Hollywood Refugees

Actors, actresses, writers, directors and producers who fled Nazi Europe from 1928-1940
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1.
Marlene Dietrich
Marie Magdelene Dietrich von Losch (aka Marlene) was born in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Her father was an army officer who had served in the Franco-Prussian War. Because of his constant absences from the family due to his army duties, Marlene and the rest had to rely on themselves. When he died...
 
2.
Billy Wilder
Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city's largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933...
 
3.
Otto Preminger
Otto Ludwig Preminger was born in Wiznitz, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary. His father was a prosecutor, and Otto originally intended to follow his father into a law career; however, he fell in love with the theater and became a stage director. He directed his first film in 1931, and came to the US in 1936 to direct on the Broadway stage...
 
4.
Ingrid Bergman
Actress, Casablanca
Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood's lamented Golden Era. Her natural and unpretentious beauty and her immense acting talent made her one of the most celebrated figures in the history of American cinema. Bergman is also one of the most Oscar-awarded actresses, tied with Meryl Streep, both second only to Katharine Hepburn...
 
5.
Peter Lorre
Actor, Casablanca
As a youth Peter Lorre ran away from home, worked as a bank clerk and, after stage training in Vienna, made his acting debut in Zurich. He remained unknown, traveling for several years and acting in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, until Fritz Lang cast him as the psychopathic child killer in M...
 
6.
Fritz Lang
Director, M
Fritz Lang was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1890. His father managed a construction company. His mother, Pauline Schlesinger, was Jewish but converted to Catholicism when Lang was ten. After high school, he enrolled briefly at the Technische Hochschule Wien and then started to train as a painter. From 1910 to 1914...
 
7.
Pola Negri
Actress, The Wildcat
Barbara Apollina Chalupiec (aka Pola Negri) was born in Janowa, Poland on January 3, 1897. Pola was born into a comfortable lifestyle until her father was arrested by the Russians and sent to a Siberian prison camp. Moving to Warsaw in 1902, she was to spend her formative years in dire poverty. As a teenager...
 
8.
Sonja Henie
The daughter of a fur wholesaler in Norway, Sonja Henie received her first pair of ice skates when she was six. At 14 she was the Norwegian Skating Champion. At 15 she would win the Olympic gold medal in Skating, a feat she would repeat in 1932 and 1936. In 1936 she would turn professional and tour with her own ice show...
 
9.
Hedy Lamarr
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria, to a banker and his wife. Hedwig, who obviously became Hedy, had a rather calm childhood, but it was cinema that fascinated her. By the time she was a teenager she decided to drop out of school and seek fame as an actress. Her first role was a bit part in the German film Geld auf der Straße (aka "Money on the Street") in 1930...
 
10.
Paul Henreid
Actor, Casablanca
Paul Henreid was born Paul Georg Julius Freiherr von Hernreid Ritter von Wasel-Waldingau in Trieste, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the son of Marie Luise Heilig (Lendecke) and Baron Karl Alphons Hernreid. His father was an aristocratic banker, who was born to a Jewish family whose surname was changed from Hirsch to Hernreid...
 
11.
Max Reinhardt
Max Reinhardt was from an Austrian merchant family (surname officially changed from the family name Goldmann to Reinhardt in 1904), and even as a boy, after his family moved to Vienna, he haunted the "Hofburg Theater" and tried to see every play. In 1890 he studied at the Sulkowsky Theater in Matzleinsdorf...
 
12.
Fred Zinnemann
Director, High Noon
Initially grew up wanting to be a violinist, but while at the University of Vienna decided to study law. While doing so, he became increasingly interested in American film and decided that was what he wanted to do. He became involved in European filmaking for a short time before going to America to study film.
 
13.
Robert Siodmak
Director, The Killers
Robert Siodmak (8 August 1900 - 10 March 1973) was a German-born American film director. He is best remembered as a thriller specialist and for a series of stylish, unpretentious Hollywood films noirs he made in the 1940s. Siodmak (pronounced SEE-ODD-MACK) was born in Dresden, Germany, the son of Rosa Philippine (née Blum) and Ignatz Siodmak...
 
