Nationality: Austrian. Born: Rosemarie Magdalena Albach-Retty in Vienna, Austria, 23 September 1938. Education: Attended school in Berchtesgaden; Pensionnat Goldstein, Salzburg. Family: Married 1) Harry Meyen-Haubenstock, 1966 (divorced 1975), son: David Christophe; 2) Daniel Biassini, 1975 (separated), daughter: Sarah Magdalena. Career: 1952—left school to appear in her mother's film Wenn der weisse Flieder wieder blüht ; 1959—moved to Paris; 1961—on stage in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore ; 1963–65—appeared in leading roles in Hollywood films; 1966—returned to Paris and starred in numerous international productions. Awards: Deutscher Filmpreis for Acting, 1977; French César Awards for Best Actress, 1975 and 1978. Died: In Paris, 29 May 1982.
Films as Actress:
Wenn der weisse Flieder wieder blüht (Deppe)
Feuerwerk (Hoffmann); Mädchenjahre einer Königen ( The Story of Vickie ) (Marischka) (as Queen Victoria)
Der letzte Mann (Braun); Die Deutschmeister ( Mam'zelle Cricri ) (Marischka)
Sissi (Marischka) (as Princess Elisabeth of Austria); Kitty und die grosse Welt (Wiedermann)
Sissi—die junge Kaiserin (Marischka) (as Empress Elisabeth of Austria); Robinson soll nicht sterben ( The Girl and the Legend ) (von Baky) (as Maud); Monpti (Käutner)
Sissi—Schichsalsjahre einer Kaiserin (Marischka—edited version of the three Sissi films released as Forever My Love , 1962) (as Empress Elisabeth of Austria); Scampolo (Wiedermann); Mädchen in Uniform (Radvanyi) (as Manuela von Mainhardis)
Die schöne Lügnerin (von Ambesser); Die Halbzart (Thiele); Christine (Gaspard-Huit) (title role); Ein Engel auf Erden ( Angel on Earth ) (Radvanyi) (as air stewardess/guardian angel)
Katia ( Magnificent Sinner ) (Siodmak) (title role); Plein soleil ( Purple Noon ; Lust for Evil ) (Clément)
Le Combat dans l'île (Cavalier); Die Sendung der Lysistrata (Kortner)
Le Procès ( The Trial ) (Welles) (as Leni); "Il lavoro" ("The Job") ep. of Boccaccio '70 (Visconti) (as Pupe)
The Victors (Foreman) (as Regine); The Cardinal (Preminger) (as Annemarie)
Good Neighbor Sam (Swift) (as Janet Lagerhof)
What's New Pussycat? (Donner) (as Carole Werner)
La Voleuse ( Schornstein No. 4 ) (Chapot); 10.30 P.M. Summer (Dassin) (as Claire); Triple Cross (Young) (as the Countess)
Otley (Dick Clement) (as Imogen)
La Piscine ( The Swimming Pool ) (Deray) (as Marianne)
My Lover, My Son (Newland) (as Francesca Anderson); Qui? ( The Sensuous Assassin ) (Keigel); Les Choses de la Vie ( The Things of Life ) (Sautet) (as Hélène)
La califfa (Bevilacqua); Max et les ferrailleurs (Sautet); Bloomfield ( The Hero ) (Harris)
César et Rosalie (Sautet); The Assassination of Trotsky (Losey)
Ludwig ( Ludwig: Twilight of the Gods ) (Visconti) (as Empress Elisabeth of Austria); Le Train (Granier-Deferre); Le Trio infernal ( The Infernal Trio ) (Girod) (as Philomene)
Un Amour de pluie ( Loving in the Rain ) (Brialy); Le Mouton enragé ( Love at the Top ; The French Way ) (Deville)
L'Important c'est d'aimer ( The Most Important Thing Is Love ) (Zulawski); Les Innocents aux mains sales ( Dirty Hands ) (Chabrol); Le Vieux Fusil ( The Old Gun ) (Enrico)
Une Femme à sa fenêtre ( A Woman at Her Window ) (Granier-Deferre) (as Margot)
Gruppenbild mit Dame ( Group Picture with Lady ) (Petrović)
Mado (Sautet) (as Helene); Une Histoire simple ( A Simple Story ) (Sautet) (as Marie)
Last Embrace (Demme); Bloodline (Young); Clair de femme (Costa-Gavras) (as Lydia); Lo sconosciuto ; La Mort en direct ( Deathwatch ) (Tavernier) (as Katherine Mortonhoe)
Garde à Vue ( Under Suspicion ) (Miller) (as Chantal Martinaud); La Banquière (Girod)
Fantasma d'amore ( Ghost of Love ) (Risi) (as Anna); La Passante du Sans-Souci ( La Passante ) (Rouffio) (as Elsa Weiner/Lina Baumenstein)
By SCHNEIDER: book—
Ich, Romy , Munich, 1988.
On SCHNEIDER: books—
Benichou, Pierre, and Sylviane Pommier, Romy Schneider , Paris, 1976.
Knef, Hildegard, Romy: Betrachtung eines Lebens , Hamburg, 1983.
