elisabeth Zonewa. The marriage lasted from 1954 to 1957 and resulted in the birth of his daughter Sissy (born 1955).[9] In her autobiography Sissy Böhm would later accuse her by-then-deceased parents of sexual child abuse.[10][11]

Böhm was married from 1958 to 1962 to Gundula Blau, and next from 1963 to 1980 to Polish actress Barbara Kwiatkowska-Lass. His fourth and last marriage was with Almaz Böhm, a native of Ethiopia in 1991. They had two children, Nicolas (born 1990) and Aida (born 1993). Böhm had five more children from previous marriages, among them the actress Katharina Böhm (born 1964). In February 2013 it was reported that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease,[12] he lived in Grödig near Salzburg until his death in May 2014.



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