Elke Sommer

Elke Sommer (German: [ˈɛl.kə ˈzɔ.mɐ] (About this soundlisten); born Elke Baronin von Schletz, 5 November 1940) is a German actress, entertainer and artist who starred in many Hollywood films.[1]

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer 1965.JPG
Sommer in 1965
Elke von Schletz

(1940-11-05) 5 November 1940 (age 79)
Years active1959–present
(m. 1964; div. 1993)

Wolf Walther
(m. 1993)
Parent(s)Baron Peter von Schletz
Renata Topp[1]

Early life and careerEdit

Youngest yearsEdit

Sommer was born in Berlin, to Baron Peter von Schletz, a Lutheran minister, and his wife Renata, nee Topp. During the Second World War (in 1942) the family was evacuated to Niederndorf, a village near Erlangen, a small university town in Franconia, where she attended a university-preparatory high school. Her father died when she was 14 years old. She passed her college entrance exam. After this, she moved to the UK to work as an au pair, in order to earn a living and to perfect her English. There, she also received some training as an interpreter.


She was spotted by film director Vittorio De Sica while on holiday in Italy, and began appearing in films there in 1958. Also that year she changed her surname from Schletz to Sommer, which was easier to pronounce for a non-German audience. She quickly became a noted sex symbol and moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s. She also became one of the most popular pin-up girls of the time, and posed for several pictorials in Playboy magazine, including the September 1964 and December 1967 issues.

Primary careerEdit

The 1960sEdit

Sommer became one of the top film actresses of the 1960s. She made 99 film and television appearances between 1959 and 2005, including A Shot in the Dark (1964) with Peter Sellers, The Art of Love (1965) with James Garner and Dick Van Dyke, The Oscar (1966) with Stephen Boyd, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) with Bob Hope, the Bulldog Drummond extravaganza Deadlier Than the Male (1966), The Wrecking Crew (1968) with Dean Martin, and The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968); in each of these films she was the leading lady.

In 1964, she won a Golden Globe award as Most Promising Newcomer Actress for The Prize, a film in which she co-starred with Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson.

Sommer with Mexican actress Silvia Pinal in the Italian film Men and Noblemen (1959)

A frequent guest on television, Sommer sang and participated in comedy sketches on episodes of The Dean Martin Show and on Bob Hope specials, made 10 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was a panelist on the Hollywood Squares game show many times between 1973 and 1980, when Peter Marshall was its "Square-Master", or host.

The 1970sEdit

Sommer's films during the 1970s included the thriller Zeppelin, in which she co-starred with Michael York, and a remake of Agatha Christie's frequently filmed murder mystery Ten Little Indians. In 1972, she starred in two Italian horror films directed by Mario Bava: Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil. The latter was subsequently re-edited (with 1975 footage inserted) to make a different film called House of Exorcism. Sommer went back to Italy to act in additional scenes for Lisa and the Devil, which its producer inserted into the film to convert it to House of Exorcism, against the wishes of the director.[citation needed]

In 1975, Peter Rogers cast her in the British comedy Carry On Behind as the Russian Professor Vrooshka.[2] She became the Carry On films' joint highest-paid performer, at £30,000; this was an honour that she shared with Phil Silvers (who starred in Follow That Camel).

Most of her movie work during the decade came in European films. After the 1979 comedy The Prisoner of Zenda, which reunited her with Sellers, the actress did virtually no more acting in Hollywood films, concentrating more on her artwork.

Sommer also performed as a singer, recording and releasing several albums.

She provided the voice for Yzma in the German release of The Emperor's New Groove.

Later workEdit

In the 1980s, Sommer hosted a syndicated program titled The Exciting World of Speed and Beauty.[3]

After the 1990s, Sommer concentrated more on painting than on acting. As an actress, she had worked in half a dozen countries learning the languages (she speaks seven languages) and storing up images which she has subsequently expressed on canvas. Her artwork shows a strong Marc Chagall influence.

Sommer was embroiled in a long-running feud with Zsa Zsa Gabor that began in 1984 when both appeared on Circus of the Stars. This had escalated into a multimillion-dollar libel suit by 1993.[4]

In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[5]

As of early May 2017, Frau Baronin (Baroness) von Sommer was living in Los Angeles, California.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1964, she married Hollywood columnist Joe Hyams (6 June 1923 – 8 November 2008), who was 17 years older, in Las Vegas.

Then she met Wolf Walther, eight years her junior and the general manager of a luxury hotel, Essex House in New York City. They were married on 29 August 1993 in Franconia.[6] In a 2014 interview, Sommer described how she and Walther met:

"I was in New York City starring in Tamara and had to stay there for four months. So, I had to find an apartment but they were excruciatingly expensive, tiny and loud. As I knew the managing director of the Essex House, I wanted to talk to him about renting a room but the hotel had a new managing director, a man by the name of Wolf Walther. So we met. For him, it was love at first sight. For me, it took a little longer, but not much longer. As you may know, Tamara is a play in which the audience follows the actor of their choice, and as you may also know, my husband is 6'5" and hard to miss. I saw him every night in the audience, following me. Every night. And that was the beginning of the greatest love story of my life, still unfolding and getting better by the day."[7]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b "Elke Sommer: The Official Website - Biography". Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
  2. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 289. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  3. ^ "Elke Sommer: The Official Website - the Exciting World of Speed and Beauty".
  4. ^ Bob Pool, $3.3-Million Libel Award in Sommer-Gabor Feud, Los Angeles Times, 9 December 1993; accessed 15 January 2011.
  5. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  6. ^ "Elke Sommer: The Official Website - Biography Page 11".
  7. ^ Armstrong, Richard. "Elke Sommer Talks with the Cafe About Her Movies, Her Art, and How She Earned the Nickname 'The Brute'". Classic Film & TV Cafe.

External linksEdit