Romy Schneider

Romy Schneider (born Rosemarie Magdalena Albach, 23 September 1938 29 May 1982) was a German-French film actress and voice actress. She started her career in the German Heimatfilm genre in the early 1950s when she was 15. From 1955 to 1957, she played the central character of Empress Elisabeth of Austria in the Austrian Sissi trilogy, and later reprised the role in a more mature version in Visconti's Ludwig. Schneider moved to France, where she made successful and critically acclaimed films with some of the most notable film directors of that era.

Romy Schneider
Schneider in 1973
Rosemarie Magdalena Albach

(1938-09-23)23 September 1938
Vienna, Austria
Died29 May 1982(1982-05-29) (aged 43)
Paris, France
Cause of deathCardiac arrest
CitizenshipGerman, French
Years active1953–1982
Harry Meyen
(m. 1966; div. 1975)

Daniel Biasini
(m. 1975; div. 1981)
Partner(s)Alain Delon (1959–1963)
Laurent Pétin (1981–1982)
Children2, including Sarah Biasini
Parent(s)Wolf Albach-Retty
Magda Schneider
RelativesRosa Albach-Retty (grandmother)

Early life

Schneider was born Rosemarie Magdalena Albach in Vienna 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.

Four weeks after Schneider's birth, the parents brought her to Schönau am Königssee in Germany, where she and later her brother Wolf-Dieter (born 1941) grew up with their grandparents Franz Xaver and Maria Schneider on the estate named Mariengrund. In her first year Romy Schneider was given into the hands of a governess. The parents were very rarely present due to their acting engagements. In 1943 they separated and were divorced in 1945.

Schneider was enrolled in the elementary school of Schönau in September 1944 and attended from July 1949 the girls residential school at Castle Goldenstein, a private secondary school of the Augustinian Canonesses of the Congregation of Notre Dame in Elsbethen near Salzburg. Already during her schooldays, she discovered her passion for acting, which is why she was often on stage at theatrical performances at the residential school. In her diary entry of June 10, 1952, she wrote: "If it were up to me, I would immediately become an actress. ... Every time I see a nice movie, my first thoughts are about the idea: I definitely have to become an actress. Yes! I have to!"[1] On July 12, 1953, she left the residential school Goldenstein with the degree of Mittlere Reife.

After the summer holidays, she was supposed to start studying at the Kölner Werkschulen in Cologne, as she had shown a talent for painting and drawing during art classes at school. Further, Magda Schneider was already in Cologne with the restaurateur and entrepreneur Hans Herbert Blatzheim. However, she did not start studies in favour of her first film role.

After her parents' divorce in 1945, Magda took charge of Romy and her brother Wolf-Dieter, eventually supervising the young girl's career, often appearing alongside her daughter. Her career was also overseen by her stepfather Blatzheim, who, Schneider indicated, had an unhealthy interest in her.[2][3][4][5][6]

Early career

Romy Schneider's first film, made when she was 15, was 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 Vickie, and in Britain as Victoria in Dover).

Schneider's breakthrough came with her portrayal of Empress Elisabeth 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 The Girl and the Legend (1957), working with a young Horst Buchholz, and Monpti (1957), directed by Helmut Käutner, again with Buchholz.

Schneider soon starred in Christine (1958), a remake of Max Ophüls's 1933 film Liebelei (in which her mother Magda Schneider had played the same role). It was during the filming of Christine 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.[7]

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. She was also introduced by Delon to Luchino 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 a starring role in Good Neighbor Sam (1964), a comedy with Jack Lemmon, while What's New Pussycat? (1965), although American-financed, was shot in and around Paris. Schneider co-starred with Peter O'Toole, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen.

Schneider and Delon decided to separate in 1963, although they remained close life-long friends. They continued to work together in such films as La Piscine (The Swimming Pool, 1968), which revitalized her career, and The Assassination of Trotsky (1972).

