It was fifty years ago today…

AW in 1961
…that AW died at the home of his old friend, actress Hansi Burg, in Garatshausen, Bavaria, where he had been convalescing from a heart attack he had suffered on stage at the Kleine-Komödie in Munich at the end of March. I have written about this in more detail on previous anniversaries (see here and here.)

It had been my intention to mark this year’s special anniversary with the publication of my biography of the actor, but for various reasons this has not been possible. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the text is complete – watch this space for further news!

The website has been undergoing some behind-the-scenes transformations which have prevented me from uploading any new material in recent weeks, and again, I hope normal service will be resumed very soon. Thank you for continuing to visit the blog.

Anton Artefact #5

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‘Mascherata’ (Milan: Edizioni, 1935)
This 64 page pocket-sized booklet is written in Italian and is an early example of a movie novelisation, albeit in miniature. King Kong (1933) was perhaps the first big sound film to be adapted into a novel, but Mascherata sits midway between a book length adaptation and the concise retelling of the story found in various cinema programmes and magazines of the period such as Illustrierter Film-Kurier or Le Film Complet. There are a couple of section breaks in the text but no chapters and the entire narrative is covered in about 8,000 words. These cineromanzos remained popular for many decades, developing into a glossier magazine format in the 1950s and 1960s, although as a genre they have received scant critical attention.

Anton Artefact #4

AW as Duke Alfonso II of Ferrara (1533-97), patron of the poet Torquato Tasso, from a theatre programme for a performance of Goethe’s Torquato Tasso ​at the Sächsische Staatstheater, Dresden, in February 1930.

moira shearer (1926-2006)

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AW and MS in ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)
Moira Shearer died on this day, eleven years ago. After The Red Shoes she went on to appear in other film roles: as Olympia in The Tales Of Hoffmann (Powell and Pressburger, 1950), Paula Woodward in The Story Of Three Loves (Minnelli/Reinhardt, 1952), multiple parts in The Man Who Loved Redheads (French, 1955), Vivian in Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960) and Roxanne in Black Tights. Most of these roles showcased her dancing talents.
She worked with AW again – on the stage this time – in Walter Hasenclever’s play Man of Distinction, which opened at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh during the 1957 Festival, before moving south for a three weeks of performances in what was the termed ‘the provinces’ (including Leeds, Manchester and Blackpool) before showing at at the Princes Theatre, London. Set in Berlin in the 1920s, Hasenclever’s comedy Ein besserer Herr was written in Paris and Nice in the summer of 1926 and mocks the hypocrisies, materialism and delusions of the Weimar republic. Hugo Mobius is a fraudster who specialises in conning wealthy ladies into marriage, a scheme that founders when he finds himself genuinely falling in love. Prunella Scales played the part of Aline, next to Walbrook’s Hugo Mobius, while Moira Shearer played the part of Lia Compass.

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AW and MS in ‘Man of Distinction’ (1957)

Anton artefact #2

This is the cover of the Curzon Mayfair programme for La Ronde (Ophuls, 1950) which was screened here for almost eighteen months in 1951-2. The film was one of the first in Britain to receive the new ‘X’ certificate which replaced the old ‘H’ for ‘Horrific’ – a recognition that film-makers were now treating adult themes that were not necessarily related to horror. Only those over the age of sixteen could be admitted. For a long time the Curzon was the only place the film could be seen, as controversy about its content hindered nationwide release. The original cinema – depicted inside the cover – was built in 1934 but demolished in 1963 to be replaced with the current building. There is a small photograph and biography of AW inside, emphasising his Viennese origins.

Anton artefact #1

Having been rather pressed for time of late, I’ve fallen behind with various blog posts I’d planned about my AW research, as well as the ever-popular series on the actor and his ‘Leading Ladies.’ Another post on that topic should follow in the very near future, but in the meantime I am starting a new weekly series of short posts which will go up each Friday, showcasing a single item from my collection. This could be a photograph, document, lobby card, poster, vinyl record, rare book…whatever appeals to me at that moment, and these won’t appear in chronological order. This series gives me the opportunity to show some interesting images accompanied by a brief description, without the requirement to prepare much text in advance. So, to start things off, here’s a Spanish handbill advertising the French language film Michel Strogoff (Baroncelli/Eichberg, 1936) that pays grisly homage to the movie’s most notorious scene:

Birthday Note: Anton and his directors

Today marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of Anton Walbrook, and to celebrate the occasion I am posting a selection of photographs that show the actor at work. During his long career, AW was privileged to collaborate with some of the most distinguished film-makers of the time, and so here are some photographs showing them together.

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Director Karl Hartl with some of his extras in the countryside near Potsdam, filming ‘Zigeunerbaron’ – FIlmwelt 18 November 1934

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With Willi Forst on the set of ‘Allotria’ – from ‘Filmwelt’ 5 April 1936
This photo shows AW, Hilde Hildebrand and Heinz Ruhmann being directed by Willi Forst, with whom AW had previously worked in Maskerade (1934.)

