Hans Albers

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Hans Albers
Hans Philipp August Albers
Hans Albers
Born (1891-09-22)September 22, 1891
Hamburg, German Empire
Died July 24, 1960(1960-07-24) (aged 68)
Starnberg, West Germany
Occupation German actor and singer
Years active 1918–1960
Hans Albers with a woman, 1924

Hans Philipp August Albers (September 22, 1891 – July 24, 1960) was a German actor and singer. He was the biggest male movie star in Germany between 1930 and 1945 and one of the most popular German actors of the twentieth century.

Life and work

Hans Albers was born in Hamburg, the son of a butcher, and grew up in the district of St. Georg. He was seriously interested in acting by his late teens and took acting classes without the knowledge of his parents. In 1915 Albers was drafted to serve in the German Army in World War I, but was wounded early on. After the war Albers moved to Berlin, where he found work as a comedic actor in various Weimar-Era Berlin theatres. His breakthrough performance was that of a waiter in the play Verbrecher (Criminals). It was also in Berlin that Albers began a long-term relationship with half-Jewish actress Hansi Burg (1898–1975). The relationship ended only when he died in 1960.

After roles in over one hundred silent films, Albers starred in the first German talkie Die Nacht gehört uns (The Night Belongs to Us) in 1929. Soon thereafter, Albers played big-mouthed strong man Mazeppa alongside Marlene Dietrich in her star-making classic Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel). Albers himself shot to fame in 1930 with the movie Der Greifer and constantly enhanced his star status with similar daredevil roles in the 1930s. He was probably at his best when teamed-up with fellow German movie legend Heinz Rühmann, as in Bomben auf Monte Carlo (1931) and Der Mann, der Sherlock Holmes war (1937). Many of Albers' songs from his movies became huge hits and some even remain popular to this day.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Albers and his Jewish girlfriend Hansi Burg moved to Starnberger See in Bavaria. While Albers himself never showed public support for the Nazi regime, he became the most popular actor under Nazi rule. The actor nevertheless, avoided an overly close association in public. As the ultimate sign of his popularity, the Nazis even silently accepted his relationship with Hansi Burg for a long time. But Albers finally gave in to the pressure. Hansi Burg went to Switzerland and then to Great Britain in 1939, but they secretly remained a couple with him even managing to send her financial support. They were reunited after the war, when she returned to Germany in a British uniform.

Hans Albers statue in the Hans-Albers-Platz, Hamburg-St. Pauli. By Jörg Immendorff, 1986
Inscription at the base of the Hans Albers statue: Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins

In 1943, Albers was paid a huge sum of money to star in Ufa's big-budgeted anniversary picture Münchhausen but was careful not to give the impression that he was endorsing the National Socialist regime, which was indeed, never asked of him. Also in 1943, Albers starred in another classic German film Große Freiheit Nr. 7 with actress Ilse Werner. Some of the scenes are said to have been shot in Prague because of bomb damage to Hamburg. The sailing ship Padua for the outdoor scenes of the film has survived under Soviet and Russian flag until this day as Krusenstern.

After World War II, well-funded Albers avoided the financial plight and professional banning many actors faced on account of his association with Hansi Burg. Nevertheless, German "heroes" were considered undesirable by the occupation government that wanted to promote their own. This accounted for a major break in his career and made him hard to cast. Eventually he found an opening with respectful wisdom-with-age type character parts with some public acclaim, but with these never again enjoyed the huge stardom of the 1930s and early 1940s. By the early 1950s, his age finally showed and his powerful presence and freshness was almost gone. This was promoted by his increasing alcoholism during the 1950s. Yet he remained active in movies until the very end. Albers died in 1960 in a sanatorium near the Starnberg See of internal bleedings. The whole nation mourned his loss.

Taking a position in Germany that roughly corresponds with that of John Wayne in the USA, Albers' name will forever be closely associated with the North German port city of Hamburg, and especially the Hamburg neighbourhood of St. Pauli, where there is a square named "Hans-Albers-Platz". Today he is probably more known for his music than his films, and his music is still widely known in modern Germany, even among young people. Outside of Northern Europe, however, Albers remains virtually unknown, although the image of an older man in a seaman's cap and raincoat playing accordion and singing may be recognised by many outside of Germany, even if they don't know that this image is based on Hans Albers. As a case in point, McDonald's used such an image in an American television ad campaign in 1986. In reality, Albers had no experience on the water, this being restricted to a one-day trip to Heligoland.

Many of Albers' songs were humorous tales of drunken, womanizing sailors on shore-leave, with double entendres such as "It hurts the first time, but with time, you get used to it" in reference to a girl falling in love for the first time. Albers' songs were often peppered with expressions in Low German, which is spoken in Northern Germany. His most famous song by far is Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins, ("On the Reeperbahn at Half Past Midnight") which has become one of the best known songs about Hamburg and an unofficial anthem of the colourful neighbourhood of St. Pauli. The Hans-Albers-Platz, one block south of the Reeperbahn, has a statue of Albers, by the German artist Jörg Immendorff.

