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Mayor, lawyer, doctor, student councilor. In addition to her roles as the Queen of Prussia and Empress of Austria, Ruth Leuwerik, who was born in Essen on April 23, 1924, mainly portrayed working women and academics in West German entertainment cinema: Protagonists whom the extremely popular actress profiled as self-confident and assertive women. Leuwerik thus occupies an outstanding position among the female stars of Adenauer-era cinema. Not a girl, not a mother, not a "little soul" or a "decorative accessory". Ruth Leuwerik played women who wanted to assert themselves beyond home and hearth and go their own way - a desire that also came up against limits in a world dominated by men. 

Did Ruth Leuwerik embody ideal women? As much as her characters offered society at the time, and especially a female audience, images of women far removed from sentimentality and tearfulness, we now see her films with different eyes. Today, many view the virtues of control, modesty and pragmatism differently to Leuwerik's contemporaries. Perhaps the appeal of Leuwerik's images of women lies less in ideas of female perfection than in their ambivalence.

Ruth Leuwerik has fallen out of fashion over the years. Her cinema career was limited to just under a decade. She turned down offers of roles in international productions and, after a period of regeneration in the mid-1960s, no longer found a place in West German cinema, which was undergoing a major upheaval. The auteur cinema of a new generation of filmmakers did not know what to do with her. Leuwerik then withdrew almost completely from the cinema and television industry. She died in Munich on January 12, 2016.

The preparations for the retrospective The Ideal Woman? Ruth Leuwerik and West German Film of the 1950s was unusually complicated and ended with a bitter realization: The legacy of West German entertainment film from the Adenauer era, one of the most economically successful eras of German cinema, is in a bad condition. Analog copies have shrunk, faded or simply cannot be found. Restoration or digitization projects that could have been presented on the occasion of Leuwerik's birthday 100 years ago have failed to materialize or were not completed in time. This applies not only to minor works, but unfortunately also to major works in her oeuvre. Our retrospective of one of the greatest stars of the 1950s must therefore remain incomplete and sometimes fall back on inferior copies and digital copies not intended for cinema projection. 

The title of our series refers to our opening film The Ideal Woman. But it also quotes the title of an exhibition that was shown at the Filmmuseum Berlin 20 years ago on the occasion of Leuwerik's 80th birthday. Its director at the time, the film historian Hans Helmut Prinzler, who died in 2023, took a curious, unbiased and passionate interest in the often scorned West German cinema of the 1950s. He was particularly fascinated by its stars. This retrospective is dedicated to him. (Jörg Frieß)