Gründgens, Gustaf

ACTOR, PRODUCER, THEATRE DIRECTOR (GERMANY)
BORN 22 Dec 1899, Düsseldorf - DIED 7 Oct 1963, Manilla
GRAVE LOCATION Hamburg: Ohlsdorfer Friedhof (O6 (5) (ashes))

Gustaf Gründgens was born into a family of industrials. During the First World War he served at the Western Front. After the war he joined the theatre group Saarlouis. He worked at theatres in Halberstadt (1920), Kiel (1921) and Berlin (1922) before he joined the Kammerspiele in Hamburg (1923-1928).

Allthough he was homosexual he married Erika Mann in 1926 (she was lesbian and loved Pamela Wedekind). They divorced in 1929. In 1932 he played Mephisto in Goethe's "Faust" for the first time. During the nazi era he was the intendant of the theatres in Berlin (1934-1945) by special request of Hermann Göring. In 1936 he married Marianne Hoppe, who was bisexual. They had seperate houses in Berlin and a home together in the country outside Berlin.

Because he got on so well with the nazi's, Erica's brother Klaus Mann had him in mind when he wrote his novel "Mephisto" (about an actor in the Third Reich). Mann denied that it was about Gründgens, but nobody believed him. In reality Gründgens never was a nazi himself and he took risks to protect others.

After the war Gründgens was imprisoned by the Russians for nine months. Because he had used his good relations with Hitler to help threatened fellow actors, some of them supported him during the denazification trials. He was released mainly because he had saved Ernst Busch from a certain death as Busch testified himself. Gründgens himself spoke for Emmy Goring, Veit Harlan and Fritz Hippler. When Marianne Hoppe became pregnant by the American journalist Ralph Izzard they surprisingly divorced in 1946.

From 1947 to 1955 he was general intendant in Düsseldorf. In 1955 he accepted the same position in Hamburg and once more he played Mephisto with great succes. In May 1962 he unexpectedly stated that he was unable to sing a new contract in Hamburg. His health was a mess and his doctors had told him long before that he should slow down. He left Germany to travel around the world with his 25 year old lover and adopted son Peter Gorski. In Manilla he poisoned himself with an overdose of sleeping pills and died. It was suggested that he committed suicide, but he left a note in which he stated that he felt strange because he had probably taken too many pills.

His ashes were returned to Germany and buried at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg.

Family
• Wife: Hoppe, Marianne

Related persons
• was a friend of Bildt, Paul
• cooperated with Flickenschildt, Elisabeth
• cooperated with Göring, Emmy
• cooperated with Hildebrand, Hilde
• directed Hiob, Hanne
• was written about by Mann, Klaus
• directed Maybach, Christiane
• knew Neumann, Hertha
• cooperated with Wedekind, Pamela
• cooperated with Weisgerber, Antje
• cooperated with Weissner, Hilde

Sources
Biographie: Gustaf Gründgens, 1899-1963
Baedeker's Rhine, Baedeker, Stuttgart, 1985
• Leisner, Barbara, Helmut Schoenfeld, Ohlsdorf-Führer, Der, Spaziergänge auf der grössten Friedhof Europas, Hans Christians Verlag, Hamburg, 1993
Jan Erik van Hanussen
Wikipedia (German)
• Stern, Carola, Auf dem Wassern des Lebens, Gustav Gründgens und Marianne Hoppe, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Hamburg, 2007

Images

The grave of Gustav Gründgens at the Ohlsdorfer Friedhof in Hamburg.
Picture by Androom (26 Jan 2006)

 

The grave of Gustaf Gründgens at the Ohlsdorfer Friedhof in Hamburg.
Picture by Androom (20 Aug 2011)

 


Gudden, Bernard von

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 9 Oct 2011