Gustl Bayrhammer: His Pumuckl made him immortal

Gustl Bayrhammer would have been 100 years old on February 12th. The actor known as Meister Eder remains unforgotten to this day.

The voice. A strong organ that has become a bit brittle with age, but it can still roar properly when his unpredictable roommate is up to mischief with him again. “Times of rule”, curses the master Franz Eder, and that is then already the highest of feelings for an outburst of anger, because his baroque coziness immediately caught him again. This grumpy, kind-hearted master carpenter, a likeable but actually completely irrelevant role, has made the actor Gustl Bayrhammer immortal.

This is probably unique in the history of acting, because Bayrhammer’s partner is a comic character: a red-haired cartoon goblin named Pumuckl, who is up to mischief in and around Master Eder’s workshop in the Munich district of Lehel. The Pumuckl has made Bayrhammer unforgettable and helped to achieve a fame that has survived the last decades and the death of the actor (1993).

Today he would have been 100 years old

Gustl Bayrhammer would celebrate his 100th birthday on February 12th. Even if the current generation of children can hardly do anything with his name – they have taken Meister Eder and his Pumuckl dearly to their hearts. During his lifetime, Gustl Bayrhammer was the most popular Bavarian folk actor, popular far beyond the borders of Bavaria. With his warm-hearted Munich Bavarian, he “made the grumblers happy and the thoughtful lively”, once said the legendary Munich opera director August Everding (1928-1999) about him.

He had worked beyond the Bavarian borders for the first 20 years of his professional life. Adolf Gustav Rupprecht Maximilian Bayrhammer was the son of the well-known Munich theater actor Max Emanuel Bayrhammer (1867-1942). According to his father’s will, he shouldn’t become an actor, but do something solid. After attending the Realgymnasium he went to the business school.

He put all his money into his education

Then came the Second World War, and Bayrhammer was stationed in Berlin as a radio communications operator for the Luftwaffe. He invested most of his military pay in acting lessons with the famous Heinrich George (1893-1946, father of Götz George) at the Schillertheater. Until 1966 he worked as a theater actor in the outskirts of Bavaria, including on stages in Sigmaringen, Tübingen and Karlsruhe. Only then did he finally make the long-awaited leap to his hometown of Munich. The great theater icon Therese Giehse (1898-1975) discovered him: Bayrhammer went to the Munich Kammerspiele, one of the most important theaters in the country.

In the end he played on the big stages of the city: Kammerspiele, Residenztheater, Volkstheater, where he particularly enjoyed taking part in plays by Ludwig Thoma, whom his father had recommended to him as the “Bavarian Shakespeare”. Unforgotten to this day are his appearances as the baroque heavenly gatekeeper in “Der Brandner Kaspar und das immer’ Leben” at the Bavarian State Theater with colleagues such as Toni Berger (1921-2005) and Fritz Strassner (1919-1993).

He didn’t always stand behind his successes

He was skeptical about his fame as a “parade Bavarian”, which he had also acquired with the role of the first Munich “Tatort” inspector Melchior Veigl (1972-1981). “I don’t like wappers on the ass,” grumbled Bayrhammer, who didn’t want to be identified 1:1 with his roles in the ZDF series “White-Blue Stories” or “Royal Bavarian District Court”.

He much preferred his first big Bavarian “project”. In 1966 he played in the German film satire “The borehole or Bavaria is not Texas” by Rainer Erler (88). The WDR film is about a Bavarian village where a spring of healing water is discovered during oil test drilling, which triggers an absurd wave of greed and corruption. Gustl Bayrhammer shines in the role of the village doctor Dr. Gerstl. The Broadcasting Council of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (BR) judged the film to be “contemptuous of the Bavarian way of life”. During the ARD repetition in 1968, the BR even faded out, ie over ten million Bavarian TV viewers did not even get to see the parade Bavarian Gustl Bayrhammer.

He always liked to brush against the grain, the Bayrhammer Gustl. In his home town of Krailling near Munich, he was an early advocate of environmental protection, and in the “Rosenheim appeal against xenophobia in Germany” (1992), at the height of the riots against asylum seekers in Germany, he campaigned for more tolerance and against racism.

Master Eder to hear, see and read

He has the writer Ellis Kaut (1920-2015) to thank for the fact that at some point a little red-haired goblin entered his life. She invented the character and initially produced it as a radio play for BR: Pumuckl nestles in Master Eder’s carpenter’s workshop because he stuck to his pot of glue and is now only visible to him. The two have a lot of adventures to face.

Gustl Bayrhammer spoke to Master Eder, “the best choice for Ellis Kaut”, as the “Münchner Merkur” wrote. “A Bavarian original, very similar to her in character. And immediately likeable. He was able to use the Bavarian dialect perfectly.” After the radio play came the book series, then the movie “Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl”, and finally the TV series of the same name with many episodes that are still haunting media libraries today.

At some point, Ellis Kaut had enough of Pumuckl: The goblin was supposed to meet a goblin buddy and emigrate with him to the world of the kobold men who were related to them. Enough. When it was broadcast on the radio in 1971, a storm of protest broke out. Crying children and horrified parents answered the BR phones, and Kaut was insulted as the “Pumuckl murderer”. She had no other choice: she brought the goblin back until 1988, when he continued to wreak havoc.

The actor was 71 years old

Around this time, Gustl Bayrhammer suffered his first heart attack, he died of his second in 1993, at home in Krailling during a nap, at the age of 71.

The actor Hans Clarin (1929-2005) gave Pumuckl his voice. Cheeky, shrill, sometimes shrieking, sometimes heartbreaking. Clarin died in 2005, the Pumuckl inventor Ellis Kaut in 2015. The idea that everyone involved is now busy with Gustl Bayrhammer in goblin heaven has more than just comfort for the many Pumuckl fans.


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