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Obituaries

Kurt Kreuger, 89; Actor Chafed at Being Typecast as a Nazi in 1940s War Movies

July 19, 2006|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Kurt Kreuger, a Swiss-German actor who fled Hollywood in frustration over being typecast as a Nazi in 1940s war movies, died July 12 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a stroke, said his friend Lynne Riehman. He was 89.

With his Continental accent and rugged good looks, Kreuger was once the third most-requested male pinup at 20th Century Fox, behind Tyrone Power and John Payne, according to the 1992 edition of "Who's Who in Hollywood."

Among Kreuger's career highlights were the 1945 suspense film "Paris Underground," in which he played a Nazi captain, and "Unfaithfully Yours," the 1948 Preston Sturges comedy that provided Kreuger with a rare opportunity to stretch -- he portrayed the personal assistant of Rex Harrison, who suspected Kreuger was having an affair with his wife.

During the 1940s, Kreuger appeared in more than 20 films, including 1944's "Mademoiselle Fifi," a movie set in the Franco-Prussian war that was his first major screen credit. He mainly played German officers in World War II films.

When Kreuger asked Darryl F. Zanuck to give him better roles, the studio boss reportedly responded, "What's your hurry? With your looks, you'll be good at 50."

The actor moved to Europe and played the lead in several German films but returned to the U.S. in 1950 after being injured in a car accident.

He played the German submarine navigator in the 1957 Robert Mitchum movie "The Enemy Below." His final film, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre," was released in 1967. Through much of the 1950s and '60s, he mainly appeared on television.

"Kurt was an interesting character. He was robust, articulate and wore beautiful Savile Row clothes," Riehman said. "After he got fed up with his stereotyping in the movies, he made a career in real estate buying and renovating houses."

He bought and sold more than 30 properties, primarily in Beverly Hills, and became wealthy.

For more than 40 years, the bachelor lived in the same house in Beverly Hills and kept a second home in Aspen, Colo. He skied until he was 87.

Kreuger was born July 23, 1916, in Michenberg, Germany, and raised in St. Moritz, Switzerland. His father was a businessman, and his mother died when he was 6.

An only child, Kreuger attended the London School of Economics and Columbia University, intending to study medicine. When he dropped out to pursue acting, his father cut off his allowance.

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