Always known as Hans-Jörg Gudegast, Eric Braeden appeared in several films and series of the 1960s. These projects included “Combat! “, “Morituri”, “The Man From UNCLE” and “Twelve O’Clock High”. However, what really helped him rise to fame was playing the antagonist, German Hauptmann Hans Dietrich, in “The Rat Patrol,” a World War II drama.
As Braeden shared in a Soap Opera Digest interview, he reluctantly decided to change his name after feeling it limited his acting opportunities. “My wife knew how frustrated I had always been playing bad guys often — first Nazis, then bad guys,” he said. Braeden shared that he finally made the switch before he landed the lead on ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ and after Universal’s then-head told him, ‘Nobody with a German name is going to play in a American picture. According to his CBS biography, his stage name is based on Bredenbek, the name of the town where he grew up. “Changing my name was one of the most painful decisions I’ve ever made, so I had to choose a name I could still relate to,” he said.
In the 70s, he appeared in everything from “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” to “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo”, “The Six Million Dollar Man” to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Kojak” to “Gunsmoke. In 1980, his career took another turn when he started playing Victor Newman in “The Young and the Restless.” A soap opera star is born.