Sunday 19 August 2018

Obituary: Greta Thyssen

Model and former Miss Denmark who forged a career as a Hollywood actress

Greta Thyssen
Greta Thyssen

Greta Thyssen, who has died aged 90, was a voluptuous former Miss Denmark who moved to Hollywood in the 1950s in her quest to follow in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

She was probably best known as the lead in three of the last The Three Stooges film shorts, slugging it out with the madcap comedians. She received a custard pie in the face as the glamorous assistant to Professor Quackenbush (Milton Frome) in Pies and Guys (1958), the trio's take on Pygmalion; played a con artist who helps her bosses to swindle Joe Besser out of his sweepstakes winnings in Quiz Whizz (1958); and was an attractive senorita in Sappy Bull Fighters (1959).

She was born Grete Karen Thygesen on March 30, 1927, in Hareskovby, Denmark. After the family moved to more cosmopolitan Copenhagen she embarked on a modelling career. Having being crowned Miss Copenhagen and Miss Denmark in quick succession, she built a male fan base that included Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, who offered her film work.

She jumped at the chance. Initially the closest she came to competing with Marilyn Monroe was when she was employed as her body double in Bus Stop (1956). There was no doubt that while Monroe and Mansfield had a certain innocence about them, Greta Thyssen's roles were a little more risque and more explicitly focused on her figure.

After Bus Stop came a part in Accused of Murder (also 1956), starring Vera Ralston as a lounge singer. It was filmed in "Naturama", a widescreen movie technique, but as one critic noted: "There's nothing natural about Ralston or Thyssen's acting ability."

Nonetheless, the comedian Jan Murray was impressed by Greta Thyssen and gave her a job as a busty "pirate girl", akin to a Playboy bunny, on his quiz show Treasure Hunt (1956). She appeared in the hit show Dragnet and in an episode of Perry Mason, and did enough to convince the director Harmon Jones to give her a sizeable role in The Beast of Budapest (1958). She was also the main object of Jock Mahoney's affections in Three Blondes in His Life (1961).

Finally came the comedy western The Double-Barrelled Detective Story (1965), after which she bowed out with a cameo as herself in an all-too-familiar polka-dot bikini for the obscure Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers (1967).

During her film career Greta Thyssen married several times, but left acting to marry her final husband, Theodore Guenther, a mining engineer, in 1967. Guenther died in 2000, and she is survived by their daughter. She died on January 2.

Sunday Independent

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