Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The European...

Ever wonder where people like David Bowie and Bryan Ferry got their schtick? Well, for starters, consider Anton Walbrook. He is an actor one should have on any short list of greats. Born in Vienna, the scion of a family of circus clowns, Walbrook took great pains to leave the family business and the prat falls behind. As a known "half-Jewish homosexual," he fled Nazi Germany, changed his name (from Adolf Wohlbruck), and soon landed in London. In his earlier films he was prone to over-the-top, expressionistic acting style, however, exile and his fervent anti-Nazi stance would bring gravity to his exuberance. In working with the Archers he became one of the most still actors of all time. The effect is mesmerizing, almost alien. His pasty lizard-like presence makes his human qualities all the more pronounced.

Walbrook was said to be a loner on the sets of his films eating alone with dark glasses on. Of course. He was always accompanied by his childhood English nanny, Edith Williams, who helped him with his accents.

Most will remember him as the obsessive impresario Boris Lermontov in The Red Shoes. He is also unforgettable in the role of Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, the German war prisoner, in The Life and Death of Col. Blimp, another great Powell and Pressburger offering. The 49th Parallel is said to be great too, but I ain't seen it yet. Non P&P films worth looking at include: La Ronde, Queen of Spades, and Saint Joan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget "Lola Montes", in which he plays mad King Ludwig. One of his easier-to-find films.

12:06 PM  

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