Selected filmography

Title Year Director Co-stars
Der Mut zur Sünde 1918 Heinrich Bolten-Baeckers and Robert Leffler Olga Desmond and Guido Schützendorf
The Grand Babylon Hotel 1920 E.A. Dupont Max Landa
The False Dimitri 1922
Inge Larsen 1923 Hans Steinhoff Henny Porten, Paul Otto
By Order of Pompadour 1924 Frederic Zelnik Lya Mara, Frida Richard
The Venus of Montmartre 1925 Frederic Zelnik Lya Mara, Jack Trevor
The Girl with a Patron 1925 Max Mack Ossi Oswalda and Willy Fritsch
Wood Love 1925
Women of Luxury 1925
The King and the Girl 1925
Athletes 1925
A Modern Dubarry 1926 Alexander Korda Maria Corda, Alfred Abel, Marlene Dietrich
The Blue Danube 1926 Graf Jaromir
The Three Mannequins 1926 Jaap Speyer Anton Pointner, Lydia Potechina
The Fallen 1926 Hammer
We Belong to the Imperial-Royal Infantry Regiment 1926 Oberleutnant Ahrens
Rinaldo Rinaldini 1927 Max Obal, Rudolf Dworsky Luciano Albertini, Olga Engl
A Perfect Gentleman 1927 Vilhelm Bryde, Gösta Ekman La Jana
Marie's Soldier 1927 Erich Schönfelder Xenia Desni, Harry Liedtke
Princess Olala 1928 Robert Land Walter Rilla, Marlene Dietrich
Asphalt 1929 Joe May Albert Steinrück, Gustav Fröhlich
Der rote Kreis 1929 Frederic Zelnik Lya Mara, Fred Louis Lerch and Stewart Rome
The Night Belongs to Us 1929 Carl Froelich Charlotte Ander, Otto Wallburg
Dear Homeland 1929 Verbrecher / Chefingenieur Orginsky
Der blaue Engel 1929/30 Josef von Sternberg Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron
Der Greifer 1930 Richard Eichberg Charlotte Susa, Eugen Burg
Hans in allen Gassen 1930 Carl Froelich Camilla Horn, Gustav Diessl
Bomben auf Monte Carlo 1931 Hanns Schwarz Heinz Rühmann, Anna Sten, Peter Lorre
Der Draufgänger 1931 Richard Eichberg Martha Eggerth, Leonard Steckel
The White Demon 1932 Kurt Gerron Gerda Maurus, Peter Lorre
The Victor 1932 Hans Hinrich and Paul Martin Käthe von Nagy
Quick 1932 Robert Siodmak Lilian Harvey, Paul Hörbiger
F.P.1 antwortet nicht 1932 Karl Hartl Sybille Schmitz, Paul Hartmann, Peter Lorre
Heut kommt's drauf an 1933 Kurt Gerron Luise Rainer, Oscar Karlweis
Ein gewisser Herr Gran 1933 Gerhard Lamprecht Albert Bassermann, Walter Rilla, Olga Tschechowa
Flüchtlinge 1933 Gustav Ucicky Käthe von Nagy, Eugen Klöpfer, Veit Harlan
Gold 1934 Karl Hartl Brigitte Helm, Friedrich Kayßler, Lien Deyers
Peer Gynt 1934 Fritz Wendhausen Lucie Höflich, Marieluise Claudius, Olga Tschechowa
Henker, Frauen und Soldaten 1935 Johannes Meyer Charlotte Susa, Aribert Wäscher
Varieté 1935 Nicolas Farkas Annabella, Attila Hörbiger
Savoy Hotel 217 1936 Gustav Ucicky Brigitte Horney, Rene Deltgen, Käthe Dorsch
Die gelbe Flagge 1937 Gerhard Lamprecht Olga Tschechowa, Dorothea Wieck, Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Der Mann, der Sherlock Holmes war 1937 Karl Hartl Heinz Rühmann, Marieluise Claudius, Paul Bildt
Sergeant Berry 1938 Herbert Selpin Alexander Golling, Herbert Hübner
Travelling People 1938 Jacques Feyder Francoise Rosay, Camilla Horn
Water for Canitoga 1939 Herbert Selpin Charlotte Susa, Hilde Sessak
Ein Mann auf Abwegen 1939 Herbert Selpin Charlotte Thiele, Hilde Weissner
Trenck, der Pandur 1940 Herbert Selpin Käthe Dorsch, Sybille Schmitz, Hilde Weissner
Carl Peters 1941 Herbert Selpin Herbert Hübner, Fritz Odemar
Münchhausen 1942/43 Josef von Baky Brigitte Horney, Ilse Werner, Ferdinand Marian
Große Freiheit Nr. 7 1943/44 Helmut Käutner Ilse Werner, Hans Söhnker
And the Heavens Above Us 1947 Josef von Baky Paul Edwin Roth, Lotte Koch
The White Hell of Pitz Palu 1950 Rolf Hansen Liselotte Pulver, Adrian Hoven
Chased by the Devil 1950 Viktor Tourjansky Willy Birgel, Lil Dagover, Heidemarie Hatheyer
Bluebeard 1951 Christian-Jaque Cecile Aubry, Fritz Kortner
Nights on the Road 1952 Rudolf Jugert Hildegard Knef, Marius Goring
Jonny Saves Nebrador 1953 Rudolf Jugert Margot Hielscher, Peter Pasetti
Captain Bay-Bay 1953 Helmut Käutner Bum Krüger, Lotte Koch
On the Reeperbahn at Half Past Midnight 1954 Wolfgang Liebeneiner Heinz Rühmann, Gustav Knuth
The Last Man 1955 Harald Braun Romy Schneider, Rudolf Forster, Joachim Fuchsberger
Vor Sonnenuntergang 1956 Gottfried Reinhardt Annemarie Düringer, Martin Held
I fidanzati della morte 1957 Romolo Marcellini Sylva Koscina, Rik Battaglia
The Mad Bomberg 1957 Rolf Thiele Marion Michael, Gert Fröbe, Harald Juhnke
The Heart of St. Pauli 1957 Eugen York Hansjörg Felmy, Gert Fröbe
The Copper 1958 Eugen York Hansjörg Felmy, Werner Peters, Horst Frank
It Happened Only Once 1958 Géza von Bolváry Helga Martin, Stanislav Ledinek
Man in the River 1958 Eugen York Gina Albert, Hans Nielsen
Thirteen Old Donkeys 1958 Hans Deppe Marianne Hoppe, Karin Dor, Werner Peters
Kein Engel ist so rein 1960 Wolfgang Becker Sabine Sinjen, Peter Kraus, Horst Frank

