Elke Sommer

Elke Sommer (born 5 November 1940), born Elke Baronesse von Schletz, is a German actress, entertainer and artist who starred in many Hollywood films.

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer 1965
Sommer in 1965
Elke von Schletz

5 November 1940 (age 78)
Years active1959–present
Joe Hyams
(m. 1964; div. 1993)

Wolf Walther
(m. 1993)
Parent(s)Baron Peter von Schletz
Renata Topp[1]

Early life and career

Youngest years

Sommer was born in Berlin to Baron Peter von Schletz, a Lutheran minister, and his wife Renata, nee Topp. During the Second World War (in 1942) the family was evacuated to Niederndorf, a village near Erlangen, a small university town in Franconia, where she attended the Gymnasium (high school). Her father died when she was 14 years old. She graduated from high school with an Abitur. After this, she moved to the UK to be an au pair, to perfect her English, and to earn a living. There, she also received some training as an interpreter.


She was spotted by film director Vittorio De Sica while on holiday in Italy, and started appearing in films there in 1958. It was also in this year that she changed her surname from 'Schletz' to 'Sommer' which was easier to pronounce for a non-German audience. She quickly became a noted sex symbol and moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s. She also became one of the most popular pin-up girls of the time, and posed for several pictorials in Playboy Magazine, those for the September 1964 and December 1967 issues being most noteworthy.

Primary career

The 1960s

She became one of the top film actresses of the 1960s and made 99 film and television appearances between 1959 and 2005, including A Shot in the Dark (1964) with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, The Art of Love (1965) with James Garner and Dick Van Dyke, The Oscar (1966) with Stephen Boyd, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) with Bob Hope, the Bulldog Drummond extravaganza Deadlier Than the Male (1966), The Wrecking Crew (1968) with Dean Martin, and The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968); Sommer was the leading lady in each of these films.

In 1964, she won a Golden Globe award as Most Promising Newcomer Actress for The Prize, a film in which she co-starred with Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson.

Silvia Pinal & Elke Sommer
Sommer and the Mexican actress Silvia Pinal in the Italian film Men and Noblemen (1959).

A frequent guest on television, Sommer sang and participated in comedy sketches on episodes of The Dean Martin Show and on Bob Hope specials, made 10 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was a panelist on the Hollywood Squares game show many times between 1973 and 1980, when Peter Marshall was its "Square-Master," or host.

The 1970s

Sommer's films during the 1970s included the thriller Zeppelin, in which she co-starred with Michael York, and a remake of Agatha Christie's oft-filmed murder mystery, Ten Little Indians. In 1972, she starred in two Italian horror films directed by Mario Bava: Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil. The latter was subsequently re-edited (with 1975 footage inserted) to make a different film called House of Exorcism. Sommer went back to Italy to act in additional scenes for Lisa and the Devil that its producer inserted into the film to convert it to House of Exorcism, against the wishes of the director.

In 1975, Peter Rogers cast her in the British comedy Carry On Behind as the Russian Professor Vrooshka.[2] She became the Carry On films' highest-paid performer, at £30,000; this was an honour that she shared with Phil Silvers for Follow That Camel.

Most of her movie work during the decade came in European films. After the 1979 comedy The Prisoner of Zenda, which reunited her with Sellers, the actress did virtually no more acting in Hollywood films, concentrating more on her artwork.

Sommer also performed as a singer, recording and releasing several albums.

She provided the voice for Yzma in the German release of The Emperor's New Groove.

Later work

In the 1980s, Sommer was hosting a syndicated program titled The Exciting World of Speed and Beauty.[3] When she subsequently gave up that engagement, Dan Pastorini was recruited to succeed her, but his tenure was not as successful as hers.

After the 1990s, Sommer concentrated more on painting than on acting. As an actress, she had worked in half a dozen countries learning the languages (she speaks seven languages) and storing up images which she has subsequently expressed on canvas. Her artwork shows a strong Marc Chagall influence.

Sommer was embroiled in a long-running feud with Zsa Zsa Gabor that had begun in 1984 when both had appeared on Circus of the Stars; this had escalated into a multimillion-dollar libel suit by 1993.[4]

In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[5]

As of early May 2017, Frau Baronin (Baroness) von Sommer was living in Los Angeles, California.

Personal life

In 1964, she married Hollywood columnist Joe Hyams (6 June 1923 – 8 November 2008), who was 17 years older, in Las Vegas in front of a Justice of the Peace. Sommer suffered her first miscarriage while working on the set of The Money Trap, in which she co-starred with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth.

A second miscarriage followed exactly one year later during the filming of Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number, in which she starred with Bob Hope under the direction of George Marshall.

In 1973, Sommer and Hyams tried again to start a family. While working on the set of Die Reise nach Wien she suffered her third miscarriage. By then her marriage was on the rocks.

Her mother, Renata von Schletz, accompanied her to film sets as well as on cinema tours even after Elke Sommer's marriage to Joe Hyams had failed and a new man came into her life: Tom Bohla. Bohla moved in with Sommer, who had separated from her husband, but was still sharing the house with him and had no intention of filing for divorce.

Then she met Wolf Walther, eight years her junior and the general manager of New York City's luxury hotel Essex House. They were married on 29 August 1993 in Franconia.[6] In a 2014 interview, Sommer described how she and Walther met:

"I was in New York City starring in Tamara and had to stay there for four months. So, I had to find an apartment but they were excruciatingly expensive, tiny and loud. As I knew the managing director of the Essex House, I wanted to talk to him about renting a room but the hotel had a new managing director, a man by the name of Wolf Walther. So we met. For him, it was love at first sight. For me, it took a little longer, but not much longer. As you may know, Tamara is a play in which the audience follows the actor of their choice, and as you may also know, my husband is 6'5" and hard to miss. I saw him every night in the audience, following me. Every night. And that was the beginning of the greatest love story of my life, still unfolding and getting better by the day."[7]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ "Elke Sommer: The Official Website - Biography".
  2. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 289. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
  3. ^ http://www.elkesommeronline.com/en/exciting_world.htm
  4. ^ Bob Pool, $3.3-Million Libel Award in Sommer-Gabor Feud, Los Angeles Times, 9 December 1993, Accessed 15 January 2011.
  5. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  6. ^ "Elke Sommer: The Official Website - Biography Page 11".
  7. ^ Armstrong, Richard. "Elke Sommer Talks with the Cafe About Her Movies, Her Art, and How She Earned the Nickname 'The Brute'". Classic Film & TV Cafe.

External links

A Shot in the Dark (1964 film)

A Shot in the Dark is a 1964 British-American DeLuxe Color comedy film directed by Blake Edwards in Panavision. It is the second installment in The Pink Panther film series. Peter Sellers is featured again as Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Sûreté.

Clouseau's blundering personality is unchanged, but it was in this film that Sellers began to give him the idiosyncratically exaggerated French accent that was to later become a hallmark of the character. The film also marks the first appearances of Herbert Lom as his long-suffering boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, as well as Burt Kwouk as his stalwart man servant Cato and André Maranne as François, all of whom would become series regulars. Elke Sommer portrays the murder suspect, Maria Gambrelli. The character of Gambrelli would return in Son of the Pink Panther (1993), this time played by Claudia Cardinale, who appeared as Princess Dala in The Pink Panther (1963). Graham Stark, who portrays police officer Hercule Lajoy, would reprise this role eighteen years later, in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982).

The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from the French play L'Idiote by Marcel Achard. The film was released only a few months after the first Clouseau film, The Pink Panther.

Among Vultures

Among Vultures (German: Unter Geiern) is a 1964 Western film directed by Alfred Vohrer and starring Stewart Granger, Pierre Brice, Elke Sommer and Götz George. It was also released as Frontier Hellcat. The film was a co-production between West Germany, France, Italy and Yugoslavia. It was shot in Germany and Yugoslavia.

Auf Wiedersehen (film)

Auf Wiedersehen is a 1961 West German film directed by Harald Philipp and starring Gert Fröbe, Joachim Fuchsberger, Günter Pfitzmann, Werner Peters and Elke Sommer. It was based on a novel by Reinhold Pabel and features Louis Armstrong in a cameo role.

Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!

Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! is a 1966 DeLuxe Color American comedy film starring Bob Hope and Elke Sommer. This film marked the first of three film collaborations for Hope and comedian Phyllis Diller, and was followed by Eight on the Lam in 1967 and The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell in 1968.

Don't Bother to Knock (1961 film)

Don't Bother to Knock (US: Why Bother to Knock) is a 1961 CinemaScope British comedy film directed by Cyril Frankel and co-produced by and starring Richard Todd. Also starring with Todd were Nicole Maurey, Elke Sommer and John Le Mesurier.

Himmel, Amor und Zwirn

Himmel, Amor und Zwirn is a 1960 West German comedy film directed by Ulrich Erfurth and starring Hartmut Reck, Ann Smyrner, Grit Boettcher, Hannelore Schroth and Elke Sommer.

Le bambole

Le bambole (US title:The Dolls, UK title:Four Kinds of Love) is a 1965 Italian comedy film in four segments; cast includes Virna Lisi, Nino Manfredi, Gina Lollobrigida, Elke Sommer, and Monica Vitti.

The four vignettes—The Telephone Call (La Telefonata), Treatise on Eugenics (Il Trattato di eugenetica), The Soup (La Minestra), and Monsignor Cupid (Monsignor Cupido)—concern secrets of love and secret lovers. The fourth segment is based on a tale of Boccaccio's The Decameron.

