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World’s oldest working actor turns 100

5 December 2003

HAMBURG – Johannes Heesters, Dutch-born German singer-dancer-actor who holds the world record for being the oldest actor still appearing on stage, turns 100 Friday in a nationally televised gala in which he will play the romantic leading man – as always.

Fresh off the heels of a musical stage production in Stuttgart based on his life entitled “Heesters” – and starring the title character himself – the tall and angular Dutchman with snow white hair and his trademark top hat, tails and cane will sing and dance at his own centenary birthday party before a national TV audience.

In any other country he would be a phenomenon. But in Germany, with the turbulence of the past 100 years, his career has been extraordinary, to say the least.

His career spanned the Weimar Republic, the Nazi era, post-war chaos, the transition to television in the 1950s and rediscovery by young audiences when he was at an age when most other performers opt for retirement.

Born 5 December 1903, in the Dutch town of Amersfoort, Johan Marius Nicolaas Heesters, fell in love with the stage when his father took him to the theatre for his 16th birthday. Within weeks he was enrolled in singing and acting classes in Amsterdam.

Blessed with stunning good looks, a dazzling smile and a wooing voice, he quickly made a name for himself on the stage in Holland and Belgium and in a number of silent films.

Talent scouts for Berlin‘s famous Ufa movie studios quickly snapped him up. With the flight of Jewish and leftist performers, directors and screenwriters from Nazi Germany, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to line up “exotic” actors.

Heesters was featured in a string of all-singing, all-dancing romantic comedies opposite such female stars as Budapest-born Marika Roekk. It was Goebbels’ contention that movies featuring a Dutch accent and Hungarian accents allayed fears that the Nazis had driven away all non-German talent.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists Heesters as the world’s oldest actor still working on stage.

Subject: German news