Perry Mason actress Susanne Cramer had a tragic life worthy of a mystery series itself

A dark cloud hovered over the German actress, despite her marriage to a familiar face from Little House on the Prairie.

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In March of 1967, The Guns of Will Sonnett was on its last legs. The Western neared the finish line of its brief two-season run when it aired "One Angry Juror." The episode told a rather standard courtroom drama leading up to a bloody ending. Young Jeff Sonnett (Dack Rambo) guns down the killer right in front of the witness stand.

But the one notable thing in this episode is not the plot — it is the actress sitting on the witness stand.

Susanne Cramer portrayed a Swede named Christine Anderson. Born and raised in German, Cramer was typecast in European roles thanks to her accent. "One Angry Juror" would also give her one final opportunity to act in a series alongside her husband, fellow actor Kevin Hagen, another guest star in that episode.

However, she would never see the episode. She had died two months earlier in mysterious circumstances.

Before we delve into her demise, let's rewind to 1967. The Newsday press service ran a syndicated column in newspapers across America about the libertine German entertainment scene. The wild Berlin jet-set — or "lebendige lust (living joy) crowd," as the reporter wrote — was scandalous enough to attract the attention of readers in Oakland. Because there was another dead starlet in the story.

"The death of Renate Ewert turned the spotlight on [the German scene] for a moment," it said. The "dark-haired, fine-boned" actress with an "explosive temperament" was 31 and had landed several roles as a bad girl. The writer titillatingly detailed how she enjoyed going shopping in a "leopard coat and nothing else."

More heavy stuff for the morning papers: "They found her surrounded by her stuffed animals and dolls, crumpled on the rug beside her bed, after she had been dead for five days."

Only, it wasn't a "they" who discovered the corpse; it was her close friend Susanne Cramer.

Some reports claim that Ewert had been dead for up to three weeks. Some reports claim that she had died of starvation. Whatever the case, the ordeal was bizarre and tragic. 

A dark cloud hovered over those closest to Renate Ewert. Her father killed himself a year later. Her mother followed shortly thereafter, poisoning herself. And Cramer would pass away in early 1969.

But the dark cloud had been there all along. "The had already been 11 sleeping-pill suicides in the living joy crowd," that Newsday article explained. Cramer herself had twice attempted suicide in 1957, a tumultuous year that also saw her divorce her husband of mere months, Hermann Nehlsen. She quickly remarried, to Helmuth Lohner. Then divorced him. Then remarried him. They split again.

It seemed as if Cramer had settled down a bit when she moved to Los Angeles and wed her third husband, Kevin Hagen. 

Hagen had carved a successful career in Hollywood playing Western baddies. Later, he shifted gears dramatically, finding a comfortable pigeonhole as a kindly doctor, most memorably Dr. Hiram Baker on Little House on the Prairie.

Hagen and Cramer met working together on Perry Mason, in the mystery "The Case of the Fugitive Fraulein." Cramer played the killer, in what was her second appearance on the show. Around the same time, she popped up on Get Smart, My Favorite MartianHogan's HeroesThe Rat Patrol, and other shows, often playing a German character.

In late 1968, Cramer entered a "private clinic" in Hollywood. It was reported that she died there of pneumonia. Rumors surfaced of medical malpractice, but oddly we could find no official obituary published in 1969. Searching the internet and newspaper archives proves rather fruitless, beyond these scant claims and gossip. Her passing is a mystery suited for a Perry Mason case.

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TheSentinel 32 months ago
Bad research there, MeTV writers. The Guns of Will Sonnett hadn't even debuted yet in March 1967 (the debut came on September 8, 1967).
Runeshaper 32 months ago
There's a trail of sadness here (in this article). Too many people and too young. RIP.
dangler1907 Runeshaper 32 months ago
Hollywood ...
JohnAustin779 32 months ago
Very good story, MeTV👍! I never heard this story before. I wasn't born until '79 so this was before my time. But I have seen the actress before.

I believe it was Hogan's Heroes I saw her on. The picture that I saw of her that was in the link embedded in the article, her eyes look very familiar to me. And here's something to chew on, all those "mysterious deaths" or suicides, maybe they weren't actually suicides?

Maybe these people were involved in something that caught the eye of the German secret police force, the Stasi? It's hard to believe that Renate dies in her apartment and no one knows how long she was dead for and then both her parents committed suicide afterwards? That's just a little hard to believe. And then what happened to Susanne Cramer?

The Stasi was Germany's KGB back then. Germans back then were very scared of the Stasi and of attracting their attention. Maybe this one group of people were targeted by the Stasi for living and supporting a lifestyle that they didn't approve of? Just some food for thought🖖.
TheSentinel JohnAustin779 32 months ago
Actually, it was the Gestapo that was Germany's KGB during WWII.
JohnAustin779 TheSentinel 31 months ago
No, it was the Stasi. The Gestapo existed in Germany in the '30s and '40s. That was 24 years before Susanne Cramer died. When she died, the Cold War was going on in East and West Germany and the secret police force during that era in Germany's history was called the Stasi.