Songs (selection)


  • Das ist die Liebe der Matrosen (from picture Bomben auf Monte Carlo)
  • Kind, du brauchst nicht weinen (from picture Der Draufgänger)


  • Flieger, grüß' mit mir die Sonne (from picture F. P. 1 antwortet nicht)
  • Hoppla, jetzt komm' ich (from picture Der Sieger)
  • Komm' auf die Schaukel, Luise (from stage play Liliom)
  • Komm und spiel mit mir (from picture Quick)


  • "Mein Gorilla hat 'ne Villa im Zoo" (from picture Heut kommt's drauf an)


  • "In meinem Herzen Schatz, da ist für viele Platz" (from picture Savoy-Hotel 217)





  • "Kleine weiße Möwe" (from picture Käpt'n Bay-Bay)
  • "Nimm mich mit, Kapitän, auf die Reise" (from picture Käpt'n Bay-Bay)


  • "Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins" (from picture Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins)
  • "Komm auf die Schaukel, Luise" (from picture Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins)


  • "Das Herz von St. Pauli" (from picture Das Herz von St. Pauli)


  • "Mein Junge, halt die Füße still" (from picture Dreizehn alte Esel)


  • Joachim Cadenbach: Hans Albers. Berlin: Universitas-Verlag, 1975, ISBN 3-8004-0818-X
  • Eberhard Spieß: Hans Albers. Eine Filmographie. Herausgegeben von Hilmar Hoffmann und Walter Schobert in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Deutschen Institut für Filmkunde, Wiesbaden. Verlag: Frankfurt am Main: Kommunales Kino, 1977
  • Uwe-Jens Schumann: Hans Albers – seine Filme, sein Leben. (= Heyne-Filmbibliothek, Band 18) München: Heyne, 1980, ISBN 3-453-86018-7
  • Hans-Christoph Blumenberg: In meinem Herzen, Schatz … Die Lebensreise des Schauspielers und Sängers Hans Albers . Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1981, ISBN 3-596-10662-1
  • Michaela Krützen: Hans Albers: Eine deutsche Karriere. Berlin; Weinheim: Beltz Quadriga 1995
  • Michaela Krützen: „Gruppe 1: Positiv“ Carl Zuckmayers Beurteilungen über Hans Albers und Heinz Rühmann. In: Carl Zuckmayer Jahrbuch/ hg. von Günther Nickel. Göttingen 2002, S. 179-227
  • Matthias Wegner: Hans Albers. Ellert & Richter, Hamburg 2005 (Hamburger Köpfe) ISBN 3-8319-0224-0

External links