Thein, Ulrich


Ulrich Thein was born in Braunschweig on April 7, 1930. After graduating from high school, he studied music and took acting lessons. To finance his studies, he worked as a bar musician and boxer. 


Thein’s debut as an actor was at the Staatstheater Braunschweig, before he moved to East Berlin in 1951. There, at the age of only 21, he became the youngest member of the prestigious Deutsches Theater, where he was under contract until 1963. Besides performing on stage, he also directed plays at theaters in Senftenberg, Halle and Berlin in the 1950s and ‘60s.


In 1952, director Martin Hellberg cast Thein in a supporting role in the DEFA production Geheimakten Solvay, a story about postwar industrial sabotage. After he played in Gerhard Klein’s children’s crime story, Alarm im Zirkus—the first film in the director’s Berlin series—Klein engaged Thein for the male lead in Eine Berliner Romanze, in which he plays an unemployed West Berlin worker in love with a girl from East Berlin. The film’s frank images of youthful dreams and longings found little support among East German officials, who thought it encouraged East Germans to search for adventure in West Germany. The film is now considered one of the most accurate portrayals of Cold War Berlin’s youth scene during the 1950s and was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1991 and 2006. 


Thein appeared regularly in DEFA films, working with well-known directors such as Kurt Maetzig, Günter Reisch, Konrad Wolf, Frank Vogel, Richard Groschopp and Frank Beyer. Beyer cast him in the Spanish Civil War story Fünf Patronenhülsen and in Königskinder; his performance as a young member of the SA who defects to the Red Army in the latter film was one of the most important roles of his career. He is also remembered as detective Czernik in Die Glatzkopfbande, a film about hooligans in the GDR. Thein was awarded Best Actor at the 1979 Moscow International Film Festival for his performance as an inventive car mechanic and spare parts dealer in Günter Reisch’s comedy Anton der Zauberer. He also became well-known as a television actor in the early 1980s, playing in such roles as the church reformer Martin Luther and the composer Johann Sebastian Bach.


As of the early 1960s, Thein also worked as a director and scriptwriter. His directorial debut was the 2-part television production Der andere neben dir, a story about two doctors who discover they have a connection from the Nazi period, featuring Erwin Geschonneck and Armin Mueller-Stahl in leading roles. Critics praised Thein’s literary adaptation Mitten im kalten Winter, a humorous and shy love story set in winter 1942. Thein not only became one of the most successful East German television directors, but he also directed DEFA movies for the cinema screen, including Dach überm Kopf, a love story between a cook who tries to change her life and a life-affirming construction worker, and the literary adaptation Romanze mit Amélie, nominated for a Golden Bear at the 1982 Berlin International Film Festival. He made one of his last TV productions at the beginning of the 1990s: the 27-part series Agentur Herz, about six people who lose their jobs during German unification and look for new professional opportunities. 


Ulrich Thein died in Berlin on June 21, 1995. His papers are archived at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin

Festivals & Awards:

1982 Golden Bear Nominee, Berlin International Film Festival, for Romanze mit Amélie
1979 Best Actor, International Film Festival Moscow, for Anton der Zauberer

Bibliography & More:

Räder, Andy. Poesie des Alltäglichen. Ulrich Theins Regiearbeiten für das Fernsehen der DDR (1963‐1976). Wiesbaden: Springer Nature, 2019.


(D=director | A=actor)


1995 Weiss wie Schnee, rot wie Blut (White as Snow, Red as Blood, TV, A)
1994 Blutige Spur (Bloody Trace, TV, A) 
1991 Agentur Herz (Herz Agency, TV series, script, D) 
1990 Unter Brüdern (Among Brothers, TV, A)
1987 Der Aufstand der Fischer von St. Barbara (Revolt of the Fishermen of St. Barbara, TV, A) 
1988 Mensch, mein Papa...! (Oh Boy, My Dad...!, D)
1987 Mit Leib und Seele (With Heart and Soul, A)
1984 Johann Sebastian Bach (TV mini-series)
1981 Romanze mit Amélie (Romance with Amélie, D)
1981-83 Martin Luther (TV mini-series, A) 
1980 Der Director (The Principle, TV, dir., script, A)
1980 Dach überm Kopf (A Roof Over One’s Head, dir., co-script)
1977 Anton der Zauberer (Anton the Magician, A)
1977 Die Abrechnung (The Settlement, TV, A)
1973 Broddi (TV mini-series, dir., script)
1971 Salut Germain (TV series, A)
1968 Mitten im kalten Winter (In the Middle of the Cold Winter, TV, dir., script)
1968 Das siebente Jahr (The Seventh Year, A)
1967 Geschichten jener Nacht, 2. Episode (Stories of that Night, Episode 2, D)
1964 Chronik eines Mordes (Story of a Murder, A)
1963 Der andere neben dir (The Other One Next to You, TV, 2 parts, dir., co-script) 
1962 Königskinder (Star-Crossed Lovers, A)
1962 ...und deine Liebe auch (And Your Love Too, A)
1962 Die Glatzkopfbande (The Baldheaded Gang, A)
1961 Der Traum des Hauptmann Loy (Captain Loy's Dream, A)
1960 Professor Mamlock (A)
1960 Fünf Patronenhulsen (Five Cartridges, A)
1958 Sie kannten sich alle (They All Knew One Another, A)
1958 Das Lied der Matrosen (The Sailors' Song, A)
1956 Eine Berliner Romanze (A Berlin Romance, A)
1955 Hotelboy Ed Martin (Bellboy Ed Martin, A)
1954 Alarm im Zirkus (Alarm at the Circus, A)
1953 Das Stacheltier – Eine Liebesgeschichte (The Porcupine: A Love Story, A)
1953 Das Stacheltier – Der König in Thule (The Porcupine: The King in Thule, A)
1952 Geheimakten Solvay (The Secret Files of the Solvay Corporate, A)

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