Ingrid Pitt, who survived a Nazi concentration camp and dodged Communist police to become one of Britain’s best-known horror stars, died Tuesday in London only days after her 73rd birthday.
Her daughter, Steffanie Pitt, said her mother collapsed while on her way to a birthday dinner to be held in her honor over the weekend. The cause of death wasn’t known, although Pitt had recently been in poor health.
Known in Britain principally as the buxom bloodsucker in “Vampire Lovers” and “Countess Dracula,” Ingrid Pitt began her acting career with a role in the 1968 action-adventure movie “Where Eagles Dare” that starred Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
Signed by Britain’s Hammer Films — home to Christopher Lee’s “Dracula” — she played alongside the horror legend in 1971’s “The House That Dripped Blood” and 1973’s “The Wicker Man.”
Pitt’s birth in Poland on Nov. 21, 1937, interrupted her parents’ attempts to flee Nazi Germany and escape to Britain.
Snared by the Germans, Pitt and her mother, who was of Jewish descent, were interned at the Stutthof concentration camp. Pitt survived the war and joined the Berliner Ensemble, where she worked under actress Helene Weigel, the widow of German playwright Bertolt Brecht.
But the political climate in East Germany didn’t suit Pitt, who was outspoken in her criticism of Communist officials there.
She left Berlin on the night of her planned stage debut, diving into the River Spree, which runs through the German capital. Pitt was rescued by a handsome U.S. officer, whom she would later marry.
Pitt moved to America, and — following the breakup of her marriage — to Spain, where she starred in her first movies despite a limited command of the language. She was discovered while watching a bullfight, and her career in Hollywood and British horror films followed.
Although Pitt had a series of other roles in film and on television, it was her 1970s vampire films that drew a cult following.
She told an interviewer in 2006 that she did not particularly enjoy watching horror movies.
“I was in a concentration camp as a child and I don’t want to see horror,” Pitt said. “I think it’s very amazing that I do horror films when I had this awful childhood. But maybe that’s why I’m good at it.”
In addition to her daughter, Pitt is survived by her second husband and a granddaughter.