A short, dumpy character player with brunette hair and sagging, weathered features, Mira became unexpectedly prominent in her sixties in German film. Like actors from Marie Dressler to Jessica Tandy,...
Early film appearance in "Wehe, Wenn Sie Losgelassen"
Last film directed by Fassbinder, "Lili Marleen"
Played first leading role in film with "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul", her first acting under director Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A short, dumpy character player with brunette hair and sagging, weathered features, Mira became unexpectedly prominent in her sixties in German film. Like actors from Marie Dressler to Jessica Tandy, Mira won some fine leading roles in her senior years precisely because of her seemingly ordinary nature, and a versatility which enabled her to play both downtrodden and stern alike. Her roles in the 1970s and 80s ranged from leads to character cameos but, whether cast as put-upon proletariats, idiosyncratic servants or nasty mothers, she always made an impression. Mira was especially good in key films by New German Cinema's most prolific talent, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. More than any other filmmaker, he realized that behind the plainness, Mira offered a face full of character, a memorable speaking voice, and the talent for total conviction in her roles.
Mira played a modest role as a hostess in "20 Girls and the Teachers" (1970), but it was a role as a servant in Werner Herzog's haunting historical drama "The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser" (1974) and her joining Fassbinder's acting company which really jumpstarted her film career. Mira had encountered Fassbinder when he produced Ulli Lommel's "The Tenderness of Wolves" (1973), but it was her leading role in his "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" (1974) which made an indelible impression. Cast as Emmi, a cleaning woman who embarks on an unexpected romance with an Arab immigrant worker half her age, Mira gave a performance heartbreaking in its quietude, as the newly married couple faces racism, ageism and their own limitations. One of Fassbinder's most accessible and humane films, "Ali" owed much of its power to Mira's work.
Mira acted in other Fassbinder efforts until his death in 1982. Sometimes the parts were small (a shopowner in "Fox and His Friends" 1975; a neighbor in "Lili Marleen" 1981), while others gave her more to work with, as with her half of a sinister mother-and-son team of servants in "Chinese Roulette" (1976) or her Frau Bast in the epic miniseries, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (1980). Unlike some of Fassbinder's company, Mira was lucky enough to enjoy a second marvelous signature role under the master; in 1975 she essayed the title role in "Mother Kusters' Trip to Heaven", a blistering portrait of contemporary German politics and media hype. Mira was touchingly sympathetic as the sheltered housewife who, after her husband goes crazy at work, killing a foreman before committing suicide, finds herself being used and duped by a wide variety of people.
Mira kept busy in other films during this time as well. She played a fortune teller in the misfired biopic fictionalizing a relationship between Hitler and Dietrich, "Adolph and Marlene" (1976), and did better starring as half of an elderly couple determined to stay in their apartment building even though it is threatened with demolition in the sweet "Love Living, Live Loving" (1976). As she moved into her seventies, Mira gradually worked less in the 80s after Fassbinder's death, but she still played roles in "The Roarin' Fifties" and "Girl in a Boot" (both 1983). More recently, she portrayed the British Queen Mother in the satiric German TV production "Willi und die Windzors".