14.
S.Z. Sakall
Actor, Casablanca
Hungarian-born S.Z. Sakall was a veteran of German, Hungarian and British films when he left Europe because of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. In Hollywood from shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Sakall began appearing in comedies and musicals, often playing a lovable if somewhat excitable and/or befuddled uncle...
 
15.
Elisabeth Bergner
Elisabeth Bergner was the daughter of the merchant Emil Ettel and his wife Anna Rosa Wagner. She grew up in Vienna, and she made her theatre debut in Innsbruck in 1915. In 1916 she obtained a contract in Zürich, where she played Ophelia next to the famous Alexander Moissi, who fell in love with her. The next stage in her career was Vienna...
 
16.
Felix Bressart
With his lanky frame, big nose, toothbrush moustache and horn-rimmed glasses, he looked like someone had decided to cross Groucho Marx with Albert Einstein. The perennial scene-stealer Felix Bressart had two distinct careers as a comic actor: an earlier one, on stage and screen in his native Germany; and a later...
 
17.
Joe Pasternak
Producer, Anchors Aweigh
The son of an out-of-work bookkeeper, Pasternak arrived in the U.S. from Hungary in 1921. After working in a belt factory in Philadelphia, he moved to New York where he plucked chickens and worked in a cafeteria. Becoming increasingly infatuated with the film business, it didn't take him long to find...
 
18.
Luise Rainer
Luise Rainer, the first thespian to win back-to-back Oscars, was born on January 12, 1910 in Dusseldorf, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family. Her parents were Emilie (Königsberger) and Heinrich Rainer, a businessman. She took to the stage, and plied her craft on the boards in Germany. As a young actress...
 
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20.
Lotte Lenya
Lotte Lenya was a Tony Award-winning and Academy award-nominated actress and singer who is best remembered for her supporting role as Rosa Klebb in the classic Bond film From Russia with Love. She was born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blaumauer on October 18, 1898, in Vienna, Austria (at that time Austro-Hungarian Empire)...
 
21.
Franz Waxman
Music Department, Peyton Place
Franz Waxman (Wachsmann) pursued his dream of a career in music despite his family's misgivings. He worked for several years as a bank teller and paid for piano, harmony and composition lessons with his salary. He later moved to Berlin, where he continued his study and progress as a musician. He was able to support himself by playing and arranging for a popular German jazz band...
 
22.
Michael Curtiz
Director, Casablanca
Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. After WWI, he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany and into the early 1920s when he directed films in other countries in Europe. Moving to the US in 1926, he started making films in Hollywood for Warner Bros...
 
23.
Mártha Eggerth
From the day she was born Martha lived in a world of music. For sure her father was a banker but he was also an amateur pianist. As for her mother, she was a housewife but also a very talented opera singer who had given up her career for the joys of matrimony and motherhood. It does not come as a surprise...
 
24.
Eva Gabor
Eva Gabor was born on February 11, 1919 in Budapest, Hungary, to Jolie Gabor (née Janka Tilleman) and Vilmos Gabor (born Farkas Miklós Grün), a soldier. Her older siblings were Magda Gabor, an actress, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, an actress and socialite. Her parents were both from Jewish families...
 
25.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Actress, Moulin Rouge
Undoubtedly the woman who had come to epitomize what we recognize today as "celebrity", Zsa Zsa Gabor, is better known for her many marriages, personal appearances, her "dahlink" catchphrase, her actions, life gossip, and quotations on men, rather than her film career. Zsa Zsa Gabor was born Sári Gabor in Budapest...
 
26.
Helmut Dantine
Actor/director/producer Helmut Dantine was born in Vienna, Austria on October 7, 1917. He made a name for himself as an actor during World War Two playing German soldiers and Nazi villains in Hollywood films, most notably in Mrs. Miniver. The young Dantine was a fervent anti-fascist/anti-Nazi activist in Vienna...
 
