Elke and the Sommer of Love
Love In Any Language
Avenue Recordings AVE 085
Elke Sommer is, arguably I suppose, a better-looking version of Peter Ustinov. She is one of those annoying multi-talented people who can speak eighteen foreign languages with effortless ease and who can conjugate complex Latin verbs over their breakfast muesli.
During her long career she has been a painter, a writer and an actress, appearing in a number of European and American films. She is also occasionally a singer and as with her film career the 1965 album Love In Any Language sees Elke warbling away in English, Spanish, German and Italian. Yes of course she is showing off, but she’s very pretty so we’ll forgive her.
Elke, or to give her full title Baroness Elke von Schletz, was born into a noble German family in 1940 in Berlin-Spandau. In retrospect that was a pretty bad year to be born into a noble German family in Berlin, though I doubt it was a conscious decision by Elke. Her family fled Berlin as the war dragged on and she endured a harsh and deprived post-war childhood. After the tragic early death of her father, Elke dropped out of school and decided to take a year out to work as a nanny in London, where she learnt English and in her spare time pushed small children around a park while dancing with animated penguins and chimney sweeps. Possibly. My knowledge of the precise duties of a nanny are sketchy at best. Elke’s breakthrough into international polyglot superstardom came in early 1958 when she left England to travel with her mother in Italy.
While staying at the fashionable Adriatic resort of Viareggio she entered a local beauty pageant and managed to win. While UK holiday resorts were staging knobbly knees contests in rain-soaked resorts around the coast and throwing undernourished grandmothers into swimming pools (see Hi-de-Hi! for a full dissection of this fascinating phenomenon) Italian resorts had glamorous beautiful doe-eyed waifs like Elke Sommer winning beauty pageants. The horrible tragic unfairness of it all! Her face was then spotted in the local newspaper by an Italian film producer and she was whisked off immediately to appear in a small role in the Italian film L’Amico del Giaguaro (The Friend of the Jaguar). After a few more Italian films she returned to Germany to make even more films.
After Am Tag, als der Regen Kam (The Day the Rains Came) her talents were spotted by other European studios and she made films in Paris and the UK (Don’t Bother to Knock starring Richard Todd was the first). Inevitably, after conquering Europe she moved seamlessly to Hollywood where she starred in a number of light comedies and crime romps alongside the likes of Peter Sellers (in the oft overlooked Clouseau vehicle A Shot in the Dark), Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.
For fans of British comedy she earns a truly honourable mention for her roles in the early 1970s sex comedies Percy and Percy’s Progress, as well as the last truly great Carry On film, Carry On Behind. Hey, if Brigitte Bardot can be menaced by James Robertson Justice in Doctor at Sea I see nothing wrong with Elke Sommer being menaced by Jack Douglas in Carry On Behind. The film’s only flaw is that despite the title, the only behind we see at any great length belongs to Kenneth Williams rather than Elke. Sigh. The further unfairness of it all.
The album is full of emotive strings and heartfelt yearning and longing from Ms Sommer. Elke is a competent tuneful singer and injects real feeling into the lyrics. At least the bits in English and snippets of ‘foreign’ that my limited GCSEs allow me to understand. It is a competently made lounge album that tackles a selection of sedate and relatively obscure easy listening classics, packed with a full compliment of backing singers, bongos and orchestral backing. Coming directly after her wonderful turn in A Shot in the Dark it should have made Elke Sommer a sought after recording artiste. But then she might never have appeared in Carry On Behind asking Bernard Bresslaw if he wants to inspect the dirty caravan she has been keeping…
For your aural perusal I have selected the opening track of the album, Heartache, Heartache, Go Away which also earned a single release backed with Melancholie. I think it sounds rather like a 1960s Eurovision entry from Luxembourg (I mean that in a good way of course). It is a bright chirpy little number written by Ben Raleigh who wrote the maudlin tear-jerker Tell Laura I Love Her but who will be remembered for many thousands of years to come as the man who wrote the theme for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, a catchy title song which took around twenty minutes to write and which generated about a gazillion dollars in royalties over the years. The stage is yours Elke!
More on Elke’s official site: