Zarah Leander

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Zarah Leander, 1937

Zarah Leander [ ˌt͡sɑːra leˈandəɹ ˌsɑːra leˈandəɹ ] (born March 15, 1907 as Sara Stina Hedberg in Karlstad ; † June 23, 1981 in Stockholm ), married Sara Stina Hülphers, was a Swedish actress and singer . She worked as a film actress mainly in National Socialist Germany . After the Second World War she worked increasingly as a stage singer and gave concerts in Sweden, Germany and Austria.


Family and youth

Her father, Anders Lorentz Sebastian Hedberg (1872–1929), was a real estate agent . In 1902 he married Mathilda Ulrika Wikström (1872-1959). Zarah had two older brothers (Jonas and Ante) and three younger ones (Sigvard, Gustaf and Bror). Sigvard died shortly after he was born. Gustaf also became an actor and singer. A great-grandmother from the paternal line came from Hamburg .

Her father had studied organ building and music in Leipzig . Due to the influence of her German nanny and her German piano teacher, she was familiar with the German language and culture from an early age. From 1911 she received violin and piano lessons and, at the age of six, appeared in a Chopin competition. Zarah attended grammar school until 1922 and then went to Riga , where she learned to speak German fluently.

Zarah Leander never had any singing or acting lessons.

Beginning of the career as a singer and actress

As early as 1926 Leander tried unsuccessfully for admission to the Royal Drama School Stockholm. It was on this occasion that she met her first husband, the actor Nils Leander. Nils Leander helped her to get some rather insignificant roles in the theater. In 1928 she was on stage with her husband in an operetta.

In 1929 she sang for the Swedish Revue King Ernst Rolf with her concise double -alto voice. On October 27, she jumped for the sick Margit Rosengren with the song Do you want to see a star . Ernst Rolf announced his new star with the following words:

“She is so talented that I didn't have the strength to say no. Her name is Zarah Leander, and you have to remember this name. "

She signed a contract with the record company Odeon and recorded 80 songs for them by 1936. From 1929 to 1935 Zarah Leander worked with Karl Gerhard in numerous revues and shot three feature films in Sweden. From 1926 to 1932 she was married to the actor Nils Leander and had two children with him (Boel, * 1927, and Göran, 1929-2010). Leander's second marriage was from 1932 to 1948 with the journalist Vidar Forsell , whose surname was also adopted by the children.

Breakthrough in Vienna and first film in Austria

Leander came to Vienna through Max Hansen . She had her breakthrough there on September 1, 1936 on the occasion of the premiere of the Singspiel Axel at the Himmelstür by Ralph Benatzky in the Theater an der Wien . Leander played and sang the main female role, Gloria Mills, who was a satire of Greta Garbo . Leander received anthemic reviews, she was congratulated by Franz Lehár , she was called to the curtain more than 62 times. Paul Morgan , Otto Wallburg and Heidemarie Hatheyer could be seen as partners of Leander and Hansen in this production . For Leander this was the last stage engagement for the time being, it wasn't until 1958 - again in Vienna - to be seen at the theater again.

Parallel to her theater engagement, she made her first Austrian and at the same time first German-language film. Directed by Géza von Bolváry , she starred in Premiere , a crime melodrama set in a revue setting. Leander's partners included Karl Martell , Theo Lingen , Attila Hörbiger , Carl Günther , Maria Bard and Walter Steinbeck .

Career as a film star and singer

As early as October 28, 1936 Leander signed a contract with the German Ufa on favorable terms for her: She was allowed to choose her own scripts and more than half of her fee was paid in Swedish kronor. Her counter-alto voice fascinated and irritated the critics in equal measure, as can be seen from the following statements: dark [...] almost a baritone ; a voice of almost masculine color ; it can sound as powerful as the tone of an organ , an unspeakably soft voice that flows around the listener like a deep, warm stream .

Cinema star! , 1937. Zarah Leander's best-known recordings were made under the trademark Odeon .

From 1937 to 1943 she made her best-known films Zu neue Ufern (1937), La Habanera (1937), Heimat (1938), It was a glittering ball night (1939), The great love (1942, director: Rolf Hansen ), Der Weg ins Free (1941), Damals (1943), some of them directed by Carl Froelich . Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary on October 6, 1937: “The business successes with her are enormous.” She rose to become the highest paid female film star in National Socialist Germany . Even Adolf Hitler liked them very much, as his personal servant told in an interview. But there are no photos or reports showing the two of them together at a public event. The highest honor - to be appointed state actress - she refused. Zarah Leander remained a Swedish citizen and, although she had worked in the Nazi propaganda film Die Große Liebe , always referred to herself as an apolitical artist after the end of the Second World War . After her last day of shooting on November 10, 1942, she left Germany and returned to her Lönö manor in Sweden. Her German films had a certain popularity in Sweden.

Zarah Leander's post-war career began in Switzerland in 1947 . The composer Ralph Benatzky arranged her appearances on the Geneva radio. It was there that the first post-war recordings were made. Further concert appearances in Bern , Basel and Zurich followed. In 1948 she met Michael Jary again and went on a tour of Germany with him and his film orchestra (1948/1949), which was very well received. In 1949 she performed in Malmö and for the first time again in her Swedish homeland. In January 1956 she married the Swedish bandmaster and jazz pianist Arne Hülphers , who has accompanied her musically since 1952.

In 1950 Zarah Leander made a film for the first time after a seven-year hiatus. Gabriela was created under the direction of Géza von Cziffra . The mother-daughter drama was again a typical Zarah Leander film with many borrowings from her earlier films. At the box office, the film was a success. Leander was dissatisfied with the result and went on tour again in 1951, which took her to several countries. The subsequent films Cuba Cabana (1952) with O. W. Fischer as a lover by her side and Ave Maria (1953) were financially profitable, but far from the previous cinematic quality. Her career as a movie star was coming to an end. From then on she devoted herself to performing her songs. Peter Kreuder composed the musicals Madame Scandaleuse and Lady from Paris for her with texts by Ernst Nebhut and Karl Farkas . In Sweden and Germany, television shows with their evergreens emerged in the early 1960s . There was also an appearance in the musical Das Blaue vom Himmel by Friedrich Hollaender .

Ron Kroon : Zarah Leander, 1967

On September 5, 1958 Leander returned to the stage at the Raimund Theater in Vienna : she played the leading role in Madame Scandaleuse , a musical by Ernst Nebhut and Peter Kreuder . This performance also appeared in Munich , Berlin and Hamburg in 1959 . Two years later there was the next premiere for Leander at the Raimundtheater in 1960, when she starred in the operetta A Woman Who Knows What She Wants by Oscar Straus under the direction of Karl Farkas (directed by Alfred Walter ). Leander made a guest appearance with this performance in 1961 at the Stora Teatern in Gothenburg . Again under the direction of Karl Farkas and at the Raimundtheater, Leander played in the world premiere of the musical Lady from Paris by Farkas and Kreuder in 1964 . Leander's partners included Paul Hörbiger and Friedl Czepa . This production was a guest at the Berlin Theater des Westens in 1965 .

Leander played the last leading role in the musical Vodka for the Queen by Peter Thomas , Ika Schafheitlin and Helmuth Gauer (director: Werner Saladin ). The world premiere took place on November 14, 1968 at the Operettenhaus Hamburg ; the production performed at the Raimund Theater in Vienna from September to November 1969.

Zarah Leander's grave in Haradshammar

Leander's last theater premiere in 1975 brought the artist back to the theater where she had had her big breakthrough almost forty years earlier: In the musical The Smile of a Summer Night by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler (based on the film by Ingmar Bergman ), she gave at the theater an der Wien directed by George Martin (in the original production by Harold Prince ) Madame Armfeldt. Leander's partners here included Susanne von Almassy and Dagmar Koller . From September 1978 a guest performance at the Folkteatern in Stockholm followed. During a performance in the spring of 1975 Leander collapsed during a performance and eventually suffered her first stroke in Stockholm .

In June 1979 she announced her final departure from the stage. Zarah Leander retired to her estate in Lönö. After several hospital stays, she died in 1981 of a cerebral haemorrhage and was buried next to her third husband Arne Hülphers (1904–1978) in the church cemetery in Häradshammar ( Norrköping municipality , Östergötland ).

Zarah Leander Museum in Sweden since 2007

Zarah Leander Museum

Leander's long-time German housekeeper and secretary Brigitte Pettersson (née Anhöck) from Erfurt founded a Zarah Leander Museum in Häradshammar together with the Zarah Leander Society in 2007.



