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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ilka Grüning
Grüning in 1900
Ilka Henriette Grunzweig

(1876-09-04)4 September 1876
Died11 November 1964(1964-11-11) (aged 88)
Resting placeWoodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica, California
  • Austrian-Hungarian
  • American
Years active1919–1953

Ilka Grüning (born Ilka Henriette Grunzweig; 4 September 1876 – 11 November 1964) was an Austrian-Hungarian actress. Born in Vienna in the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire, she was one of many Jewish actors and actresses that were forced to flee Europe when the Nazis came to power in 1933. A respected and famous actress of her time in the German-language area, she was forced to play bit parts in Hollywood.


German career

At age 17, Ilka Grüning made her stage debut in Miss Julie and quickly became a famous stage actress. Grüning's first film, at age 43, was a German silent movie called Todesurteil in 1919. Next, she starred with Conrad Veidt in Peer Gynt. Later that year, she and Veidt appeared in Die sich verkaufen.

She continued making silent movies in Germany into the 1920s. In 1920, she appeared in the film Die Bestie im Menschen, based on the novel La Bête humaine by Émile Zola. This were two of 11 films she appeared in that year. Grüning appeared in Veidt's two Christian Wahnschaffe movies: Weltbrand in 1920 and Die Flucht aus dem goldenen Kerker in 1921. In 1922, she had a small part as a landlady in Lady Hamilton starring Veidt as Lord Horatio Nelson. This was one of four movies that she and Hans Twardowski appeared in together; F.W. Murnau's drama Phantom, Es leuchtet meine Liebe and The False Dimitri.

Ilka Grüning, drawing in 1898

In 1923, she portrayed Frau Gött in Max Mack's The Beautiful Girl. Later that year, she portrayed the wife of Johann Friedrich Schiller in Friedrich Schiller - The Young Poet. Next she played Rosalindes' mother in Max Mack's Die Fledermaus (this was the fifth film she did with the German director). In 1924, she appeared in F.W. Murnau's drama The Grand Duke's Finances (this was the third film she made with Murnau).

In 1925, Grüning appeared in the silent Joyless Street, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, which featured a 20-year-old Greta Garbo. The following year, Grüning appeared in her third Pabst' movie Secrets of a Soul. In 1927, Grüning appeared in Hello Caesar! which S.Z. Sakall helped write. Later that year, she and Sakall appeared together in Family Gathering in the House of Prellstein.

In 1929, Grüning appeared in her first sound film: Melody of the Heart. It was three years before she appeared in another film. In 1932, she received a part in Max Neufeld's Hasenklein kann nichts dafür [de], which was her last movie in Germany. It was nine years before she appeared in another movie.

American career

Grüning, had played Strindberg and Ibsen for German director Max Reinhardt and had run the second most important drama school in Berlin, left 1938 Germany after Hitler and the Nazis came to power. After arriving in America in february 1939, she received help from the European Film Fund in resettling to America.

Sometime in the 1930s, she left Germany for Paris, France, and, in 1939, sailed from LeHavre on the S/S Paris, arriving at the Port of New York on February 8, 1939. It was her first time in America. With the outbreak of World War II and the need for older German women for war movies, Grüning started receiving parts. Her first Hollywood movie was in 1941 as Erwin Kalser's husband in Warner Bros.' war drama Underground, starring Philip Dorn, Martin Kosleck and Ludwig Stössel (who played her husband in Casablanca).

Grüning was busy in 1942. First, Grüning appeared in Kings Row, Dangerously They Live, Friendly Enemies the Sonja Henie film Iceland, and Desperate Journey.

Ilka Grüning as Mrs. Leuchtag in Casablanca (1942)

Also in 1942, at the age of 66, Grüning received the role of Mrs. Leuchtag, who along with her husband (played by Ludwig Stössel) are leaving Europe for America in Casablanca. She has only one scene (a total of 30 words) in the movie when she and her husband are having a drink in Rick's Cafe with their good friend Carl the waiter (S. Z. Sakall) and struggling a bit with their English. Her husband (Ludwig Stössel) asks her for the time "Liebchen – sweetnessheart, what watch?" She answers "Ten watch", and he replies "Such much?"

In 1943, Grüning received a bit part as George Tobias's mother in This Is the Army. Next she appeared in The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler with Stössel and Twardowski. Grüning received bit parts in Madame Curie starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon as the Curies. Grüning appeared in only one movie in 1944 as Mrs. Vronsky in the drama An American Romance. She had a bit part in the mystery Murder in the Music Hall. She received a couple of other small parts that year; the first as Herman Bing's wife in Rendezvous 24.

Next Grüning and Stössel got to play husband and wife again as the Muellers in Temptation. The following year, she played Paul E. Burns's wife in Desperate. Other movies included Repeat Performance, Letter from an Unknown Woman, A Foreign Affair, and Words and Music.

In 1949, she played a grandmother in Caught. Grüning and Stössel appeared in their last film together in the drama The Great Sinner. She played another old woman in Mr. Soft Touch with Glenn Ford.

In 1950, she received a good part as Edgar Bergen's wife in the adventure film Captain China. She had another good role in Convicted. The following year, she appeared as Brett King's mother in Payment on Demand. Her last Hollywood movie was as Mama Ludwig in the western Passage West.

Short return to Germany

Like many German and Austrian actors, Grüning went back to Berlin in the 1950s, but found that Germany was not the same country she had left. Many former Nazis returned, and it became difficult for Grüning to integrate back into the film industry. She did, at age 76, appear in a small, Swiss movie in 1952 titled Die Venus vom Tivoli [de], which was her last movie. After this role, Grüning returned to the U.S.


Grüning died on November 11, 1964, in Los Angeles at the age of 88. She was cremated and her ashes rest at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica.

Selected filmography


External links

This page was last edited on 5 February 2024, at 17:18
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