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Anton Walbrook Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (15) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 19 November 1896Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Date of Death 9 August 1967Garatshausen, Bavaria, Germany  (heart attack)
Birth NameAdolf Anton Wilhelm Wohlbrück
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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, Walbrook's reputation grew on both the Austrian and German stages. In between he managed a couple of undistinguished roles in silent films. Billed as Adolf Wohlbrück, the youthfully handsome actor graced a number of romantic films come the advent of sound beginning in 1931. Among them The Battle of the Walzes (1933) and the gender-bending comedy Viktor and Viktoria (1933), which later served as the inspiration and basis for Blake Edwards' own Victor Victoria (1982) starring wife Julie Andrews. Hollywood beckoned in the late 30s for Walbrook to re-shoot dialog for an upcoming international picture The Soldier and the Lady (1937) again playing Michael Strogoff, a role he had played impeccably in both previous French and German adaptations. With the rise of oppression in Nazi Germany he moved to Great Britain and took his trademark mustache and dark, handsome features to English language films where he went on to appear to great effect.

Portraying a host of imperious kings, bon vivants and and foreign dignitaries over the course of his career, he played everything from composer Johann Strauss to the Bavarian King Ludwig I. With a tendency for grand, intense, over-the-top acting, he was nevertheless quite impressive in a number of portrayals. Such included the sympathetic German officer in the landmark Powell and Pressburger satire The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and gentle pacifist in another of their collaborations 49th Parallel (1941); as Prince Albert in the black-and-white glossy costumer Victoria the Great (1937) immediately followed by its color remake Queen of Destiny (1938) both opposite Anna Neagle's Queen Victoria; and, most notably, as the obsessively demanding impresario opposite ballerina Moira Shearer in the romantic melodrama The Red Shoes (1948). His stiff and stern military officers were just as notable which included sterling work in The Queen of Spades (1949) and last-speaking English film I Accuse! (1958).

He retired from films at the end of the 1950s, and in later years returned to the European stage and included television roles to his resume. He died in Germany in 1967 of a heart attack.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trivia (15)

Walbrook, who was gay and classified under the Nuremberg Laws as "half-Jewish" (his mother was Jewish), settled in England and continued working as a film actor, making a speciality of playing continental Europeans.
After World War II he also appeared on German stages but he German film business couldn't offer him hardly anything.
His ashes were interred in the churchyard of St. John's Church, Hampstead, London, as he had wished in his testament.
His Red Shoes co-star Moira Shearer recalled Walbrook was a loner on set, often wearing dark glasses and eating alone.
The career was rude interrupted because of the political situation in Germany and Wohlbrück emigrated in 1936 - during the Olympic Games - to France, then to the USA where he could realize a film each. Afterwards he took up residence in England. There he found work in the film business under the name Anton Wolbrook and deserved credit.
He took play lessons at the school of Max Reinhardt and obtained a five-year contract at the "Deutsches Theater".
Walbrook was born in Vienna, Austria, as Adolf Wohlbrück. He was the son of Gisela Rosa (Cohn) and Adolf Ferdinand Bernhard Hermann Wohlbrück. He was descended from ten generations of actors, though his father broke with tradition and was a circus clown.
During a performance at the "Münchenern Kleinen Komödie" Adolf Wohlbrück collapsed, four months later he died because of a heart attack. He was buried in England. His mourners had flowers delivered to show their sympathy.
He is best remembered for his roles in several Powell and Pressburger films, particularly as Prussian Theo in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943) and Svengali-like ballet impresario Lermontov in The Red Shoes (1948). Other memorable performances included the sadistic husband in Gaslight (directed by Thorold Dickinson, 1940).
His first movie parts he played already in 1915 in "Marionetten", a further silent movie came along in 1925. However his real career began rise of the sound film.
At the same time as appearing in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Anton Walbrook was also contracted to perform in Watch on the Rhine in the West End. Only on matinee days did this cause real inconvenience, when the actor had to be whisked away by waiting car at noon on the dot. One evening during the play's interval, there was a knock on Walbrook's dressing-room door. There stood Winston Churchill, redfaced with anger. The Prime Minister proceeded to berate the actor for taking part in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp: 'What's this supposed to mean? I suppose you regard it as good propaganda for Britain?' To which Walbrook replied: 'No people in the world other than the English would have had the courage, in the midst of war, to tell the people such unvarnished truth.'".
Walbrook was "a fervent anti-Nazi" who immediately donated his £1000 fee to charity" for his part in the movie 49th Parallel.
Walbrook was one of the few actors whose work actually improved with exile. His screen persona, like his English, was always perfectly poised and controlled (a consequence perhaps of the constant strain he felt hiding his homosexuality), with only a hint at the great sublimated energy that he seemed to hold taut just below his skin. In performance it only rarely broke loose, as it did during the 'we are not your brothers' speech in 49th Parallel, or later in his role as Lermontov in The Red Shoes.
On the set of Oh...Rosalinda!! (1955) Anton Walbrook, who had left Germany in the early 1930s, would not speak to either Anneliese Rothenberger (extremely temperamental) or Oskar Sima (playing Frosch, in the film a signally unfunny interpreter), both of whom he claimed had been Nazis.
His mastery of English was remarkable and enabled him to appear on the stage from 1939 onwards, something few emigre actors accomplished. He always brought an English teacher - his English governess from childhood - to the set to help him with pronunciation.

Salary (2)

49th Parallel (1941) £2,000 (for 2 weeks)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) £5,000

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