Renate Müller was born in Munich on April 26th, 1906. Her father was one of Munich’s leading newspaper publishers and her mother, a painter.
A keen interest in acting and poetry led her to the Harzer Bergtheater in Thale where, under the tutelage of Georg Wilhelm Pabst, she made her stage debut in “Ein Sommernachtstraum” (Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream) in 1925, aged 19.
Moving to Berlin, she studied under Theatre Impressario Max Rheinhardt before making her first film appearance in “Peter Der Matrose” (Peter the Sailor) in 1929.
She quickly became one of the most successful German singers and actresses of the time, appearing in 25 films from 1929 to 1937.
Her major international breakthrough was in “Die Privatesekretärin” in 1931, which was so popular, it was remade in the same year in English, also starring Müller, as “Sunshine Susie” where she starred alongside the hugely famous British actor, Owen Nares .
She took the lead role in the original German version of ”Viktor und Viktoria” in 1933, starring alongside Hilde Hildebrand. A film that was to be remade several times over the years, including the Blake Edwards re-make of 1982, starring Julie Andrews in the role made famous by Müller.
Her talent and blue-eyed blonde ‘Aryan’ looks attracted the attention of the Nazi party and, in particular, Joseph Goebbels who arranged an introduction to Adolf Hitler, and encouraged a relationship between the two.
She continued to appear in a succession of light-weight comedies but Goebbels had other ideas and, putting her under Gestapo surveillance, pressurised her to appear in Nazi propaganda films.
She finally gave into the pressure, making the blatantly anti-semitic film “Togger” which premiered in February 1937. Filming had taken place around Tempelhof the previous Autumn, and it was be Renate Müllers last role.
She suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a clinic, as far as the public were concerned, for a knee injury. She was rumoured to be under pressure to end a relationship with a Jewish lover, and the Nazi’s feared she may leave Germany.
The circumstances surrounding her death are unclear and there are many different versions of what occurred on October 7th, 1937. The German press claimed she died from Epilepsy, other witnesses claimed she fell from a window of her house after the arrival of Gestapo agents. It was, in all lilkehood, a suicide but the Ministry of Propaganda, fearing a public relations disaster, spread rumours that she had become a morphine addict, was an alcoholic and mentally disturbed.
She was cremated at Wilmersdorf Krematorium and buried in Parkfriedhof Lichterfelde in Berlin Steglitz. Fans were forbidden from attending her funeral, she was 31 years old.
Her life story was adapted for the screen in 1960, where she was played by well-known German actress Ruth Leuwirk in “Liebling der Götter” (The Darling of the Gods).