One Away (film)

One Away is a 1976 American action film directed by Sidney Hayers and starring Patrick Mower, Bradford Dillman, Roberta Durrant and Elke Sommer. Two brothers help their brother escape from a South African jail, sparking a manhunt.

Percy (1971 film)

Percy is a 1971 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas starring Hywel Bennett, Denholm Elliott, Elke Sommer and Britt Ekland.

The film is based on a novel of the same name by Raymond Hitchcock, and is today remembered for its soundtrack by The Kinks. It was followed by a 1974 sequel, Percy's Progress.

Ragazzi del Juke-Box

Ragazzi del Juke-Box (a.k.a. Juke-Box Kids) is a 1959 Italian musical film directed (and co-written) by Lucio Fulci and starring Mario Carotenuto, Elke Sommer and Anthony Steffen. The young daughter of a record company boss takes over the company following her father's arrest, and uses it to promote the bands she likes.

The Art of Love (1965 film)

The Art of Love is a 1965 Technicolor comedy film directed by Norman Jewison and starring James Garner, Dick Van Dyke, Elke Sommer, and Angie Dickinson.

The film involves an American artist in Paris (Van Dyke) who fakes his own death in order to increase the worth of his paintings (new paintings keep "posthumously" hitting the market). His conniving pal (Garner) sells the paintings and withholds the proceeds while the artist toils in a shabby garret.

The picture was written by Richard Alan Simmons, William Sackheim, and Carl Reiner. The supporting cast features Carl Reiner and Ethel Merman.

Jewison noted in his autobiography that the film's flaw was that the script assumes that an artist's death guarantees a huge increase in the sales value of his paintings. That hurt audiences' responses to the movie enormously.

All of the paintings that were used in the movie was the artwork of international artist Don Cincone.

The Day the Rains Came (film)

The Day the Rains Came (German: Am Tag als der Regen kam) is a 1959 West German crime film directed by Gerd Oswald and starring Mario Adorf, Elke Sommer and Gert Fröbe.The film's sets were designed by the art director Paul Markwitz and Hans Jürgen Kiebach . It was shot at the Bavaria Studios in Munich and on location in West Berlin.

The Invincible Six

The Invincible Six is a 1970 American-Iranian adventure film directed by Jean Negulesco and starring Stuart Whitman, Elke Sommer, Curd Jürgens and Ian Ogilvy. Six international criminals attempt to steal the crown jewels of Iran, but in the tradition of The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven end up defending a village from bandits.

This was the final film of Negulesco's long career.

The Oscar (film)

The Oscar is a 1966 American drama film written by Harlan Ellison, Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse, and Richard Sale, directed by Rouse and starring Stephen Boyd, singer Tony Bennett (in his film debut), comedian Milton Berle (in a dramatic role), Elke Sommer, Ernest Borgnine, Jill St. John, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Cotten, Edie Adams, Peter Lawford, Broderick Crawford, Ed Begley, Walter Brennan, and Jack Soo. Also appearing as themselves are Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, Merle Oberon, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Sinatra. Paramount costume designer Edith Head appears in two scenes as herself, and was used by Paramount as a promotional force for the film.The film features an impressive cast and crew, including several real Academy Award winners: eight-time costume design winner Edith Head (who would also be nominated, but not win, for The Oscar); Best Actor winners Borgnine and Crawford; Best Supporting Actor winners Begley, Brennan (three wins), Sinatra, and James Dunn, and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. Also in the cast were Oberon and Parker, who had been nominated for Oscars but did not win.

The Swiss Conspiracy

The Swiss Conspiracy is a 1976 action film directed by Jack Arnold and starring David Janssen, Senta Berger and Elke Sommer. It was co-produced between Germany and the United States.

The Treasure Seekers (1979 film)

The Treasure Seekers is a 1979 British-American action film directed by Henry Levin and starring Rod Taylor, Stuart Whitman and Elke Sommer. It was shot on location in Jamaica.

The Venetian Affair (film)

The Venetian Affair is a 1967 spy film directed by Jerry Thorpe and starring Robert Vaughn and Elke Sommer. It is based on a novel of the same name by Helen MacInnes.

The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz

The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz is a 1968 DeLuxe Color (Deluxe Entertainment Services Group) American comedy film directed by George Marshall and starring Elke Sommer, Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer and Leon Askin. An East German athlete defects to the West by pole-vaulting over the Berlin Wall.

The Wrecking Crew (1968 film)

The Wrecking Crew is a 1969 American comedy spy-fi film starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, along with Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise, and Sharon Tate. It is the fourth and final film in the Matt Helm series, and is very loosely based upon the 1960 novel of the same name by Donald Hamilton.

Chuck Norris makes his film debut in a small role.

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