Berlin’s “Boulevard der Stars”


Berlin’s own “Walk of Fame”

Although the Boulevard of Stars in Berlin is an obvious imitation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Berlin version features a few added attractions that the 50-year-old original lacks. Red-colored asphalt evokes the typical Hollywood red carpet (rather than the terrazzo tile on the Walk of Fame). Columns with special “ghost cameras” dot the Boulevard of Stars, allowing film fans to take a picture with a ghostly image of their favorite film/TV stars and filmmakers. (See the photo below.)

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The red asphalt Boulevard of Stars in Berlin is next to the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

Unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Boulevard of Stars is devoted only to German-speaking film and TV people. The Berlin walk of fame honors actors, directors, and other people from Austria, Germany, and German Switzerland involved in cinema and/or television. Most of these people are unknown to people from non-German-speaking countries. For example, people like Thomas Gottschalk, Germany’s best-known TV personality (“Wetten, dass…”), can walk around in Los Angeles without being recognized (which is why he has a second home there). In Germany he would be mobbed by fans – who would instantly recognize him.

But many of the people who are featured on the Boulevard of Stars are or were international stars and filmmakers such as Marlene Dietrich, her director Josef von Sternberg, Hollywood cameraman Michael Ballhaus, director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), actor/director Paul Henreid (Casablanca), actor Peter Lorre, Romy Schneider (from Austria), director Billy Wilder, director Fritz Lang, director Wolfgang Petersen (Air Force One, Perfect Storm), Armin Müller-Stahl, Arnold Schwarzenegger, composer Hans Zimmer, and others.

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The special “ghost camera” viewers installed along the Boulevard of Stars allows visitors to see images of film people and take a picture next to that person. Seen here: Max Skladanowsky, the German inventor of the first movie projector, the Bioscop (1895). PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

In conjunction with the 60th Berlinale film festival, during ceremonies on Friday, February 12, 2010, the first star on the Boulevard of Stars (der Boulevard der Stars) – honoring Dietrich – was unveiled before a large cadre of cameras and reporters. Later that day, Berlin’s RBB evening news TV broadcast showed the ceremony with various dignitaries honoring the famous film actress from Berlin.

Skladanowsky’s Bioscop
Max Skladanowsky (1863-1939) was a German inventor and early filmmaker born in Berlin. With his brother Emil, Max invented the first movie projector, the Bioscop. Two months before the Lumière Brothers in France, the Skladanowsky brothers showed the first moving pictures to a paying audience in Berlin on November 1, 1895. But the Lumière Brothers’ Cinématographe proved to be technically superior, and the German brothers were unable to make any money from their invention. Nevertheless, Max Skladanowsky now has a star on the Boulevard of Stars.

Following the installation of Dietrich’s star there have been additional ceremonies to add more names to the Boulevard. In September 2010 there was an official opening ceremony in which 39 more stars were added to the red asphalt strip. In April 2011 Senta Berger and several other film notables received their bronze stars. The last occasion was in September 2012, when the German set designer Ken Adam (for the early James Bond films) and others were honored with stars.

But when it was time to add even more stars in September 2013, Berlin officials had to postpone the ceremonies indefinitely. The Boulevard of Stars was literally crumbling. The red surfacing was in such poor condition, and the site itself was looking so shabby, that the city felt it could not go ahead until repairs and cleaning took place. But when that will happen, and who will pay for it are questions still unanswered. The city is suing the company that did the red surfacing. The project has cost over $2.3 million to date.

Part of the problem seems to be Berlin’s tendency to start things without enough thought to long-range implications. (The new BER airport, still uncompleted, comes to mind.) The city’s own master plan calls for a street car line running along the median where the Boulevard der Stars is now located. No one seems to be responsible for the Boulevard and its upkeep. When the fading, scruffy, crumbling site might once again be ready for its close-up is anyone’s guess.

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