Willy Hagara Poster

Biography

Wilhelm 'Willy' Hagara was born in Vienna, Austria in 1927. He was initially trained as a postal clerk and practiced this profession as well. In 1946, he won a popular song contest in the Wiener Konzerthaus. He focused all his activities to this new career, and took singing and acting lessons. During this time he was successful with folk songs and as the singer of the band of John Fehring, who later became the leader of the ORF Big Band Orchestra. Hagara was a classic band singer who performed one of his songs in an early Schlager show for the German ARD television, Schlager-Expreß/Schlager Express (1953). Finally in 1955 came his breakthrough with the song Eine Kutsche voller Mädels/A Coach Full of Girls (1955).

Hagara moved to Frankfurt in Germany and became the German Perry Como, whose songs in German versions he often would sing. Two years later he appeared in his first film, the musical comedy Weißer Holunder/White Elder (Paul May, 1957) with Germaine Damar. This was followed by a string of light entertainment films: Liebe, Mädchen und Soldaten/Love, Girls and Soldiers (Franz Antel, 1958), Mein ganzes Herz ist voll Musik/My Whole Heart is Filled with Music (Helmut Weiss, 1959), Der Haustyrann/The Domestic Tyrant (Hans Deppe, 1959) starring Heinz Erhardt, Laß mich am Sonntag nicht allein/Let Me Not Be Alone on Sunday (Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1959) with Heidi Brühl, and Paprika/Pepper (Kurt Wilhelm, 1959).

Cinema attendance in Germany and Austria had spectacularly grown in the 1950s, but at the end of the decade it first stagnated and went into free-fall in the 1960s; the once popular Schlager films suddenly became outdated. In 1961 Willy Hagara appeared in his last Schlager film, Ramona (Paul Martin, 1961) with Senta Berger. At the time, television was developing into a mass medium that began to compete with the cinema and by 1962 there were already 7 million TV sets in West-Germany. Hagara moved over to the small screen and appeared in such musical TV comedies as Mitternachtszauber/Midnight Magic (Ralph Lotar, 1964) with Werner Fuetterer, and Vom Ersten das Beste/From the First the Best (Ekkehard Böhmer, 1965) with Hannelore Auer. These TV productions were in the same genre as the films he had made in the 1950s for the cinema. He had five Top 10 recording hits, including the evergreen Casetta in Canada. His song Du spielst 'ne tolle Rolle (You Play a Great Role) became one of Nat King Cole's Top 10 hits in the US. But the Beat wave finished his singing career. His later TV-films included Ein Mädchen von heute/A Girl of Today (Dieter Finnern, 1966) with Karin Baal.

In 1969 he received an inheritance which left him a millionaire: His father, the merchant Franz Hagara, left him with a villa and several lease lands in Vienna. However, he did not retire and he bridged the 1970s with live gala performances, and appeared as a guest in such TV shows as Hit-Journal (H.B. Theopold, 1973), Tango-Tango (Horst Eppinger, 1976) and Ein kleines Glück auf allen Wegen/A Small Fortune on All Routes (Ekkehard Böhmer, 1980).

After the death of his wife in 1986, Willy Hagara retired from show business. His last public appearance was in a show from Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna in 2002 on the occasion of his 75th birthday; he passed away in 2015 in Wiesbaden, Germany. He was 87.