Romy Schneider (23 September 1938 – 29 May 1982) was an Austrian-born German film actress who also held French citizenship.
Schneider was born Rosemarie Magdalena Albach in Nazi-era Vienna, six months after the Anschluss, into a family of actors that included her paternal grandmother Rosa Albach-Retty, her Austrian father Wolf Albach-Retty and her German mother Magda Schneider. After her parents' divorce in 1945, Magda took charge of Romy and her brother Wolfi, eventually supervising the young girl's career, often appearing alongside her daughter. Her career was also overseen by her stepfather, Hans Herbert Blatzheim, a noted restaurateur who Schneider indicated had an unhealthy interest in her.
Romy Schneider's first film, made when she was 15, was Wenn der weiße Flieder wieder blüht (When the White Lilacs Bloom Again) in 1953, credited as Romy Schneider-Albach. In 1954, Schneider for the first time portrayed a royal, playing a young Queen Victoria in the Austrian film Mädchenjahre einer Königin (known in the U.S. as The Story of Vicky and in Britain as Victoria in Dover). Schneider's breakthrough came with her portrayal of Elisabeth, Empress Consort of Austria, in the romantic biopic Sissi (1955) and its two sequels, Sissi – The Young Empress (1956) and Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress(1957), all with Karlheinz Böhm, who became a close friend. Less stereotypical films during this busy period include Robinson soll nicht sterben (The Legend of Robinson Crusoe) (1957) putting her among a stellar cast and opposite a young Horst Buchholz, and Monpti (1957), directed by Helmut Käutner and again opposite Buchholz.
Schneider soon starred in Christine (1958), a remake of Max Ophüls's 1933 film Liebelei (itself based upon a play by Arthur Schnitzler and starring her mother Magda Schneider). It was during the filming ofChristine that Schneider fell in love with French actor Alain Delon, who co-starred in the movie. She left Germany to join him in Paris and they announced their engagement in 1959.
Schneider decided to live and to work in France, slowly gaining the interest of film directors such as Orson Welles for The Trial (1962), based upon Franz Kafka's The Trial and was introduced by Delon toLuchino Visconti.
Under Visconti's direction, she gave performances in the Théâtre Moderne as Annabella (and Delon as Giovanni) in John Ford's stage play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1961) and in the film Boccaccio '70 (segment: "The Job"). In 1962 Schneider played Anna in Sacha Pitoëff's production of Chekhov's play The Seagull, also at the Théâtre Moderne. A brief stint in Hollywood included appearances in Good Neighbor Sam, a 1964 comedy with Jack Lemmon, and 1965 What's New Pussycat? co-starring Peter O'Toole, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen who also wrote the screenplay.
Schneider and Delon decided to split up in 1963 although they remained close lifelong friends and continued to work together in such films as La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) (1968) and The Assassination of Trotsky (1972).
Schneider continued to work in France during the 1970s, most notably with director Claude Sautet on five occasions. Their first collaboration, Les choses de la vie (1970) with Michel Piccoli, was a huge success and made Schneider a household name in France. The three teamed up again for the noir thriller Max et les Ferrailleurs (1971), and she appeared opposite Yves Montand in Sautet's César et Rosalie (1972). Other successes included Le Train (1973), where she played a German-Jewish refugee in World War 2, Claude Chabrol's thriller Les innocents aux mains sales (1975) opposite Rod Steiger, and Le vieux fusil (1975). The gritty L'important c'est d'aimer (1974) garnered her first César Award (France's equivalent of the Oscar), a feat she repeated five years later, in her last collaboration with Sautet, for Une histoire simple (1978).
On 30 October 1974, Schneider created one of the most memorable moments on German television. She was the second guest on Dietmar Schönherr's talk show Je später der Abend (The Later the Evening) when she, after a rather terse interview, remarked passionately to the last guest, bank robber and author Burkhard Driest: "Sie gefallen mir. Sie gefallen mir sehr." (I like you. I like you a lot.)
Ludwig, Visconti's 1972 film about the life of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, featured her as a much more complex, mature, even bitter Elisabeth of Austria. "Sissi sticks to me just like oatmeal", Schneider once said.
She also acted in Le Trio infernal (1974) with Michel Piccoli, and in Garde à vue (1981) with Michel Serrault and Lino Ventura. An unpleasant incident occurred during this period with leading German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder who wanted her to play the lead in his 1979 film The Marriage of Maria Braun. Negotiations broke down when he called Schneider a "dumb cow" and Schneider responded by declaring she would never work with such a beast as Fassbinder.
In 1980 she starred in Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch (La mort en direct), based on David G. Compton's novel, playing a dying woman whose last days are watched on national television via a camera implanted in the brain of a journalist (Harvey Keitel). Her last film was La Passante du Sans-Souci (The Passerby), (1982).
On July 1966 Schneider married Harry Meyen (1924–1979), a German director and actor who committed suicide in Hamburg, Germany in 1979. The couple had a son, David Christopher, born on December 3, 1966. David died at the age of 14 on 5 July 1981. He had attempted to climb the spiked fence at his stepfather's parents' home when he punctured his femoral artery.
In 1975, Schneider married Daniel Biasini, her private secretary; they separated in 1981. Their daughter Sarah Biasini (born 21 July 1977) is now an actress.
Schneider began drinking alcohol in excess after the death of her son David. When she was found dead in her apartment in Paris on 29 May 1982, it was suggested that she had committed suicide by taking a lethal cocktail of alcohol and sleeping pills. After another post-mortem examination was carried out, authorities declared that she had died from cardiac arrest. Her tombstone at Boissy-sans-Avoir in the Canton of Montfort-l'Amaury bears the name Rosemarie Albach. Shortly afterwards, Alain Delon arranged for David to be buried in the same grave.
The French journalist Eugène Moineau initiated in 1984 the Prix Romy Schneider; this prize—the most prestigious award for promising actresses in the French film industry—is awarded by a jury each year in Paris in conjunction with the Prix Patrick Dewaere (formerly the Prix Jean Gabin). In 1990, the Austrian newspaper Kurier created the Romy TV Award in honour of Schneider. In 2003, she was voted 78th on the list of the greatest Germans in the German TV programme Unsere Besten (the German version of 100 Greatest Britons)—the second highest ranked actress (Marlene Dietrich was 50th) on that list. Until 2002, the Austrian Federal Railways Inter City service IC 535 from Wien Südbahnhof to Graz was named "Romy Schneider".
A movie about Schneider's life, titled Eine Frau wie Romy/Une femme comme Romy (A Woman Like Romy) was planned by Warner Bros. for 2009; Schneider's role was going to be played by Yvonne Catterfeld. The project was cancelled in July 2009. A musical about Schneider, Romy – Die Welt aus Gold (Romy – The Golden World) was premiered in 2009 at the Theater Heilbronn. In November 2009 the ARD broadcast the feature film Romy with Jessica Schwarz in the title role.
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