Gert Frobe, the ginger-haired, rotund comic actor who portrayed what has been described as Ian Fleming's "kinkiest villain," Goldfinger, has died following a heart attack.
Frobe, a former violinist and cabaret performer, was 75 when he died in a Munich hospital Monday. He had suffered the attack last Wednesday, a day after he returned to the stage for the first time since a cancer operation in 1986.
Frobe was born Karl-Gerhard Frobe in Planitz in what is now East Germany. He was a natural-born comic, described by critics as Germany's version of American Danny Kaye.
In Nearly 100 Films
Frobe played in nearly 100 films, including roles in the 1961 U.S. production of "The Longest Day" and the British-produced "The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," filmed in 1964.
But he was best-known internationally for his role as the greedy villain "Goldfinger" who battled Sean Connery's James Bond in the 1964 film version of the Fleming thriller.
In the picture Goldfinger portrays a preposterous multimillionaire criminal who schemes to rob the U.S. Mint at Ft. Knox. Bond, of course, thwarts him.
The professional triumph Frobe managed in that film was overshadowed a year later when he was quoted in the British newspaper Daily Mail as saying: "Naturally I was a Nazi" during the Third Reich.
Frobe denied making the comment and insisted: "What I told an English reporter during an interview . . . was that during the Third Reich I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people although I was a member of the (Nazi) party."
Despite Frobe's denial, Israel banned all of his films for months until Mario Blumenau informed the Israeli Embassy in Vienna that Frobe had indeed hidden Blumenau and his mother from the Nazis.
Frobe studied theater under Dresden actor Erich Ponto and Paul Guenther in Berlin during the early years of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
After theaters were closed by the Nazis in September, 1944, Frobe was called into the German army, where he served until the end of World War II.
'A New Danny Kaye'
In his first major role in a film, "Berlin Ballads," which opened in European cinemas in 1948, film critics wrote: "Germany has a new Danny Kaye." In it he played a character called Otto Normalverbraucher, or Otto Normal Consumer, a soldier returning to a devastated Germany from a prisoner of war camp.
Although he was trained as a classical violinist and played his first recital on German radio when he was in his teens, Frobe turned his back on music to pursue a dramatic career.
Among his other films are "The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse," "Threepenny Opera," "A High Wind in Jamaica," "Is Paris Burning?" in which he played Gen. Dietrich von Sholititz, Hitler's commandant in Paris, "And Then There Were None" and "Bloodline."