Elga Andersen was a German actress and singer who starred in more than a dozen French films in the 1950s and 1960s. She also performed songs in the 1961 film The Guns of Navarone and co-starred with Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans. She was married to Peter Gimbel, an American millionaire and adventurer, with whom she embarked on a diving expedition of the sunken SS Andrea Doria in 1981. She died of cancer on 7 December 1994 at the age of 59. This article will explore her life, career, and death in more detail.
Early Life and Career
Elga Andersen was born as Helga Hymen (or Hymmen) in Dortmund, Germany, on 2 February 1935. She was the only child of her parents; her father was a civil engineer who enlisted with the Wehrmacht two weeks before World War II ended and was never heard from again. She dropped out of high school at 16 and worked as an English and French interpreter to support herself and her mother. When she was 18, she moved to Paris and worked as a model.
She made her acting debut in Les Collegiennes, a 1957 French film directed by André Hunebelle, under the name Elga Hymen. Otto Preminger selected her for a small role in his film Bonjour Tristesse in 1958 and gave her the stage name “Elga Andersen”. Her first starring role was in 1960 in Brazilian Rhapsody. She appeared in many predominantly European productions, such as Elevator to the Gallows (1958), The Battle of the Mods (1966), and The Serpent (1973). Her American productions included A Global Affair (1964), starring Bob Hope, and Le Mans (1971), in which she played opposite Steve McQueen. Andersen and McQueen reportedly had an affair during the filming. One of the Porsche 911 S sports coupes used in the production was given to Andersen as partial compensation for her work in the film.
She also debuted as a recording artist in the 1950s and performed songs in some of her films. She sang “Treu sein” and “Sündenlied” in The Guns of Navarone and “Windmills of Your Mind” in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), both starring Steve McQueen. She also released several singles and albums in French and German.
Personal Life and Death
Her first husband was Christian Girard, a Parisian architect. They divorced in 1978 and she remarried to Peter R. Gimbel, an American millionaire and son of the founder of the Gimbel’s department store chain. Gimbel was also an avid diver and explorer who had previously discovered the wreck of the SS Andrea Doria, an Italian ocean liner that sank near Nantucket, Massachusetts, on 25 July 1956, after colliding with another ship.
In 1981, the couple engaged in a million-dollar project to try to recover the vault of the SS Andrea Doria, which they believed contained thousands of dollars in cash and currency. Andersen said that their main objective was to determine why the ship sank so quickly. They also produced two documentaries for American television about their expedition: Andrea Doria: The Final Chapter (1982) and Andrea Doria: The Untold Story (1986).
Andersen died of cancer on 7 December 1994 in New York City. In 1995, her ashes and those of Gimbel, who had died in 1987, were interred in the Andrea Doria during a diving expedition.
Elga Andersen was a talented and versatile actress and singer who had a successful career in Europe and America. She was also a passionate and adventurous woman who joined her husband in exploring the depths of the ocean. She died of cancer at a relatively young age, leaving behind a legacy of films, songs, and documentaries. Her cause of death was cancer, but her life was full of passion and adventure.