Elke Sommer

Elke Schletz was born in Berlin to a Lutheran Minister and his wife. Her father was the last member of a family famous during the Middle ages as robber barons. While Elke, through her lineage, is a "Baroness," she elects not to use this title.

After the war, the Schletz family was evacuated to Erlangen, a small university town in the south of Germany. Circumstances, far from good or even decent, forced them to make their home in a one-room basement apartment. Frau Schletz took in washing to help the family survive. Meals often consisted of potatoes regarded as too small to harvest. At that time, Elke's most memorable Christmas present was a shiny red apple her father had traded for his watch. Pfarrer Schletz determined that his only child would have the best possible education, enrolled her in the prestigious Gymnasium School in Erlangen. Within a student body of 500, Elke was one of the only two girls enrolled. She studied classical Greek and Latin for nine years. It was this formal training that formed her extraordinary facility for languages.

Elke's first ambition was to become an interpreter for the United Nations. Her father's death at 14 precluded further formal education. So off she set to England to be an au pair, to perfect her English and earn a living. Her salary was the equivalent of $4.00 per week. During the day she cared for her privileged young charges. Three nights a week she studied for her High Cambridge Exams in English.

Soon after receiving her diploma, Elke and her mother traveled to Italy for a holiday. While dining at a small cafe in the town of Viareggio, someone pinned a ribbon on her and asked her to stand. The entire cafe began to applaud. Unaware of her instant celebrity status, she learned that she had been chosen "Miss Viareggio." Surely this statuesque blond stood out in this small Mediterranean village. Elke laughed it off, taking it all in stride. Two days later, a man came to the door of their pensione, stating that he was a representative of renowned Italian film director, Vittoria de Sica. Seeing Elke's photograph in a local newspaper, de Sica was so taken with the young woman's beauty that he wanted her for a film he was shooting in Rome. Elke's mother sent the man away, but he returned later in the day with his wife to prove that he was legitimate. The money de Sica offered for the small role was enough to pay for another full year of tuition. Elke accepted. At that time, she had no intentions of becoming an actress and was certain that this bubble would soon burst. It did not. Offers for additional roles continued. She subsequently changed her name to Sommer because it was easier for the Italians to pronounce and remained in Rome to perfect her Italian.

After making several films in Italy, Elke was offered a starring role in the British film " Don't Bother To Knock," with Richard Todd.

On her way, she was soon hailed as the new European sex bomb. It was then she joined the list of stars whose first names suffice - like Gina, Sophia, Brigitte and Liz.

Just about this time Carl Foreman cast her in her first American film, "The Victors." Immediately following she went on to starring a role in "The Prize," opposite Paul Newman and "A Shot In The Dark", with Peter Sellers.

Elke moved to Los Angeles, made her home in Bel Air and achieved international stardom.