Fritz Wepper, German Actor in ‘Cabaret,’ Dies at 82

Fritz Wepper, the German actor who portrayed the German Jew Fritz Wendel in Bob Fosse’s Oscar-winning musical masterpiece Cabaret and starred in his home country on the TV series Derrick and For Heaven’s Sake, has died. He was 82.

Wepper died Monday in a Munich hospice after a long illness that followed the life-threatening sepsis he suffered last year, his family announced.

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An actor since childhood, Wepper landed the biggest international role of his career in Cabaret (1972), where he appeared alongside Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem and Joel Grey. As Wendel, he passed as a Protestant and fell in love with wealthy Jewish heiress Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson).

After the film’s success — it raked in eight Oscars in 1973 — Wepper turned down Hollywood offers and instead took a sidekick role as Harry Klein on the new German crime series Derrick, playing alongside Horst Tappert‘s titular homicide detective, a cop who never lost his cool or drew a gun. Wepper had created Klein in an earlier German crime series, Der Kommisar, which ran for eight seasons, also on public broadcaster ZDF.

Derrick was a phenomenal hit, running for 260 episodes over 25 seasons and sold to 102 countries worldwide. By the mid-1990s (the show ran from 1974-98), Wepper’s character had become a cultural touchstone with a catchphrase: “Harry, get the car!” evoking nostalgia among German Gen X-ers.

Wepper’s first major role came at age 18 in Bernhard Wicki’s antiwar classic The Bridge (1959). He played Albert Mutz, one of a handful of young boys assigned to defend a bridge during the final days of World War II in a suicidal and pointless mission.

The movie was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign language film and won the Golden Globe in the category, and the Munich Film Festival’s top award is named The Bridge in honor of Wicki and the film.

The Munich native also earned the German Film Award for best actor for his work in Rudolf Jugert’s Kennwort … Reiher (1964), about Nazi resistance fighters.

On the long-running comedy series For Heaven’s Sake, Wepper portrayed Wolfgang Wöller, the mayor of a small town constantly outwitted by local nuns who thwart his attempts to take over their cloister to turn it into a business for his party supporters. The show has been on the air since 2002, with more than 260 episodes and counting.

In 2001, he had notable performances alongside Alfred Molina and Meredith Baxter in a 2001 CBS telefilm adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and in the acclaimed German miniseries Vera Brühne opposite Corinna Harfouch (Downfall).

In the 2007-17 series High Society Murder, Wepper played a police psychiatrist who investigates murders among the 1 percent with his daughter, Alexandra. She was played by Sophie Wepper, his real-life daughter from his first marriage to the late Angela Wepper.

Wepper’s younger brother, Elmar Wepper (Cherry Blossoms), was also an acclaimed German film and TV actor. The two played fictional crime-fighting brothers in the 1990s series Two Brothers. He died on Oct. 31, 2023.

Survivors also include his wife, Susanne Kellermann, and their daughter, Filippa.

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