December 1, 2010


Ingrid Pitt, Horror Star Who Survived Nazis, Dies at 73 (MARGALIT FOX, 11/25/10, NY Times)

Known for her tousled hair, pneumatic figure and sporadically sharp incisors, Ms. Pitt was most closely associated with Hammer Film Productions, the British studio famous for the lurid, the lascivious and the low-budget. The Queen of Scream, the British press called her. Hammer billed her as “the most beautiful ghoul in the world.”

In fact, Ms. Pitt made only a handful of horror films, and not all for Hammer. But her striking, barely clad screen presence and vampirical Middle European accent — it was her real accent — secured her an international cult following that seems likely to remain undead for years to come.

She was also an enthusiastic keeper of her own flame, appearing at horror conventions and maintaining an evocative Web site, So earnestly did Ms. Pitt continue to inhabit her screen persona that she was known on occasion to bite the necks of interviewers — not enough to draw blood but enough for dramatic impact.

Ms. Pitt was born in Poland on Nov. 21, 1937. Her precise given name has been lost to time; British news articles have often rendered it as Ingoushka Petrov. Her father was German, her mother a Polish Jew, and in 1942 the Nazis picked the family up. Separated from her father and older sister, she was sent with her mother to the Stutthof concentration camp.

They were held there for three years. In interviews Ms. Pitt spoke of having seen her mother’s best friend hanged and her own best friend, a little girl, raped and beaten to death by guards. She recalled lying in the straw, dreaming of being someone else.

After the war she and her mother trudged from one refugee camp to the next, searching for her father and sister. They eventually found them, but by then her father was a broken man. He lived only five years more.

As a young woman Ms. Pitt was determined to be an actress. In the 1950s she joined the Berliner Ensemble, directed by Helene Weigel, the second wife of Bertolt Brecht, and based in East Berlin. A vocal critic of the East German Communist government, Ms. Pitt was pursued by the police on the night of her debut performance, in Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.”

Fleeing, she jumped into the River Spree with her costume on, only to be fished out by an American serviceman, Laud Roland Pitt Jr. In fitting dramatic style, she married him soon afterward. That marriage ended in divorce, as did her second, to George Pinches, a British film executive.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 1, 2010 6:05 AM
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