Beautiful German actress Elke Sommer
Beautiful German actress Elke Sommer was one of the iconic faces and sex symbols of the Sixties. European actress who conquered Hollywood, talented in everything she did – acting, singing, producing, directing, and even painting and sculpting. Her movie list consists of more than one hundred films, for some of which she got numerous awards and nominations – The Golden Globe (1963, USA), Bambi (1967, 1968, Germany), Best Actress (Chicago Theater Award 1972, 1973), DIVA (Germany 2000). Since 1966, under the pseudonym E.Schwartz she became known as a talented artist. “I would rather be known as a painter who acts than an actress who paints.” This quote by Elke Sommer says it all. From early childhood on, she was interested in the arts, and painting has always been her passion. She was only twenty-four years old when her first solo exhibition introduced her art to the public at the McKenzie Galleries in Beverly Hills.
Elke Sommer was born Elke Schletz 5 November 1940 in Berlin. She was the only child of Renata Topp and the Protestant Pastor Peter Schletz. The father came from a German noble family with roots traced back to 1225.
When Elke was two years old, the family evacuated from Berlin to the Franconian village Niederndorf in Bavaria. It was an idyllic community, surrounded by fields, meadows and forests, where the houses had red tile roofs and chimneys, nested by storks. The memories of the village should later be found in many paintings of Elke Sommer.
In childhood, little Elke developed a loving devotion for nature and animals. There were times when she shared her room with two dogs, one cat, one hedgehog, one guinea pig, and two “trained” mice. Her parents had no objections – even though they had to share the same room. Or perhaps they had no objections because they were sharing the same room.
With the evacuation, the life circumstances of the Schletz family had altered drastically. Despite the fact that Pastor Schletz’s church was gorgeous and one of the oldest in Germany, the family lived in a tiny one-room basement apartment, and there was so little money that Elke’s mother began to do other people’s laundry to make a little extra. Their budget was so tight that they could only afford potatoes, and not just any potatoes, but only the small ones, those, which were too small to be sold on the market. In was during this time of her life that little Elke received the most beautiful Christmas gift ever: a shiny red apple that her father had bought in exchange for his wristwatch.
Starting in 1950, Elke Sommer attended the Humanistic High School of Erlangen, where she showed success in studying languages. Her artistic talents were supported by her parents. A friend of the family, the painter Peter Bina, gave Elke art lessons, and she helped her parents pay for this luxury by doing without many things that were highly important to other children of her age. Elke Sommer was almost thirteen years old when she got her first dress. Until then, she had worn the hand-me-down-clothes from a boy, who lived in the neighborhood.
At the age of 14, Elke Sommer lost her father. His death was a traumatic experience, which she tried to process in later years through many of her artworks. While her cheerful paintings are characterized by bright and luminous colors, most of her “sad” works feature religious themes, in most cases the cross representing a tribute to her father.
After graduating from high school Elke wanted to become an interpreter. She moved to London to received a foreign language training. Today, she is fluent in six languages.
During a holiday in 1958 with her mother in Italy she was surprisingly elected Miss Viareggio. Her photo appeared in local press. Elke Sommer was spotted by film director Vittorio De Sica, and started appearing in films.
In 1964 she moved to the United States and married the journalist and writer Joe Hyams. In 1970, she posed for Playboy; was photographed here by her husband. The marriage ended in divorce in 1981. In 1993 she married hotelier Wolf Walther, who was eight years younger than her. Both marriages remained childless. However, her husband has two grown children, Sebastian and Caroline.
In addition to her film career, she appeared in numerous American talk shows, further, in the Muppet Show (1978) and began playing at the theater.
Since 1966, she distinguished herself under the pseudonym “E. Schwartz” as a painter and presented her work in exhibitions around the world.
Elke Sommer is married to the love of her life, by now-retired hotel manager Wolf Walther, and together with her husband she lives her love for animals, sports, and Mother Nature.