entertainer and artist.
CareerSommer was born in Berlin to a Lutheran minister and his wife. After World War II, the family was evacuated to Erlangen, a small university town in Southern Germany, where, despite their lack of money, she attended the prestigious Gymnasium (high school) in Erlangen. However her father's death when she was 14 precluded further formal education, and she moved to England to be an au pair, to perfect her English and earn a living.
She was spotted by film director Vittorio De Sica whilst on holiday in Italy, and started appearing in films there in the late 1950s. She quickly became a noted sex symbol and moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s. She also became one of the most popular pin-up girls of the time, and posed for several pictorials in Playboy Magazine (September 1964 and December 1967).
She became one of the top movie actresses of the 1960s and made 99 movie and television appearances between 1959 and 2005, including A Shot in the Dark (1964) with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, The Art of Love (1965) with James Garner and Dick Van Dyke, The Oscar (1966) with Stephen Boyd, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) with Bob Hope, the Bulldog Drummond extravaganza Deadlier Than the Male (1966), and The Wrecking Crew (1969) with Dean Martin; Sommer was the leading lady in each of these films.
In 1964, she won the Golden Globe Awards as Most Promising Newcomer Actress for The Prize, a film she co-starred with Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson.
In 1972, she starred in two Italian horror movies directed by Mario Bava, which have both become cult classics Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil. The latter film was never theatrically distributed in its original form; it was later re-edited (with 1975 footage inserted) to make a very different movie called House of Exorcism (an Exorcist rip-off). Elke went back to Italy to star in the additional scenes that were inserted into the movie by its producer, against the wishes of the director. This is probably her most shocking film, featuring a demoniacally-possessed Sommer swearing obscenities at her exorcist, spitting out pea soup and actually vomiting live frogs and insects from her mouth!
In 1975, Peter Rogers cast her in Carry On Behind as the Russian Professor Vrooshka. She became the Carry On's highest paid performer, at £30,000 (an honour shared with Phil Silvers for Follow That Camel).
Sommer also performed successfully as a singer, making several albums.
Later careerSince the 1990s, she has concentrated more on painting than on acting. As an actress, she worked in half a dozen countries learning the languages (she speaks seven languages) and storing up images which she would later express on canvas. Her artwork shows a strong influence from Marc Chagall. Sommer had a long-running feud with Zsa Zsa Gabor that began in 1984 when both appeared on Circus of the Stars and escalated into a multi-million dollar libel suit by 1993.
She now lives in Los Angeles, California and has no children.
- The Victors (1963)
- The Prize (1963)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964)
- Le bambole (1965)
- The Art of Love (1965)
- The Money Trap (1965)
- Deadlier Than the Male (1966)'
- Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966)
- The Oscar (1966)
- The Venetian Affair (1967)
- The Wrecking Crew (1969)
- Zeppelin (1971)
- Ten Little Indians (1975)
- Carry On Behind (1975)
- The Swiss Conspiracy (1976)
- I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (1978)
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1979)
- Der Mann im Pyjama (1981)
- Lily in Love (1984)
- Jenny's War (1985)