The Gestapo was Hitler's own personal creation and it ceased to exist after World War 2. Look it up🖖.
palmspringsmagpie 32 months ago
This is so badly written it’s laughable. No editing? No proofreading? Ugh.
You missed a comma and "ugh" is not a word.
benbear 32 months ago
Not sure why she never saw the episode if it aired in March of '67, when she died in '69.
I think you meant the episode aired in March of 69.
JeffSchafer 32 months ago
According to

"Von Todessehnsucht getrieben nahm sie eine Überdosis Schlaftabletten. Gerade noch gerettet wurde sie in eine Privatklinik eingeliefert, wo ihr Ehemann sie rund um die Uhr bewachen ließ. In einem unachtsamen Moment riss sie sich selbst den lebenserhaltenden Schlauch aus dem Körper und starb."

"Driven by longing for death, she took an overdose of sleeping pills. She was just rescued to a private clinic, where her husband had her guarded around the clock. In a careless moment, she tore the life-support tube out of her body and died."

"Die offizielle Version der Familie der Schauspielerin war, dass Susanne Cramer am 7. Januar 1969 an einer Lungenentzündung verstarb."

"The official version of the actress's family was that Susanne Cramer died of pneumonia on January 7, 1969."
MrsFletcher JeffSchafer 32 months ago
Good detective work!
MikefromJersey JeffSchafer 32 months ago
Wunderbar Herr Schafer.
Sooner 32 months ago
No photos of her, besides all the article typos?
JeffSchafer Sooner 32 months ago
Google it:
ELEANOR 32 months ago
Oddly enough, there were a few actors and actresses in PM that did not live to see the episode they had appeared in. And it also seems to be very odd that life seemed to imitate art in that she apparently passed in a private clinic; and the private clinic was often used as a plot device in PM. Speaking of the private clinic, we are told that it is a mystery as to how she died. Well, there is no mystery. They know exactly how she died and that information was not released to the public. And about the obituary that could not be found. This is Hollywood and of course sensitive obituaries are going to be concealed.
Deleted 32 months ago
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JHP 32 months ago
am in agreement with you - but its verbage or garbage
32 months ago
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texasluva 32 months ago
Weekend Cinema

Identity (2003) -1 hr 30 min-Mystery-Thriller
Director: James Mangold
John Cusack
Ray Liotta
Amanda Peet
John Hawkes
Alfred Moli
Clea DuVall

Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.
texasluva 32 months ago
Are you ready for Spook Night-Don't go to bed before watching.................

13 Ghosts (1960) 1 hr 24 min-Horror-Mystery
Director: William Castle
Charles Herbert
Jo Morrow
Martin Milner
Rosemary DeCamp
Margaret Hamilton
harlow1313 32 months ago
Being a bit morbid, I have a fascination with human darkness. This is an interesting read.
JHP harlow1313 32 months ago
ya know my int friend - you have to be in glory considering what it going on nowadays
harlow1313 JHP 32 months ago
Well, it doesn't please me.

Like the great George Carlin, I try to view the madness as entertainment. For multiple reasons, I am not feeling much optimism about the longterm future of our nation (U.S.). So it goes.
kkvegas harlow1313 32 months ago
As you describe yourself as "a bit morbid," you are probably familiar with the FindADeath website, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. It's full of great information.
RadioMattM 32 months ago
Dack’s brother Dirk (really) had a guest role on Dragnet 1967. He was killed in a car crash before that episode aired.
Pacificsun RadioMattM 32 months ago
I remember Dirk and Dack. They were twins weren't they? And one was on Dallas. I lost track of them, and then couldn't find both names again. So I though I was imagining things, but now I read about accident. Which explains it.
cperrynaples Pacificsun 32 months ago
Yes, the Rambos were twins, in fact they played Loretta Young's sons in the early '60's! Dack was on Dallas and went on to Another World before he died of AIDS in 1994!
Mike Pacificsun 32 months ago
Dirk and Dack Rambo were indeed twins - and their given names were Orman and Norman Rambo, respectively.
The brothers were discovered by Loretta Young, who met them at her church; she was casting for a new TV series, and felt that teenage twin boys might work as part of her "family".
The Rambos got their nicknames from an agent named Henry Willson, who came up with offbeat names for his clients (the most famous one was Rock Hudson).
After Dirk's car crash, his brother tried to go back to Norman, but Dack won out.
WordsmithWorks 32 months ago
Wow! Talk about a deep-dive. Interesting, though. And Dack Rambo is definitely an awesome name.
JHP WordsmithWorks 32 months ago
I could really reply to this thread but I would get it ...
texasluva 32 months ago
This is some story. Had to first look up Kevin Hagen. He usually played the odd, troubled or villain kind of guy. Susanne Cramer I do not remember so much since she was usually a one or two timer on TV Shows. She was married 5 times (twice to one person). Right there seems a troubled person. Being involved with a bunch in a Berlin Jet Set. Family suicides among others (twice attempting suicide) does not lead to a good lifestyle. Finding a friend dead. Herself not making it to age 35. These stories come to light by MeTV in which we would have never known.
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