Later career

Schneider continued to work in France during the 1970s, most notably with director Claude Sautet on five films. Their first collaboration, The Things of Life (Les choses de la vie, 1970) with Michel Piccoli, was a great success, and made Schneider an icon in France. The three worked together again for the noir thriller Max et les ferrailleurs (Max and the Junkmen, 1971), and she appeared with Yves Montand in Sautet's César et Rosalie (1972).

Schneider portrayed a more mature and realistic Elisabeth of Austria in Ludwig (1972), Visconti's film about the life of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. "Sissi sticks to me just like oatmeal", Schneider once said.[8]

Other successes from this period included Le Train (1973), where she played a German-Jewish refugee in World War II, Claude Chabrol's thriller Innocents with Dirty Hands (Les innocents aux mains sales, 1975) with Rod Steiger, and Le vieux fusil (1975). The gritty That Most Important Thing: Love (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 A Simple Story (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.)[9][10][11]

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 film The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). Negotiations broke down when he called Schneider a "dumb cow",[12] to which she responded by declaring she would never work with such a "beast". Fassbinder cast Hanna Schygulla instead, reviving his professional association with an actress to whom he had also been offensive.

Schneider starred in Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch (La mort en direct, 1980), playing a dying woman whose last days are watched on national television via a camera implanted in the brain of a journalist (Harvey Keitel). It is based on David G. Compton's novel. Schneider's last film was La Passante du Sans-Souci (The Passerby, 1982).

Personal life

Following the end of her relationship with Delon, Schneider married German director and actor Harry Meyen in July 1966. The couple had a son, David Christopher (19661981), but later divorced.

She appeared as one of 28 women under the banner We've had abortions! (German: Wir haben abgetrieben!) on the cover page of the West German magazine Stern on 6 June 1971. In that issue, 374 women publicly stated that they had had pregnancies terminated, which at that time was illegal.[13]

In 1975, Schneider married Daniel Biasini, her private secretary; they separated in 1981. Their daughter, Sarah Magdalena, is now an actress.


In July 1981, Schneider's son David died at the age of 14 after attempting to climb the spiked fence at his stepfather's parents' home and puncturing his femoral artery in the process. Schneider began drinking alcohol excessively after his death. However, Claude Pétin—a friend of hers—said that she no longer drank at the time of her own death.[14]

Schneider was found dead in her Paris apartment on 29 May 1982. The examining magistrate Laurent Davenas declared that she died from cardiac arrest.[15] Pétin said that Schneider's cardiac arrest was due to a weakened heart caused by a kidney operation she had had months before.[14]

Her tombstone at Boissy-sans-Avoir, Yvelines, bears her birth name, Rosemarie Albach. Funeral guests were Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Piccoli, Claude Sautet, former husband Daniel Biasini, and Laurent Pétin. Shortly afterwards, Delon arranged for David to be buried in the same grave.[16]

Enduring popularity

The French journalist Eugène Moineau initiated in 1984 the Prix Romy Schneider. It is one of the most prestigious awards for upcoming actresses in the French film industry, and is given 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 program 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 InterCity service IC 535 from Wien Südbahnhof to Graz was named "Romy Schneider".[17][18]

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.[19][20] The project was cancelled in July 2009.[21] A musical about Schneider, Romy – Die Welt aus Gold (Romy – The Golden World) was premiered in 2009 at the Theater Heilbronn.[22] In November 2009, the ARD broadcast the feature film Romy with Jessica Schwarz in the title role.[23] The film 3 Days in Quiberon (2018) by Emily Atef describes a 1981 episode in Schneider's life in the French town of Quiberon.[24]


