Horst Buchholz will always be remembered to American audiences as wannabe gunslinger Chico from The Magnificent Seven, but he appeared in 50 films spanning 50 years.
Horst Buchholz will always be remembered to American audiences as wannabe gunslinger Chico from The Magnificent Seven, but he appeared in 50 films spanning 50 years. Many shot in his native Germany where he was known as the James Dean of German cinema.
Horst Werner Buchholz was born in Berlin on December 4th, 1933. The same year Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. He was the only son of a shoemaker. When the bombing of Berlin, by allied troops, threatened his safety he was sent to live in Schlesien, in southern Germany. He moved back to Berlin after the war and started acting at age 15 in the children’s play Emil and the Detective.
He began acting in German films in 1952 making his screen debut in Die Spur fuhrt nach Berlin. In 1957 he starred in Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Confessions of Felix Krull) and garnished his first real notice in the United States. In 1958 he starred in the drama Auferstehung. His co-star was actress Myriam Bru. They got married in December of that same year and remained married until his death in 2003 of pneumonia. They had two children together.
In 1960 Horst played the sensitive Chico in The Magnificent Seven. Considered by many critics to be the greatest western of all time. Although it starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, Horst’s character is one of the most memorable from the movie. His attempt to gain the other six’s respect is the heart of the film. It is also his character that has the most arc in the story. A truly great star making role.
With the success of The Magnificent Seven, Horst continued to make English speaking films, although they mostly took place in Europe. In 1961 me made the romantic Fanny with Leslie Caron which was shot in the French Riviera. That same year he made the comedy One, Two, Three with James Cagney in Germany. Cagney’s fellow Warner Bros veteran Bette Davis worked with Horst in Italy in The Empty Canvas in 1963.
Horst fame in the United States was brief. Although he continued making films all across Europe he was rarely seen on the big screen on this side of the ocean. In the 1970's he made many appearances on American television such as in Return to Fantasy Island and an episode of Charlie’s Angels.
He continued to make movies and do television work in Germany up until 2002. His last film role to get real notice in the United States was that of Doctor Lessing in Life is Beautiful in 1997. His role was small but memorable. He played a man obsessed with riddles who could not see the Holocaust happening right in front of his face.
Horst Buchholz was compared to James Dean in that they were both good looking young actors of the 1950's. James Dean will always be the emotional Jim Stark trying to be part of the crowd in Rebel Without a Cause and Horst Buchholz will always be the emotional Chico trying to be part of the gunfighters in The Magnificent Seven.
Horst Buchholz died of pneumonia on March 3, 2003 at the age of 69.