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Christine Maria Kaufmann, the German-Austrian actress who won a Golden Globe at 17, married Tony Curtis at 18 and had a second career as beauty and cosmetics magnate, died Monday after a long battle with leukemia. She was 72.
Kaufmann was born in Austria in 1945 to a French makeup artist and a German engineer and grew up in Munich. She entered show business early, performing in the German musical The White Horse Inn at the age of 7. But it was Rose Girl, a 1954 drama, where she played the orphan child of the title, that launched her career.
A series of Bavarian melodramas followed before she got her international break, starring in The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) alongside Hercules actor Steve Reeves. Several Hollywood roles followed, including, in 1962, Town Without Pity with Kirk Douglas, and Taras Bulba, a Romeo & Juliet story set in 16th century Ukraine that also starred Curtis.
Kaufmann and Curtis married a year later (after his first marriage to actress Janet Leigh ended). She was 18, he was 38. They had two daughters, Alexandra and Allegra, who became actresses, before divorcing in 1968.
Years later, on a German TV show, she admitted to having had an affair with Warren Beatty.
Kaufmann returned to Germany, where she continued acting, appearing in dozens of films and TV series, including Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen and Lola and in Percy Adlon’s 1987 cult classic Baghdad Cafe.
She married three more times: to TV director Achim Lenz (1974-76), musician and actor Reno Eckstein (1979-82) and illustrator Klaus Zey (1997-2011).
While Kaufmann continued to make television appearances and do the occasional cameo — she played Aunt Polly in a German film version of Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn in 2014 — in later life she was best known in Germany for her business ventures, including her own line of cosmetics and numerous books on health and beauty.
A stunner well into her 60s, she was known as “ the most beautiful grandmother in Germany.”
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