Hildegard Knef and Christopher Isherwood

Hildegard Knef (© Jack de Nijs)

In this series of highlights from the Radio Netherlands’ archives marking the station’s 50th anniversary, two interviews: one with British-born writer Christopher Isherwood, but we begin with German actress, singer and writer Hildegard Knef (1925-2002). After the war, she was launched by Hollywood as the new Dietrich. However, three years later, in 1949, she returned to Europe without having a single Hollywood film to her name. After a number of successful movies in the Old World, in 1955, Knef became a Broadway star in the Cole Porter musical “Silk Stockings”, based on the Garbo film “Ninotchka”. A large part of her autobiography, “The Gift Horse”, chronicles her growing up in Nazi Germany and the confusing post-war years. In 1972, Nevil Gray spoke to Knef about this period in her life. 

While Hildegard Knef was growing up in Berlin, Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was also living in the German capital, witnessing the rise of Nazism. His impressions of those years are recorded in his “Berlin Stories”. They were later adapted into a stage play called “I am a Camera”. That’s a reference to the detached way in which he observed the world. It was a style he pioneered and which, interestingly enough, Hildegard Knef used as well. The play was later turned into a musical and finally into the movie “Cabaret”, starring Liza Minnelli. Isherwood’s name will forever be linked to that of poets W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender, his contemporaries and close friends. All three are sadly dead now, but they’ve left an indelible mark on 20th century literature. When Isherwood visited Holland in 1981, Ian de Stains spoke to him.  

Presenter: Nick Meanwell

Broadcast: October 30, 1977