Hollywood Refugees

by mjm2273 | created - 04 Nov 2013 | updated - 31 Oct 2015 | Public

Actors, actresses, writers, directors and producers who fled Nazi Europe from 1928-1940

1. Marlene Dietrich

Soundtrack | Witness for the Prosecution

Her father was a police lieutenant and imbued in her a military attitude to life. Marlene was known in school for her "bedroom eyes" and her first affairs were at this stage in her life - a professor at the school was terminated. She entered the cabaret scene in 1920s Germany, first as a spectator ...

2. Billy Wilder

Writer | The Apartment

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 ...

3. Otto Preminger

Director | Anatomy of a Murder

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 ...

4. Ingrid Bergman

Actress | Notorious

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 ...

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 - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder

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. ...

7. Pola Negri

Actress | Die Bergkatze

Pola Negri was born in Lipno, Poland, and moved to Warsaw as a child. Living in poverty with her mother, a teenage Pola auditioned and was accepted to the Imperial Ballet. Due to an illness that ended her dancing career, she soon switched to the Warsaw Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts and became ...

8. Sonja Henie

Actress | The Countess of Monte Cristo

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...

9. Hedy Lamarr

Actress | Samson and Delilah

Hedy Lamarr, the woman many critics and fans alike regard as the most beautiful ever to appear in films, was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria. She was the daughter of Gertrud (Lichtwitz), from Budapest, and Emil Kiesler, a banker from Lember (now known as Lviv). Her parents were both from...

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 ...

11. Max Reinhardt

Director | A Midsummer Night's Dream

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 ...

12. Fred Zinnemann

Director | A Man for All Seasons

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...

13. Robert Siodmak

Director | Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam

The director Robert Siodmak (which he insisted, be pronounced 'See-odd-mack') was a masterful film maker who successfully blended the techniques of German Expressionism with contemporary styles of American film, particularly film noir, in the process creating a handful of moody, sometimes chilling,...

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 ...

15. Elisabeth Bergner

Actress | Paris Calling

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...

16. Felix Bressart

Actor | The Shop Around the Corner

Bressart made his stage debut in 1914 and his film debut in 1928. Going to the U.S. after being forced out of Germany in 1936, Bressart starred in his first American film, "Swanee River," in 1939. He went on to a successful career in films and during the filming of "My Friend Irma," Bressart passed...

17. Joe Pasternak

Producer | In the Good Old Summertime

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 ...

18. Luise Rainer

Actress | The Great Ziegfeld

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 ...

19. Kurt Weill

Soundtrack | Die Dreigroschenoper

Kurt Weill was born on March 2, 1900 in Dessau, Germany as Kurt Julian Weill. He was married to Lotte Lenya. He died on April 3, 1950 in New York City, New York, USA.

20. Lotte Lenya

Actress | From Russia with Love

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 (1963).

She was born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blaumauer on October 18, 1898, in Vienna, Austria (at ...

21. Franz Waxman

Composer | Sunset Blvd.

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 ...

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...

23. Mártha Eggerth

Actress | Das Hofkonzert

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 ...

24. Eva Gabor

Actress | The Rescuers

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. She went...

25. Zsa Zsa Gabor

Actress | A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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 ...

26. Helmut Dantine

Actor | Northern Pursuit

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 (1942). The young Dantine was a fervent anti-fascist/...

27. Michèle Morgan

Actress | La symphonie pastorale

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 ...

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, ...

29. Curt Bois

Actor | Der Himmel über Berlin

Curt Bois was born on April 5, 1901 in Berlin, Germany. He was an actor and director, known for Wings of Desire (1987), Casablanca (1942) and Fortunes of Captain Blood (1950). He was married to Dagmar and Hedy Ury. He died on December 25, 1991 in Berlin.

30. Walter Slezak

Actor | Born to Kill

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 ...

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 (1920) by Marcel L'Herbier) he used his chance in Hollywood after several filming stations ...

32. Anna Sten

Actress | Nana

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 (1931) that ...

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 ...

34. Fernand Gravey

Actor | The King and the Chorus Girl

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 ...

35. Annabella

Actress | 13 Rue Madeleine

At age 16, Annabella was chosen by Abel Gance to appear in Napoleon (1927). 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 ...

36. Olympe Bradna

Actress | Flofloche

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 ...

37. Ilona Massey

Actress | Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

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 ...

38. Franciska Gaal

Actress | The Girl Downstairs

Franciska Gaal was born on February 1, 1904 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary as Szidónia Silberspitz. She was an actress, known for The Girl Downstairs (1938), Little Mother (1935) and The Buccaneer (1938). She was married to Francis Dajkovich. She died on January 2, 1973 in New York City, New York, ...

39. George Pal

Producer | The War of the Worlds

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 ...

40. Signe Hasso

Actress | Heaven Can Wait

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 ...

41. Francis Lederer

Actor | Die Büchse der Pandora

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 ...

42. Anton Walbrook

Actor | The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

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 ...

43. Douglas Sirk

Director | Schlußakkord

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, ...

44. Vera Ralston

Actress | Storm Over Lisbon

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 ...

45. Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Composer | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the son of a well-known music critic. A child prodigy, he accompanied his father in playing four-handed piano arrangements by the age of five. By the age of eleven he drew his first plaudits from enthusiastic Viennese audiences (including the emperor Franz Josef) with ...

46. Friedrich Hollaender

Music_department | Sabrina

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...

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...

48. Rudi Fehr

Editor | Key Largo

Rudi Fehr was born on July 6, 1911 in Berlin, Germany. He is known for his work on Key Largo (1948), Dial M for Murder (1954) and Apocalypse Now (1979). He was married to Maris Wrixon. He died on April 16, 1999 in Hollywood, California, USA.

49. Oskar Homolka

Actor | The Seven Year Itch

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 ...

50. Victor Borge

Actor | Higher and Higher

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 ...

51. Victor Francen

Actor | J'accuse!

Victor Francen was born on August 5, 1888 in Tienen, Flanders, Belgium as Victor Franssen. He was an actor, known for I Accuse (1938), Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and Crépuscule d'épouvante (1921). He was married to Eleanor Kreutzer, Renée Corciade and Mary Marquet. He died on November ...

52. Fernand Gravey

Actor | The King and the Chorus Girl

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 ...

53. Miliza Korjus

Actress | The Great Waltz

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 ...

54. Madeleine Lebeau

Actress | Casablanca

Madeleine Lebeau was born on June 10, 1923 in Antony, Seine [now Hauts-de-Seine], France as Marie Madeleine Berthe Lebeau. She was an actress, known for Casablanca (1942), (1963) and Gentleman Jim (1942). She was married to Tullio Pinelli and Marcel Dalio. She died on May 1, 2016 in ...

55. Fritz Feld

Actor | Bringing Up Baby

Fritz Feld was born on October 15, 1900 in Berlin, Germany as Fritz Feilchenfeld. He is known for his work on Bringing Up Baby (1938), Out Where the Stars Begin (1938) and Idiot's Delight (1939). He was married to Virginia Christine. He died on November 18, 1993 in Los Angeles, California, USA.