Television: Actor Fritz Wepper dies

Television: Actor Fritz Wepper dies

Fritz Wepper entertained German television audiences for decades – for example as Harry Klein in the cult series “Derrick”. Now the actor has died at the age of 82. A portrait.

Fritz Wepper saw himself as blessed by luck. “I’m a Sunday child,” he stated a few years ago. Anyone who met the actor could indeed experience a cheerful person who could talk and chat in a charming and entertaining way.

Despite many blows of fate, the Munich resident maintained his optimism, also because he always knew his younger brother Elmar was at his side. Their childhood had brought them together and awakened the same passion in them – acting. Now both are dead. Fritz Wepper also died around five months after Elmar, at the age of 82, as his lawyer and good friend Norman Synek announced.

Between rubble and puppet theater

Wepper’s childhood was full of deprivation. His father was reported missing in Russia in 1944 during World War II. The mother raised Fritz and her brother Elmar, who was almost three years younger, alone. But it wasn’t sad. His mother was very cultured and taught them to laugh. “I learned from my mother and grandmother not to take things so seriously,” Wepper once said. One of her pleasures: playing with the Punch and Judy show. He also liked to talk about adventures with other children in bombed-out post-war Munich, where they climbed over rubble properties and explored everything.

One of Wepper’s favorite heroes on screen was a duo who appeared with self-irony and a lot of humor: Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, known from comedies like “The Lucky Guy” or “The Strange Couple.” He was also taken with the Munich comedian Karl Valentin early on and aroused his enthusiasm for film and theater, as well as the entertaining and philosophical film series “Don Camillo and Peppone”.

Wepper was all the happier when he was allowed to appear on stage in 1952 in the children’s play “Peter Pan” at the Munich State Theater. Seven years later the breakthrough, also internationally, came with Bernhard Wicki’s anti-war film “Die Brücke”. Further offers followed, for example for the film “On the Reeperbahn at half past midnight”.

Brotherly love and jet-set life

Acting – a passion that Wepper shared with his brother Elmar, who starred in Doris Dörrie’s highly acclaimed film “Cherry Blossoms – Hanami”. She also enjoyed fishing, especially fly fishing. “A wonderful ritual has grown out of this,” Elmar Wepper once told “Bild am Sonntag”. “If we lose sight of each other for a long time for professional reasons, we say: Let’s go to the water.” Then smoke the fresh catch for a quarter of an hour, accompanied by a very good wine, and then the conversation ends in “mmh, aah and cheers,” said Wepper. But the older one had something ahead of him: “I would sometimes wish for his spontaneity,” Elmar once said about his big brother.

Fritz Wepper was admired and received numerous awards, including the Bavarian Television Prize. And he enjoyed the jet-set life. “Fritzi has pride of ownership, is a passionate collector, hunter and fisherman. Giving up enjoyment is not part of his DNA,” said actor Bernd Herzsprung, describing his good friend. The number of people Wepper knew was also illustrious. In 1968 he filmed the crime thriller “The Man with the Glass Eye” with Iris Berben. He celebrated with Leopold Prince of Bavaria, danced with Sweden’s Queen Silvia and got along with the US actress Liza Minnelli, whom he met while filming the musical “Cabaret”. A few weeks earlier, Minnelli had wished her good friend to get well when things were already bad for him: “Please pray for Fritz that he gets the peace and love that he always brought into so many lives, including mine. Fritz, I love you, now and always, Liza.”

Otherwise, Fritz Wepper preferred to shield his private life. In 1979 he married his girlfriend Angela, who had two daughters. Sophie was born in 1981, now a mother herself. Then in 2009 there was a scandal: Wepper’s relationship with Susanne Kellermann, who was more than 30 years younger, became public. The two had a daughter, then separated soon after the birth and Wepper returned to his wife. After Angela Wepper’s death in 2019, the old love for Kellermann was revived, and there was even a secret wedding in 2021.

Crime assistant and schemer

An actor who loved consistency, both privately and professionally. From 1968 he started working as a TV police officer on ZDF alongside Erik Ode in “The Commissioner”. In 1974 he left the role to his brother Elmar. He himself became an assistant alongside Horst Tappert in “Derrick”, a series that became famous worldwide. A sentence from the ZDF series, which was discontinued in 1998, remained inextricably linked to Wepper: “Harry, get the car,” even if it never happened that way. The original said: “Harry, we need the car – now.”

In 2002, the series “Um Himmels Willen” started on ARD, which was to hold a special place in Wepper’s heart. As mayor Wolfgang Wöller, he made life difficult for the sisters of the fictional Kaltenthal monastery. He could live out his comedic side, scheme and joke to his heart’s content. The end of the series in 2021 therefore disappointed him very much. “That was a blow to the office,” Wepper told the German Press Agency at the time. He would have liked to continue, also because he loved the film team so much. In the end it became sad. “There were tears, including mine.”

Funeral in kimono

But Wepper was a fighter – also in terms of health. He had heart surgery and fought with all his might against the cancer. He had to be treated in hospital again and again. In 2021, he revealed what he thought about his own death in his autobiography “An Eternal Moment”. “I’ve accepted that I will die at some point. But I’m worried about how. Nobody wants a painful end.”

Wepper himself had made provisions for his end, with a will and wishes for the day of his burial in the family grave in Munich. “I want to be buried in my black kimono, which I wear to meditate,” he wrote in his book. He also wanted to wear a Buddhist bracelet with wooden beads, “both symbols of letting go.”

Source: Stern

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