Christine Maria Kaufmann, actress and ex-wife of Tony Curtis, dies at 72


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 evening, aged 72, after a long battle with leukemia.

Kaufmann was born in Austria in 1945 to a French make-up artist and a German engineer and grew up in Munich. She entered show business early, performing in German musical The White Horse Inn at the tender age of 7. But it was Rose Girl, a 1954 drama, where she played the orphan girl 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 alongside Hercules actor Steve Reeves. Several Hollywood roles followed, including, in 1962, Town Without Pity with Kirk Douglas, and Taras Bulba, a Romeo and Juliet story set in 16th Century Ukraine, which co-starred Tony Curtis.

See photos of Christina Maria Kaufmann throughout her illustrious life:

Curtis and Kaufmann married a year later (after his first marriage to Janet Leigh ended in divorce). She was 18, he was 38. They had two daughters, Alexandra and Allegra, both professional actresses. The couple divorced 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 returned to acting, appearing in dozens of films and TV series, including in 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 (1979-1982) and illustrator Klaus Zey (1997-2011).

While Kaufmann continued to make television appearances 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."