Arnould, Françoise, and Françoise Gerber, Romy Schneider, Princesse de l'écran , Paris, 1985.
Hermary-Vieille, Catherine, Romy , Paris, 1986.
Steenfatt, Margret, Eine gemachte Frau: Die Lebengeschichte der Romy Schneider , Hamburg, 1986.
Seydel, Renate, Romy Schneider: Bilder ihres Lebens , Munich, 1987.
Cohen, Georges, Romy Schneider , Paris, 1988.
Romy Schneider: Portraits 1954–1981 , text by Schygulla, Hanna. Munich, 1988.
Riess, Curt, Romy Schneider , Rastatt, 1990.
Yuji yaku, Segawa, Romi shunaida: koi hitosuji ni , Tokyo, 1991.
On SCHNEIDER: articles—
Haustrate, Gaston, "Romy Schneider," in Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1982.
Elley, Derek, "Romy Schneider," in Films and Filming (London), August 1982.
Tavernier, Bertrand, obituary, in Positif (Paris), February 1986.
Stars (Mariembourg), June 1989.
Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), July 1991.
Seesslen, Georg, "Eine Geschichte vom Mädchen, das Frau werden wollte," in EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), May 1992.
Cegielkówna, Iwona, "Romy Schneider: okruchy zycia," in Iluzjon (Warsaw), July-December 1992.
* * *
Born into an old established and famous theatrical family, Romy Schneider was almost predestined to become an actress. As an internationally known German film star, she is second in fame only to Marlene Dietrich. Like Dietrich, she had an ambiguous relationship to Germany and chose not to live there.
Schneider's screen debut, at the age of 14, was alongside her mother Magda Schneider, in Wenn der weisse Flieder wieder blüht . This led to further film offers and to playing the saccharine-sweet eponymous heroine in the trilogy Sissi , a kitsch bio-pic of Elisabeth, the Austrian Empress. As Sissi, Schneider had become the darling of the German speaking public. Ute Schneider suggests that the Sissi films provided a safety valve for Germans in their inability to mourn (i.e. the collective disavowal of the fascist past): "Hardly any other 1950s tearjerker film had been more effective in letting the audience sob their heart out. It is a pertinent example of the continuing repression of political reality that can be traced in [German] entertainment cinema. Sissi demonstrated yet again the victory of the heart over the 'evil' of politics, the dream of conquering people and countries with no more than a feminine smile and maternal care." The role of Sissi typecast Schneider for the early part of her career and she came to hate the image, but was haunted by it for the rest of her life.
Her engagement to Alain Delon seems to have given her enough determination to leave for France, escaping parental control and the smothering Sissi image (although initially she continued to be type-cast). Nevertheless, Schneider's first serious role came from the German director Fritz Kortner, as Myrrhine in Kortner's adaptation of Aristophanes's Die Sendung der Lysistrata . Then in Paris Visconti offered Schneider her first theater engagement, in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore . Despite having to act in French, she won audience and critical acclaim. It also marked the beginning of her international career as a character actress. Subsequently, Schneider gained a major prize for her performance in Welles's Le Procès and Visconti cast her again in Boccaccio '70 . Following a brief interlude in Hollywood, playing in Preminger's The Cardinal , and demonstrating her ability for comedy alongside Jack Lemmon in Good Neighbor Sam , and Peter Sellers and Peter O'Toole in What's New, Pussycat? , Schneider returned to France. Subsequently, while working with the director Claude Sautet and with Michel Piccoli as her film partner, Schneider embarked on the most fruitful period of her career. Sautet cast her in a range of roles, playing the modern sexually liberated woman. Having created a new persona, Schneider had the courage to accept again the role of Elisabeth in Visconti's Ludwig . She depicted the woman as cold and unyielding, thereby erasing any trace of the sweet Sissi character.
Over the years Schneider achieved success in her career by great discipline and ambition. She stated frankly that she used her classical beauty as a handmaiden in the service of her craft. Despite Schneider's professional emancipation and her rebellion against the values of her parents' generation, she cannot be considered a feminist, even in the widest sense. She mostly played women as perceived from a typical male position: the housewife, the mother, the mistress or the whore. She rarely depicted independent professional women, but rather came to represent those women who revolt, only to settle eventually for compromise.
Even while in France, however, she deliberately chose roles that critically engaged with Germany's fascist history, albeit from a French perspective. La Passante du Sans-Souci , a French-German co-production, is a striking case in point, since the film illustrates differing national perspectives on recent history. The German version has a happy end, whereas in the French the couple are killed by the neo-Nazis. Another pertinent example is the German film Gruppenbild mit Dame (based on Heinrich Böll's sociohistorical critique of Germany). Schneider could strongly identify with her role of Leni, a woman misunderstood in her own country. Though the film was dismissed by the critics (lacking the complexity of the novel), Schneider won an important German prize for her performance.
Towards the end, Romy Schneider knew both sadness and tragedy. After serious kidney surgery and her divorce from her second husband, her young son, David Christophe, was killed climbing over his own front gate. Although she threw herself into her work, the pressure and stress proved too much and Romy Schneider died of heart failure a year later.