A Great Danish American Birthday - Ingeborg Bruhn Berthelsen

  • April 26, 2021
  • April 26, 2023
  • 3 sessions
  • April 26, 2021 (CDT)
  • April 26, 2022 (CDT)
  • April 26, 2023 (CDT)

A GREAT DANISH AMERICAN BIRTHDAY - INGEBORG BRUHN BERTHELSEN

Ingeborg Bruhn Berthelsen (26 April 1894 - 26 June 1977) was a Danish actress born in Copenhagen.  Berthelsen was married twice. First in 1930 with the revue writer Paul Sarauw and the second time with actor Edgar Hansen. She died in 1977 of lung cancer.

When she was young, her family moved to Valby, where she begged Nordisk Film to allow her to star in a film. They eventually agreed, and she made her film debut in 1911 and starred until 1921 in about 80 silent films. Initially in supporting roles (The Beautiful Sewing Girl, The Maid, etc.), but later also in larger roles. She was known for her beautiful looks and quickly became a popular actress.

Alongside the films, she was engaged in a number of Danish theaters. She made her debut in 1914 with a small theatre troupe in Esbjerg. In 1916-17 she performed at the Odense Theatre and later in 1917 in Copenhagen. From 1920 she began performing in Tivoli revue and at Tivoli Summer Theatre. Here she had great success and sang in the 1920s in several revue shows. She was also one of the first actors to appear in commercials when she advertised a washing powder in 1929. She was an immensely popular star and highly paid. She bought a villa in Klampenborg and had expensive cars and horses.

Berthelsen stopped at the peak of her career in 1930 due to a lack of resources and a malicious rumor. Word was that she had a sexual relationship with her son. The audiences greeted her with vulgar heckling and had fun barking loudly as soon as she stepped onto the stage. The rumors continued to grow and were expanded with several salacious details. In an attempt to combat the rumors, her longtime friend, theatre director Paul Sarauw, married her in 1930 and the pair fled to the French Riviera.

Later the couple returned to Denmark and she was reduced to playing smaller roles in operetta companies touring the province and as a soloist in restaurants. Her marriage had ended, and in her mid-30s, she again tried a performance in the Circus Revue. She loved to ride, and in 1939 she and circus director Frantz Bruun started the Circus Bruun & Bruhn. Her idea was a whole new kind of circus, also with variety and theatre, but the war put an end to the plans. In 1940 she starred again in the Circus Revue and during the occupation she was busy with various theatre and cabaret tours around the country.

After the war, rumors and gossip persisted, and in 1947 she emigrated to the United States to live with her sister, Gerda Grandt.  In the United States, she helped out at her sister's  restaurant "Up-Town" in the town of Madison, Wisconsin. In 1963/64 a chair in Danish language and literature was established at the University of Wisconsin.  The first professor of Danish was Jørgen G. Rasmussen, who arranged a 'Danish Day' in the city and at the university, where Berthelsen was the main attraction reading Hans Christian Andersen works.



National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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