27.
Michèle Morgan
A classic beauty, blonde French actress Michèle Morgan has been one of her country's most popular leading ladies for over five decades. Born in 1920, she studied acting under René Simon and began her career at 15 working as a film extra to pay for drama classes. The young actress soon caught the eye of director Marc Allégret...
 
28.
Conrad Veidt
Actor, Casablanca
Conrad Veidt attended the Sophiengymnasium (secondary school) in the Schoeneberg district of Berlin, and graduated without a diploma in 1912, last in his class of 13. Conrad liked animals, theater, cinema, fast cars, pastries, thunderstorms, gardening, swimming and golfing. He disliked heights, flying...
 
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30.
Walter Slezak
Tall, portly Viennese character actor Walter Slezak simultaneously pursued two different careers after his arrival in America in 1930: one, as a star of musical comedy on the stage, and another, as a portrayer of villains, impish rogues or pompous buffoons on screen. Walter was born in May 1902 in Vienna...
 
31.
Charles Boyer
Actor, Gaslight
Charles Boyer studied philosophy before he went to the theater where he gave his debut in 1920. Although he had at first no intentions to pursue a career at the movies (his first movie was L'homme du large by Marcel L'Herbier) he used his chance in Hollywood after several filming stations all over Europe...
 
32.
Anna Sten
Born in Russia to a Ukrainian father and a Swedish mother, Anna Sten studied at the Russian Film Academy and joined the Moscow Art Theater. Strikingly beautiful, she went on to appear in a number of Russian silent films, but it was in the German film Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff that Anna gained notice. Samuel Goldwyn saw a picture of Anna in the paper and rushed to view the film...
 
33.
Simone Simon
Actress, Cat People
Diminutive, fiery-tempered Simone Simon was born in France, but spent much of her early childhood in Madagascar, where her father managed a graphite mine. Her schooling was somewhat unsettled, her family moving from city to city (Berlin, Budapest, Turin) before finally establishing themselves in Paris in 1930...
 
34.
Fernand Gravey
One of director Alfred Machin's favorite actresses was Fernande Dépernay of the Théâtre des Galeries. Dépernay was married to Georges Mertens, another of Machin's regular actors. Their son, Fernand Mertens, born in 1904. He made his acting debut in 'Saïda Makes Off with Manneken Pis' and in 1914 played the role of little Kef in 'A Tragedy in the Clouds' alongside his parents...
 
35.
Annabella
Actress, Le million
At age 16, Annabella was chosen by Abel Gance to appear in Napoleon. In the 30s, she became a star of French movies. She made movies in numerous other countries, before being called to Hollywood in 1938, where she met and married Tyrone Power. She remained in the USA until 1947. Then she attempted a comeback in France. She retired from show business in 1954.
 
36.
Olympe Bradna
Actress, Souls at Sea
Brunette leading lady, signed by Paramount in 1936. She was introduced with a famous publicity campaign, which instructed prospective American audiences to pronounce her first name 'O-lamp'. She was born backstage, in between a matinée and evening performance to vaudevillians Joseph and Jeanne Bradna...
 
37.
Ilona Massey
Sultry, opulent blonde Hungarian singer Ilona Massey survived an impoverished childhood in Budapest, Hungary to become a glamorous talent both here and abroad. As a dressmaker's apprentice she managed to scrape up money together for singing lessons and first danced in chorus lines, later earning roles at the Staats Opera...
 
39.
George Pal
George Pal was born on February 1, 1908, in Cegled, Austria-Hungary. Later, when he was still a child, his stage-entertainer parents divorced, and he was raised by his grandparents. In 1928, Pal graduated from the Budapest Academy of Arts with a degree in Architecture and highly developed drawing skills...
 