When the White Lilacs Bloom Again1953Evchen FörsterHans Deppe
Fireworks1954Anna OberholzerPaul Burkhard, Erik Charell, and Kurt Hoffmann
Victoria in Dover (Mädchenjahre einer Königin)1954Princess Victoria / Queen VictoriaErnst Marischka
Die Deutschmeister1955Stanzi HübnerErnst Marischka
The Last Man1955Niddy HoevelmannHarald Braun
Sissi1955SissiErnst Marischka
Kitty and the Great Big World1956Kitty DupontAlfred Weidenmann
Sissi – Die junge Kaiserin1956SissiErnst Marischka
The Girl and the Legend1957MaudJosef von Báky
Love from Paris (Monpti)1957Anne-Claire JouvainHelmut Käutner
Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin1957SissiErnst Marischka
Scampolo1958ScampoloAlfred Weidenmann
Mädchen in Uniform1958Manuela von MeinhardisGéza von Radványi
Christine1958Christine WeiringPierre Gaspard-Huit
Eva (Die Halbzarte)1959NicoleRolf Thiele
Mademoiselle Ange (Ein Engel auf Erden)1959Stewardess / AngelGéza von Radványi
Die schöne Lügnerin1959Fanny EmmetsriederAxel von Ambesser
Magnificent Sinner (Katia)1959KatiaRobert Siodmak
Purple Noon (Plein soleil)1960Freddie's companionRené ClémentCameo (uncredited)
Die Sendung der Lysistrata1961Myrrhine / UschiFritz KortnerTV movie
Boccaccio '701961PupeLuchino Visconti(segment "Il lavoro")
Le Combat dans l'île1962AnneAlain Cavalier
The Trial1962LeniOrson Welles
The Victors1962RegineCarl Foreman
The Cardinal1963Annemarie von HartmanOtto Preminger
Good Neighbor Sam1964Janet LagerlofDavid Swift
L'Enfer1964[F 1]OdetteHenri-Georges Clouzot
L'Amour à la mer1964The starGuy Gilles
What's New Pussycat?1965Carole WernerClive Donner
La Voleuse1966Julia KreuzJean Chapot
10:30 P.M. Summer1966ClaireJules Dassin
Triple Cross1966CountessTerence Young
Is Paris Burning? (Paris brûle-t-il ?)1966René Clément(scenes deleted)
Romy: Anatomy of a Face (Romy. Porträt eines Gesichts)1967HerselfHans-Jürgen Syberberg
The Swimming Pool1969MarianneJacques Deray
Otley1969ImogenDick Clement
The Things of Life1970HélèneClaude Sautet
My Lover My Son1970Francesca AndersonJohn Newland
Qui ?1970MarinaLéonard Keigel
Bloomfield1971NiraRichard Harris
La califfa1970Irene CorsiniAlberto Bevilacqua
Max et les ferrailleurs1971LilyClaude Sautet
The Assassination of Trotsky1972Gita SamuelsJoseph Losey
César and Rosalie1972RosalieClaude Sautet
Ludwig1972Elisabeth of AustriaLuchino Visconti
The Train1973Anna KupferPierre Granier-Deferre
Le Mouton enragé1974Roberte GroultMichel Deville
Un amour de pluie1974ElizabethJean-Claude Brialy
Le Trio infernal1974Philomena SchmidtFrancis Girod
L'important c'est d'aimer1974Nadine ChevalierAndrzej Żuławski
Innocents with Dirty Hands1975Julie WormserClaude Chabrol
Le vieux fusil1975Clara DandieuRobert Enrico
Mado1976HélèneClaude Sautet
A Woman at Her Window (Une femme à sa fenêtre)1976Margot SantoriniPierre Granier-Deferre
Group Portrait with a Lady1977Leni GruytenAleksandar Petrović
A Simple Story1978MarieClaude Sautet
Bloodline1979Hélène MartinTerence Young
Clair de femme1979Lydia TovalskiCosta-Gavras
Death Watch1979Katherine MortenhoeBertrand Tavernier
The Lady Banker1980Emma EckhertFrancis Girod
Fantasma d'amore1981Anna Brigatti ZighiDino Risi
Garde à vue1981Chantal MartinaudClaude Miller
The Passerby1982Elsa Wiener / Lina BaumsteinJacques Rouffio(final film role)
  1. L'Enfer remained unfinished in 1964; much footage from the film was included in the documentary L' Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot (2009) by Serge Bromberg.


