Thursday, 23 September 2010

Remembered: Inge Meysel

Inge Meysel in 2003

Inge Meysel - an actress whose name probably means little to anyone outside of Germany, unless they are staunch aficionados of German film and television. And yet, Meysel's popularity in her home country was unequalled, so much so that she was dubbed The Mother of the Nation.

But her nation's adoration for Inge Meysel hadn't always been that deep.

In fact, as the daughter of a Jewish tobacco wholesaler, Meysel was banned from German film and theatre between 1933 and 1945. Following Germany's defeat in WWII, Meysel received a contract from the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, her home town. At first, Meysel was primarily doing theatre before moving on to television in the 1960s. Her nickname, The Mother of the Nation, resulted from a television programme based on a play by Curt Flatow. Called Fenster zum Flur (Window to the Corridor), Meysel portrayed a concierge in a Berlin apartment building. It was major success and was the role Meysel would always be most identified with besides her part as Kaethe Scholz in the popular television series Die Unverbesserlichen (The Incorrigibles). Die Unverbesserlichen ran for seven seasons between 1965 and 1971 and which, again, was a major success and even today enjoys frequent re-runs on German television.

Inge Meysel and Josef Offenbach in Die Unverbesserlichen (Germany 1965 - 71)

Inge Meysel was an active member of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) all her life and supported Willy Brandt in his campaign 1972, which would make him chancellor. In addition, she lent her name for numerous causes like the fight against AIDS, the right to die humanely, and a woman's right to abort. When Meysel confessed to having had affairs with women in the 1970s, she became the darling of Germany's gay community. Meysel caused a stir when she turned down Germany's Federal Cross of Merit, famously saying that "It's not worth a Cross of Merit having lived decently".

Inge Meysel, seated next to Peter Alexander, in 1970 receiving the Bambi Award

Inge Meysel was married to John Olden, a director, between 1956 and 1965 when he died from a heart-attack. Olden had left Germany in 1933, but returned in 1945, having spent the twelve years of Nazi reign in Great Britain.

Inge Meysel and Toyo Tanaka in Die kluge Witwe (The Wise Widow, Germany 1981)

Inge Meysel died in July 2004 at the age of 94.

She is buried in Hamburg next to her husband.