  • Kinostar - Chanson (cinema star, the longing of a thousand girls) ( Ralph Benatzky / Hans Weigel ) from the musical comedy Axel an der Himmelsleiter , 1936, Zarah Leander with the Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne , O 4756 b
  • Sleep my beloved ( Theo Mackeben / HF Beckmann), 1936, Zarah Leander with orchestra and organ, Odeon O-4624 b
  • You must never give me red roses again! ( Michael Jary / Bruno Balz ), 1936, Zarah Leander with orchestra, conducted by Michael Jary, Odeon No. O-4630 a
  • Merci, mon ami, it was beautiful ...! (Lied und Slowfox), (Music: Peter von Fényes / Text: Hanns Schachner ), 1937 from her first German-language movie premiere .
  • I'm standing in the rain from the sound film To New Shores (Ralph Benatzky), 1937, Zarah Leander with Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O 4756 a
  • Deep longing from the sound film Zu neue Ufern (Ralf Benatzky), 1937, Zarah Leander with Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O-4755a
  • Yes sir! from the sound film Zu neue Ufern (Ralf Benatzky), 1937, Zarah Leander with Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O-4755b
  • I am a voice… ( Peter Igelhoff ), 1938, Zarah Leander with Odeon artist orchestra, O-4794 b
  • The wind told me a song from the sound film La Habanera (Lothar Brühne / Bruno Balz), 1937, Zarah Leander with Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O-4764a
  • You can't know ... from the sound film La Habanera (Lothar Brühne / Detlef Sierck), 1937, Zarah Leander with Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O-4764b
  • You are so different today (Peter Fenyes / Charlie Amberg ), 1938, Zarah Leander with the Eugen Wolff Orchestra , Odeon 4783b
  • A woman only becomes beautiful through love from the film Heimat ( Theo Mackeben / Michael Gesell ), 1938, Zarah Leander with UFA sound film orchestra, conductor: Theo Mackeben, Odeon No. O-4782a
  • I saw three stars seem from the film Heimat (Theo Mackeben / Hans Brennert ), 1938, Zahrah Leander with the Ufa Sound Film Orchestra, conductor: Theo Mackeben, Odeon No. O-4782b
  • You are beautiful with me (Hans Raszat / Hans Fritz Beckmann), 1938, Zarah Leander with Odeon artist orchestra, conductor: Werner Schmidt-Boelcke, Odeon
  • Can love be a sin from the film The Blue Fox , 1938, Zarah Leander with Odeon artist orchestra, conductor: Lothar Brühne, Odeon
  • I want to dream of the Puszta from the sound film Der Blaufuchs (Lothar Brühne, Bruno Balz), 1938, Zarah Leander with the Ufa sound film orchestra under the direction of Lothar Brühne, Odeon No. O-4612a
  • Just don't cry out of love from the sound film It was a glittering ball night , ( Theo Mackeben / Hans Fritz Beckmann), 1939, Zarah Leander with balalaika orchestra Boris Romanoff, conductor: Theo Mackeben, Odeon
  • His name is Waldemar! (Michael Jary / Bruno Balz), 1940, Zarah Leander with orchestra, conductor: Michael Jary, Odeon No. O-4633a
  • Who I love ... (Michael Jary / Bruno Balz), 1940, Zarah Leander with orchestra, conductor: Michael Jary, Odeon No. O-4633b
  • The Merry Widow - Potpourri - (music: Franz Lehár, text: Victor Léon / Leo Stein ), 1940, conductor: Otto Dobrindt, choir director: Waldemar Favre, vocals: Zarah Leander and Sven Olof Sandberg, Odeon
  • I know that a miracle will happen one day from the film Die Große Liebe (Michael Jary / Bruno Balz), 1942, Zarah Leander with the Ufa sound film orchestra, conductor: Michael Jary, Odeon
  • The world does not end from this from the film The Great Love (Michael Jary / Bruno Balz), 1942, Zarah Leander with UFA sound film orchestra, conductor: Michael Jary, Odeon
  • I could love someone like you and every night a new happiness, from the film Back then , 1943 , Zarah Leander with orchestra, recorded in Sweden, music: Lothar Brühne, text: Bruno Balz, conductor: Einar Groth, Odeon 4645a + b
  • And even if it was a sin from the film Cuba Cabana 1952 (Heino Gaze / Bruno Balz)
  • Ave Maria (Bach / Gounod) from the sound film of the same name (directed by Alfred Braun), 1953, Zarah Leander (Kontra-Alt), Gloria
  • Where your cradle was / Adventures are expensive in the evening , single from 1969, Trans-World-Records

Operettas and musicals


  • Zarah Leander: It was so wonderful! My life. Hoffmann and Campe Verlag, Hamburg 1973, ISBN 3-455-04090-X .
  • Zarah Leander (edited by Roland Gööck ): That's how I am and that's how I stay. Bertelsmann Lesering, Güstersloh 1958.

See also

Biographical plays

Television documentaries

  • The Zarah Leander files by Simone Dobmeier and Torsten Striegnitz, Arte , October 23, 2013
  • Duels: Marlene Dietrich against Zarah Leander by Michael Wech, ARD , March 2013
  • Legends: Zarah Leander by Anette Plomin, ARD, October 2001
  • Hitler's women: Zarah Leander by Guido Knopp , ZDF , March 2001
  • Zarah Leander: I won't say yes, I won't say no by Gero von Boehm , Arte, December 2000


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The artist herself pronounced her name on Austrian television using [t ims] (at 3:50 min). youtube; Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  2. Jutta Jacobi: Zarah Leander - The life of a diva , Hoffman and Campe Verlag, 2006
  3. Paul Seiler: Biography of Zarah Leander. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  4. Paul Seiler: Biography of Zarah Leander. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  5. Paul Seiler: Biography of Zarah Leander. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  6. Paul Seiler: Biography of Zarah Leander. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  7. See in the following Thomas Karny: Kontra-Alt mir rolling "R". In: Wiener Zeitung extra , March 10, 2007, p. 9.
  8. Berliner Tageblatt , September 2, 1937
  9. ^ Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung , February 27, 1937
  10. Berliner Lokalanzeiger , September 2, 1937
  11. ^ BZ am Mittag , December 21, 1937
  12. Thomas Karny: Contra-Alt with rolling "R". In: Wiener Zeitung extra , March 10, 2007, p. 9.
  13. ^ Zarah Leander in the Find a Grave database . Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  14. ^ Zarah Leander Museum in Häradshammar