Barbara Valentin has now become a legend. And this is also, and above all, thanks to the great Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was probably the first to realise how much this Viennese actress had to offer her beloved audience.
From Rainer Werner Fassbinder to Freddie Mercury
Blonde hair and buxom body. For many years her physical appearance made her the victim of many stereotypes. Yet Austrian actress Barbara Valentin, nicknamed the ‘German Jayne Mansfield’ was able to relate to any role, albeit often a marginal one. This was well known to the great Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who made her a successful character actress in many of his films, “freeing” her from the image of the sensual and often ditzy blonde that had been associated with her for many, many years. And, in fact, Barbara Valentin, who has enjoyed success far from her homeland, has always turned out to be a rather versatile artist, who, in the course of her career, has taken part in some forty films, more than three hundred television series and numerous music videos.
Ursula Ledersteger (this was her real name) was born on December 15, 1940 in Vienna. Her father, Hans Ledersteger, was an art director, while her mother, Irmgard Alberti, was also an actress. After attending an acting school, young Barbara was discovered by producer Wolf C. Hartwig and thus finally began her career in the film industry. The first film she took part in was Du gehörst mir (Wilm ten Haaf, 1958), in which, however, she was not mentioned in the credits and in which she simply played a girl at a party.
This feature film, however, was followed by many others, in which Barbara Valentin obtained more and more important roles, including Horrors of Spider Island (Fritz Böttger, 1960), There is still Room in Hell (Ernst Ritter von Theumer, 1961), Call Girls of Frankfurt (Rolf Olsen, 1966) and Carmen, Baby (Radley Metzger, 1967), just to name a few. It was not long, however, before the great Fassbinfìder noticed her. Thanks to him, the actress was also able to try her hand at roles other than those she was usually assigned. With the German director, she worked in five films: Effi Briest (1974), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Martha (1974), Fox and his Friends (1975) and Lili Marleen (1980).
Although she continued to act for many, many years (the last film she took part in was Die Hunde sind schuld , made by Andreas Prochaska in 2001, i.e. a year before her death), Barbara Valentin was also always interested in the world of music and video clips and, moreover, many remember her as one of the closest friends of the great Freddie Mercury, whose roommate she was in Munich in the 1980s and after whose death she dedicated herself to numerous campaigns to help AIDS patients.
She herself, however, did not have an easy life. Married three times (all three marriages ended in divorce) and mother of two children (Lars and Minki), Barbara Valentin went through numerous crises in the course of her life, which were further accentuated by alcohol and drug abuse. It is not known whether this contributed to the progressive worsening of her health. The fact is that Barbara’s life ended too soon, on February 22, 2002, when the actress was sixty-one years old, due to a stroke. Sixteen years later, her son Lars Reichardt published her biography: Barbara. Das sonderbare Leben meiner Mutter Barbara Valentin . Her name has now become a legend. And this is also, and above all, thanks to the great Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was probably the first to realise how much this unlucky Viennese actress had to offer her beloved audience.