Johannes Heesters

Johannes Heesters (born December 5, 1903) is a Dutch actor, singer, and entertainer with a 87-year career, almost exclusively in the German-speaking world.

As of 2008, aged 104, Heesters still holds the record of being the oldest performer worldwide who is still active, both on the stage and on television.

Life and work

Early life and career

Born Johan Marius Nicolaas Heesters in Amersfoort, Netherlands, Heesters very early in his career specialized in Viennese operetta, making his Viennese stage debut in 1934 in Karl Millöcker's Der Bettelstudent (The Beggar Student).


Over the decades, "Da geh' ich ins Maxim", Count Danilo Danilovitch's entrance song from Franz Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) —Danilo has spent most of the night drinking at Maxim's and flirting with women— has become Heesters's signature tune. More operettas followed, many of which were also made into musical films.

He moved to Germany in 1935. He performed for Adolf Hitler and visited the Dachau concentration camp. As a result "many Dutch people have never forgiven him.

Heesters worked extensively for UFA till almost the end of the Second World War (his last wartime movie being Die Fledermaus, produced in 1945) and easily made the transition from the Nazi-controlled cultural scene to post-war Germany and Austria, appearing again in a number of films already in the late 1940s. He stopped making movies around 1960 though to concentrate on stage and television appearances and on producing records.

Heesters has two daughters by his first wife Wiesje Ghijs, whom he married in 1930. After her death in 1985, he remarried in 1991; his second wife, Simone Rethel (born 1949), is a German actress, painter and photographer. His younger daughter Nicole Heesters is a well-known actress in German-speaking countries too.

In the 1990s, he and his wife toured Germany and Austria with Curth Flatow's play Ein gesegnetes Alter (A Blessed Age), which was also televised in 1996.

On December 5, 2003, he celebrated his 100th birthday with a television special "Eine Legende wird 100" on the ARD.

In September and October 2003, Heesters appeared in Stuttgart at the Komödie im Marquardt theatre in a show commissioned on the occasion of his 100th birthday, Heesters — eine musikalische Hommage. In 2005 he was featured soloist in a major concert tour with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg under the direction of Scott Lawton.

On December 5, 2006 he celebrated his 103rd birthday with a concert at the Wiener Konzerthaus. On December 5, 2007 he celebrated his 104th birthday with a concert at the Admiralspalast, Berlin, and in February 2008 he performed in his home country for the first time in four decades amidst protests against his Nazi associations. He is now almost completely blind as result of the eye diseases glaucoma und macular degeneration.




  • 1937: "Ich werde jede Nacht von ihnen träumen"
  • 1939: "Musik, Musik, Musik" (featuring Marika Rökk)
  • 1941: "Liebling, was wird nun aus uns beiden"
  • 1941: "Man müßte Klavier spielen können"
  • 1949: "Das kommt mir spanisch vor"
  • 1949: "Tausendmal möchte' ich dich küssen"
  • 1998: "Ich werde 100 Jahre alt" (song)
  • 2007: "Generationen" (featuring Claus Eisenmann)

Honours, decorations, awards


My secret to a long, healthy life is to always keep working. It keeps me busy and happy, and gives me a reason to stay alive.| | |Johannes Heesters,


External links

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