40.
Signe Hasso
Actress, A Double Life
Young Signe Larsson was only 12 when she started to work as a child extra at The Royal Dramatic Theater and was the youngest ever enrolled for acting studies there at 16. She quickly got leading roles in movies and always received very good reviews. In 1940 she went to Hollywood and signed a contract with RKO...
 
41.
Francis Lederer
Frantisek Lederer was born on November 6th, 1899, in Czechoslovakia. His father was a leather merchant, and young Frantisek began his working life as a department store delivery boy in Prague. He fell in love with acting from a young age, and was soon on stage touring Moravia and then all over Central Europe with people like Peter Lorre...
 
42.
Anton Walbrook
Actor, La ronde
This dark, debonair, dashing and extremely distinguished Austrian actor was christened Adolf Wohlbrück in Vienna, the scion of a family of circus clowns. He broke away easily from generations of tradition as the circus life had no appeal whatsoever to Walbrook. Trained by the legendary director Max Reinhardt...
 
43.
Douglas Sirk
Film director Douglas Sirk, whose reputation blossomed in the generation after his 1959 retirement from Hollywood filmmaking, was born Hans Detlef Sierck on April 26, 1897, in Hamburg, Germany, to a journalist. Both of his parents were Danish, and the future director would make movies in German, Danish and English...
 
44.
Vera Ralston
After achieving modest fame as an ice skater in her native Czechoslovakia, Vera Hruba was brought to America by Republic Pictures head Herbert J. Yates, who hoped to turn her into the next Sonja Henie. After featuring her in several Ice Capades movies, he added "Ralston" to her name and tried to pass her off as a leading lady...
 
45.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Music Department, The Big Lebowski
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the son of a well-known music critic. He was a child prodigy who composed his first orchestral piece at 14 and drew the attention of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and many other prominent composers and conductors. He had begun a promising career as a serious composer of...
 
46.
Friedrich Hollaender
Soundtrack, Black Book
Friedrich Hollaender was the son of the composer Victor Hollaender, who composed shows in Berlin in the 1890s to 1910s. Frederick received early musical training, since 1913 he was student of opera composer Engelbert Humperdinck (who composed Hänsel und Gretel). He started as repetitor at a theater in Prague, and became - inspite of his classical training...
 
47.
Henry Koster
Director, Harvey
Henry Koster was born Herman Kosterlitz in Berlin, Germany, on May 1, 1905. His maternal grandfather was a famous operatic tenor Julius Salomon (who died of tuberculosis in the 1880s). His father was a salesman of ladies unmentionables who left the family while Henry was at a young age, leaving him to support the family...
 
49.
Oskar Homolka
Actor, Sabotage
Because of his heavy generically "European" accent and Slavic-sounding surname (not an uncommon one among Czechs or Slovaks), many people assumed Oscar Homolka was Eastern European or Russian. In fact, he was born in Vienna (then Austria-Hungary), the multicultural capital of a large multi-ethnic empire at the time...
 
50.
Victor Borge
Pianist, composer, songwriter, entertainer and actor, educated at Borgerdydskolen and the Conservatory of Copenhagen. He studied with Egon Petri and Frederic Lammond. His concert career began in 1922, and he performed in a musical revue in 1934, and in films by 1937. Arriving in the US in 1940, he made his American radio debut on the Bing Crosby show...
 
52.
Fernand Gravey
One of director Alfred Machin's favorite actresses was Fernande Dépernay of the Théâtre des Galeries. Dépernay was married to Georges Mertens, another of Machin's regular actors. Their son, Fernand Mertens, born in 1904. He made his acting debut in 'Saïda Makes Off with Manneken Pis' and in 1914 played the role of little Kef in 'A Tragedy in the Clouds' alongside his parents...
 
53.
Miliza Korjus
Soundtrack, Tuntematon sotilas
Miliza's father was Arthur Korjus, a lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Russian Army and later Chief of Staff to the War Minister of Estonia. The Estonian branch of her family was of Swedish descent, having settled in Estonia during the middle of the seventeenth century when the country was ruled by Sweden...
 
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