Hildegard Knef: Chronology of her life 1980 – 1989

The author is not responsible for the correctness of the following information.



February 1980:

The German and foreign press report – most of them dismissively – on Hildegard Knef’s face-lifting (one paper wrote: “That is not our Knef anymore”); however, well-known plastic surgeon Dr. Edmund Kozlowski welcomes the coverage, saying, “I appreciate Frau Knef’s frankness about her surgery. She does pioneering work for many people who haven’t yet had the courage to do it.”

February 2, 1980:

In an interview with “Bunte” magazine, she revises her opinion on the medical profession: “I have attacked many doctors in my book Das Urteil. But now I feel indebted to them. I acknowledge that [conventional] medicine can indeed be helpful. A face-lift is much better than taking valium. (…) I also think that it should be covered by health insurance.”

March 1, 1980:

First public appearance after her surgery, on the TV show Auf los geht’s los; two weeks later, TV magazine “Hör zu” writes in a review: “The appearance of freshly lifted Knef came close of being an embarrassment. Hilde was indeed right – she came back much too early into the spotlight.”

August 1980:

The LP Da ist eine Zeit... is released – her last studio album until 1999.

September 1980:

The German yellow press reports on slow ticket sales for her upcoming concert tour: 14 days before her Hamburg concert, only about 100 tickets have been sold, in Kassel just 15; the demand abroad is said to be particularly poor; the ticket price of DM 54 is considered much too high; the press speculates on the cancellation of the tour.

September 15, 1980:

Her last concert tour, Tournee, Tournee, starts off at Berlin’s Philharmonie; musical director: Kai Rautenberg; the tour was planned as a “world tour” (including concerts in the US, Canada, South America, Australia and Japan) but eventually takes place only in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands; the press reviews are bad, prompting Knef to comment, “I cannot talk to German critics on the subject of my concerts. I don’t talk to eunuchs about love, either”; the 70-cities tour – often in front of half-empty halls – is accompanied by a book of the same name, featuring an extensive Knef interview, a discography and a filmography.

Receives the “Golden Tulip”, a Dutch music award.

Her friendship with Marlene Dietrich is seriously tarnished after she refuses Knef’s request to contact couturier Yves Saint-Laurent: “Your idea to have a world-famous man travel to Germany in order to study your ‘movements’ is sheer megalomania”; they stop writing letters to each other; however, Dietrich continues to collect every newspaper clipping on Knef right until her death in 1992.

While attending a circus show at Berlin ’s Deutschlandhalle, she gets bitten by a chimpanzee - resulting in surgery on her right thumb.

November 1980:

Titled Tournee, Tournee..., a double album of her concert tour is released, selling relatively well; the record includes self-written songs for a musical based on her book Der geschenkte Gaul (composed by Harald Faltermeier, later Harold Faltermeyer); the – revised – musical sees its posthumous première in Wilhelmshaven in 2003.

November 1980:

On the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the city of Los Angeles , Hildegard Knef appears as a guest of singer Udo Jürgens at the Hollywood Palladium.


February 26, 1981:

A live recording of her tour concert in Stuttgart , Konzert frei Haus, is aired on TV (with a rating of just 13 %).

April 1981:

Germany ’s yellow press reports on bailiffs hunting for Knef because of unpaid bills by a Dusseldorf hotel for an amount of DM 10,000 and by a Cologne travel agency for DM 150,000.

Summer 1981:

Ex-husband Kurt Hirsch organises a villa for her, at 1422 Devlin Drive, West Hollywood , where she writes her last two books, So nicht and Romy; in the winter of 1982/83, Knef and her family move there permanently.

A US producer offers her $ 1 million for her musical – but Knef declines, as it was meant to become some kind of “Nazi porn”.


February 1982:

Hildegard Knef collapses due to her morphine addiction, but, she says to the press, a “sleeping cure” helped her to get well again.

May 6, 1982:

Starring role in the TV version of Georg Kaiser’s play Der Gärtner von Toulouse (The Gardener of Toulouse).

May 1982:

Her former publisher Fritz Molden files for bankruptcy.

August 1982:

The third part of her literary autobiography, So nicht, is published after Knef presented it at the Frankfurt book fair; its sales are disappointing, though, and the book is only translated into Dutch (Niet zo).

October 7, 1982:

“Bunte” magazine publishes a 10-part series on the life of recently deceased actress Romy Schneider, “Weißt du noch, Romy?” (“Do You Remember, Romy?”), that Knef wrote within 2 months in Hollywood; on October 13, Schneider’s mother, Magda, protests publicly via “Bild” newspaper, accusing her of lies and denounces her for claiming wrongly to have been a good friend of Romy Schneider; as a result, Knef is accused by the yellow press of trying to profit from her death.

October 20, 1982:

Personal appearance on a talk show at Dusseldorf ’s Prinzinger Restaurant.

November 6, 1982:

Yellow press magazine “Neue Revue” publishes an interview with her, headlined, “First cashing up millions, then abusing her fans: The true face of Hildegard Knef”; Knef criticises the lack of recognition of cultural achievements in Germany – as evidence, she names the fact that she has written an “opera” that “gets appreciated only in America. The German theatres show no interest at all”; a few days later “Bild” newspaper, referring to that interview, screams the headline “Knef: I hate all Germans!”

