Sissi actor Karlheinz Boehm dies at 86

Austrian actor Karlheinz Boehm, famous for playing Emperor Franz-Joseph in the 1950s "Sissi" films opposite Romy Schneider, has died aged 86, his charity foundation said Friday.

Boehm passed away at his home near Salzburg on Thursday after a long illness, the foundation said. In the spring of 2013 it was announced that Böhm was suffering from Alzheimer's.

The Austrian actor began his career on the stage but shot to fame as the dashing young "Franzi" in the saccharine "Sissi" trilogy about Habsburg Empress Elisabeth, capturing the hearts of a generation of cinema-goers.

Over the past 30 years however, Boehm focused on charity work in Ethiopia, setting up the foundation "Menschen fuer Menschen" in 1981 following a televised bet, and heading it until 2011. His appeal on popular TV programme 'Wetten, dass' -- "I bet that not one third of viewers would give one Deutschmark, one Swiss franc, seven Austrian schillings for the people suffering in the Sahel region" -- prompted up to 1.2 million Deutschmark (about 610,000 euros, $835,000) in donations.

The charity helps people in need in Ethiopia and has been led for some years by his Ethiopian wife, Almaz. Last December, she gave up her position as CEO of the organization in order to care for her husband.

In 2002, he was awarded one of Austria's top honours for services to the state and was later named an honorary citizen of Ethiopia.