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With Thorold Dickinson on the set of ‘The Queen of Spades’ – from The Picturegoer 8 May 1948
AW worked twice with Dickinson, who drew brilliant performances from him in both Gaslight (1940) and The Queen of Spades (1949). This photo also shows cinematographer Otto Heller (1896-1970) who filmed AW no less than four times. Born in Prague, he worked with fellow Czech Carl Lamac on Baby (1932) and Die vertauschte Braut (1934), in both of which AW co-starred with Lamac’s wife Anny Ondra. Port Arthur (Farkas, 1936) was filmed in Prague and was AW’s last film before leaving Nazi Germany. Heller followed him to the UK in 1940.

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A photo taken in 1951 during the filming of ‘Vienna Walzes’, with director Emil Reinert on the right

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With Michael Powell during the filming of ‘Oh, Rosalinda!!’
Oh, Rosalinda!! was the fourth and final of AW’s films with Powell and Pressburger, after 49th Parallel (1941), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and The Red Shoes (1948). Many of these films shared the same cast and crew members – a reflection of the close-knit collaborative nature of Powell and Pressburger’s own ​creative partnership.

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With Emeric Pressburger during the filming of ‘Oh, Rosalinda!!’

Anton Walbrook died 49 years ago today

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AW in 1960
 It is 49 years now since the death of Anton Walbrook, which took place at Garatshausen on this day in 1967. I have written more about his death here and here, but this year I am sharing an image of his will, which was written just four weeks earlier,  on the 10th July 1967:
It was my intention that my biography – which explains more about his relationship with Eugene Edwards – would be published next August to mark the 50th anniversary of Anton’s death, but this is looking increasingly unlikely now. Hopefully the delay won’t be too long. In the meantime, may he rest in peace.

Walbrook’s Leading Ladies: Part Four – Lil Dagover

Lil Dagover (1887-1980)
Starred with AW in Eine Frau die Weiss Was Sie Will (Victor Janson, 1934)
Lil Dagover was born Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert on 30 September 1887 in Java, where her German father was working as a forester. She spent the first ten years of her life in the Dutch East Indies before being sent to be educated in Germany and Switzerland. She began acting in her late teens, and in 1917 married an actor named Fritz Daghofer. The marriage only lasted two years, but it brought her into contact with directors including Fritz Lang and Robert Wiene. She appeared in Lang’s Harakiri (1919) – a variation on Madame Butterfly – and in Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari played Jane, the dark-eyed girl who is kidnapped by Cesare (Connie Veidt), below:

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Lil in ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ (Wiene, 1920)

Her striking looks inspired Max Reinhardt to have her personify ‘Beauty’ at his new festival in Salzburg in 1925, a role she reprised for the next six years. Unlike many other silent actresses, she survived the transition to sound, and her acting skill probably benefited from her brief visit to Hollywood in 1931 to star in The Woman from Monte Carlo. She certainly appears more lively and natural in her performances after she returned to Germany, and this too is noticeable in her co-starring role with AW.

As it’s based on an operetta by Oscar Strauss, Eine Frau die weiss was sie will (Viktor Janson, 1934) has both a musical plot and plenty of musical numbers. Lil Dagover plays Mona Cavallini, an opera star who is much admired by the men, especially the debonair Axel Basse (AW, of course.) Unfortunately, he also has an admirer – the lovely young Karin (Maria Beling), daughter of stern industrialist Erik Mattisson (Anton Edthofer.) Entirely smitten with Anton (well, who wouldn’t be?), and frustrated at his infatuation with the opera singer, Karin asks her father to arrange for a meeting with Cavallini so that she can explain about her feelings. Her plan is successful – Cavallini spurns Axel’s advances and instead sends him in Karin’s direction, resulting in their marriage.

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AW and Lil in ‘Eine Frau die weiß was Sie Will’ (Janson, 1934)

What Karin doesn’t know is that Cavallini is actually her mother, who left her husband and infant child many years earlier for a career in showbusiness and has been prevented by Mattisson from ever having contact with her daughter as a result. Matters become complicated when Karin learns that her husband has met Cavallini behind her back. Upset at the thought that he’s having an affair, she decides to get her revenge by having a fling with another man. Cavallini learns of her plan – but can she stop her daughter destroying her marriage? Will she reveal her identity to Karin? Things are resolved, as one would expect, with a great deal of light-hearted melodrama and singing.

A talented singer as well as actress, she did her own dubbing in foreign languages for multi-lingual releases, and worked with many of AW’s peers, such as Reinhold Schunzel for whom she played London fashion queen Jennifer Lawrence in Das Mädchen Irene (1936.)   She was honoured as a Staatscchauspielerein (State Actress) by Goebbels for her role as the adultress Yelaina in Die Kreutzersonate (1937). and enjoyed a successful film career that continued throughout the post-war era and – like AW – led her onto German television in the 1960s.