December 1982:

Knef and her family – especially 14 year old Christina – suffer from the huge uproar in the German press; they decide to relocate to Hollywood; hardly arrived, Knef has do undergo several critical operations on her jaw-bone.

Her contract with record company Philips expires but is not renewed.


Hildegard Knef once again resumes painting, leading to an exhibition in 1988.

Her last book, Romy – Betrachtung eines Lebens, is published – a biography of Romy Schneider, based on her 1982 series in “Bunte” magazine.


January 1984:

Shooting begins in Normandy , France , for the French-German co-production Flügel und Fesseln.

May 7, 1984:

Guest appearance in an episode of the American TV series Scarecrow & Mrs. King.

June 1984:

Critical intestinal surgery in a California hospital.


February 1985:

Flügel und Fesseln is shown at the Berlin film festival; after the screening, the director, Helma Sanders-Brahms, is greeted with catcalls – Knef herself is not present and is told they were only meant for the director, not for her; on May 31st, the film hits Germany’s cinemas.

June 14, 1985:

Recurring to a concert evening in October 1980, TV magazine “Hör zu” accuses Knef of having said to the audience in a “half-empty” hall: “This [German] people doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned!”

November 1985:

Knef returns to Berlin to shoot scenes for the upcoming TV portrait Nein, ich gebe niemals auf, celebrating her 60 birthday in December; she appears on several TV chat shows saying she has written a theatre play and a new album, both in English (never released, though).


January 19, 1986:

In Munich ’s Deutsches Theater, start of her last, 10-stop concert tour, Stationen meines Lebens (“Stations of my life”); the tour covers Germany , Switzerland , the Netherlands and Belgium – where the tour finishes at Brussels ’ Palais des Beaux-Arts; Kai Rautenberg is again its musical director; while the audiences are enthusiastic, the press reviews are bad.

February 1986:

Her doctor demands her to quit smoking (“Marlboro” being her favourite brand) – to no avail.


October 3, 1987:

Successful come-back on stage, as Fraulein Schneider in the musical Cabaret, at Berlin ’s Theater des Westens.


Winter 1988:

In Massachusetts , USA , shooting for the Italian horror production La casa 4: Witchcraft (co-starring Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff) – a huge flop after its release.

February 1988:

Several yellow press magazines report that her daughter Christina decided for an abortion – Knef vehemently denies the story.

March 6, 1988:

Christina marries Peter R. Gardiner, an American film studio executive (Warner Bros.), a son of British actor Reginald Gardiner, and who is 19 years her senior; the wedding takes place in a Presbyterian church in Beverly Hills, CA. (The couple moved to Santa Fe, NM, in 2005 and divorced in 2009; Gardiner died, at age 61, on 13 January 2011 of a heart attack; Christina operates a delivery service for self-made European-style bakery goods).

August 1988:

Concert, a live recording from her 1986 tour, is released on CD and later, posthumously, on DVD (“Stationen”).

December 3, 1988:

Guest appearance on the hugely popular TV show Wetten, dass...

December 4, 1988:

An exhibition of 40 Knef paintings opens in a Berlin hotel, called “Los Angeles – Eindrücke zwischen Armut und Reichtum” (“L.A. – Impressions of poverty and affluence”); shown later in Munich and Zurich, too; the paintings were done in the 3 years before, with one of them not quite ready at the time – Knef tells “Stern” magazine, “it was flown over by Lufthansa while still wet”.

December 15, 1988:

In an interview with “Stern”, Knef is asked on her thoughts about the film La casa 4: Witchcraft, just released in Germany : “I had hoped this film gets only seen by sheep on the Falklands . On films like these I keep saying, money vanishes – shame stucks. (…) I have done many films for lots of money, always hoping they would turn out to be good. On this film, I have no excuses. I knew right away, this is crap. But when you get offered a 6-digit dollar sum for just seven days of shooting, you simply cannot say ‘no’. (…) As I knew this film would be awful I insisted on having my name placed at the very bottom of its credits and on billboards. (…) I haven’t seen the film.”

December 25, 1988:

At the 75 birthday party of “Stern” founder/editor Henri Nannen, Knef suffers from heavy morphine withdrawal symptoms.

Bavaria studios acquire the filming rights to Der geschenkte Gaul, for a 7-digit DM sum; an English version is being prepared and Volker Schlöndorff is under discussion as its director (the plan fails to materialise, cf. entry October 6, 1992).


Autumn/Winter 1989:

In St Martin on the French Atlantic coast, shooting takes place for the German-French TV co-production In inniger Feindschaft, in which Knef plays a 100-year-old; she is injured in a car accident (brain contusion) and drops out for 6 weeks.

April 28, 1989:

A gallery in the provincial town of Erlenbach shows a new exhibition of Knef paintings, titeld “Kalifornische Impressionen” (“Impressions from California ”).

November 9, 1989:

While still working in France, Hildegard Knef watches the fall of the Berlin Wall on TV; shortly afterwards, she and her husband decide to leave Hollywood (where she was threatened with eviction) for Germany; they move into a penthouse in Munich-Bogenhausen, Maria-Theresia-Straße; the removal cost is subsidised with DM 15,000 by the Paul Klinger Sozialwerk, a welfare organisation (Knef’s bank accounts were frozen due to high debts).