Awards named after Romy Schneider


  1. "Die Königin der Schmerzen" by Matthias Matussek and Lars-Olav Beier, Der Spiegel, 21 May 2007 (in German)
  2. "Biography" (in French). Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2007. Romy témoignant par la suite de l'intérêt malsain qu'il lui portait.
  3. "Biography and career" (in Dutch). Retrieved 28 October 2007. waarvan Romy later aangaf dat hij een ongezonde belangstelling voor haar had
  4. Surkus, Andrea. "Auch das noch – Alice Schwarzer entdeckt Romy Schneider als Frauensymbol". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 4 November 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2007. und will mit ihr schlafen
  5. Gretter, Susanne. "Biography" (in German and French). FemBio Frauen-Biographieforschung e.V. Retrieved 28 October 2007. Il a clairement proposé de coucher avec moi.
  6. Leinkauf, Thomas (19 September 1998). "Der Liebling der Machos". Berliner Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2007. Blatzheim in ihrer Jugend mit ihr schlafen wollte.
  7. Nick Rees-Roberts; Darren Waldron, eds. (2015). Alain Delon: Style, Stardom and Masculinity. Bloomsbury USA. p. 52. ISBN 9781623564452.
  8. "Romy Schneider – Bilder einer Ikone" (in German). Compress VerlagsgesmbH & Co KG. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2007. Sissi pappt an mir wie Griesbrei
  9. "Und retten kann uns nur Heinz Schenk". Stern (in German). 9 August 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  10. Beier, Lars-Olav (23 May 2007). "Die Berührbare". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  11. Je später der Abend: Burkhard Driest and Romy Schneider on YouTube, (October 1974, 29 seconds) (in German)
  12. Derek Malcolm "Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Marriage of Maria Braun", The Guardian, 28 January 1999; retrieved 2 March 2009.
  13. "Stern "Wir haben abgetrieben!"" (in German). Lebendiges Museum Online. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  14. "Romy Schneider ne s'est pas suicidée". Paris Match (in French). Paris. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  15. "Der frühe Tod von Romy Schneider", Die Welt, 29 May 2012 (in German)
  16. Delon, Alain (11 June 1982). "Adieu ma puppelé". Paris Match (in French) (#1724). Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  17. "Neues Kursbuch" by Thomas Pröglhöf, 23 November 2002 (in German)
  18. Question on notice, Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie, 31 October 2002 (in German)
  19. Sander, Daniel (12 February 2008). "Ein Soap-Sternchen gibt den Weltstar". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  20. "Ich hatte eine Gänsehaut". Süddeutsche Zeitung. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  21. "Catterfeld sagt Projekt ab", Focus, 27 July 2009 (in German)
  22. Romy – Die Welt aus Gold Archived 7 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine (in German)
  23. Romy – the movie at Südwestrundfunk (in German)
  24. "NDR Koproduktion hat Chance auf Goldenen Bären", Norddeutscher Rundfunk, 16 January 2018 (in German)

Further reading

  • Tast, Hans-Jürgen (2008). Romy Schneider: ein Leben auf Titelseiten; [anlässlich des 70. Geburtstags der Schauspielerin Romy Schneider] [Romy Schneider: a life on front pages; [on the occasion of the 70th birthday of actress Romy Schneider]]. Kulleraugen (in German). 36. Schellerten: Kulleraugen-Medienschriften. p. 33. ISBN 978-3-88842-036-8.
  • Töteberg, Michael (2009) Romy Schneider (in German). Rowohlt Verlag. ISBN 978-3-499-50669-7
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