Albert Bassermann

Albert Bassermann (7 September 1867 15 May 1952) was a German stage and screen actor. He was considered to be one of the greatest German-speaking actors of his generation and received the famous Iffland-Ring. He was married to Elsa Bassermann with whom he frequently performed.

Albert Bassermann
Albert Bassermann as "Van Meer" in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent
Born(1867-09-07)7 September 1867
Died15 March 1952(1952-03-15) (aged 84)
en route to Zurich, Switzerland
OccupationScreen, stage actor
Years active1887–1948
Elsa Bassermann
(m. 1908; his death 1952)

Life and career

Bassermann began his acting career in 1887 in Mannheim, his birthplace, after he began to study chemistry at the Technical University of Karlsruhe in 1884/85. He then moved to Berlin. From 1899, he worked for Otto Brahm. He began work at the Deutsches Theater Berlin from 1904, the same year that his future wife, actress Elsa Bassermann, moved to Berlin to work at that same theater. In 1909, the year after they married, he started working at the Lessing Theatre, though he also continued at the Deutsches Theater, working there with Max Reinhardt from 1909 to 1915. Roles included Othello in 1910,[1] Faust Part II with Friedrich Kayssler in 1911,[2] Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and August Strindberg's The Storm with de:Gertrud Eysoldt in 1913.[3]

Bassermann was among the first German theatre actors who worked in film. In 1913, he played the main role of the lawyer in Max Mack's Der Andere (The Other), after the play by Paul Lindau. In 1915, he appeared in Egmont (play) with de:Victor Barnowsky at the de:Deutsches Künstlertheater. He also worked with German silent film directors Richard Oswald, Ernst Lubitsch, Leopold Jessner and Lupu Pick. In 1928 he appeared in the first staging of Carl Zuckmayer's Katharina Knie, and in November that year in Herr Lambertier by Verneuil[4] In 1933, Bassermann left Germany and lived in Switzerland,[5] then moved to the United States in 1938.

Annija Simsone, who played opposite Bassermann in the Neue Wiener Buehne Theater in the 1920s, wrote the following in her autobiography: "During the Hitler era, Bassermann did not perform in Germany, though Adolf Hitler personally held him in high regard; Elsa was Jewish. Bassermann was told that if he wanted to continue to perform in Germany, he would have to get divorced. He did not get divorced, but Elsa and he went to Switzerland instead."[5]

Although his ability to speak English was very limited, he learned lines phonetically with assistance from his wife and found work as a character actor. For his performance as the Dutch statesman Van Meer in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, Bassermann was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor in 1940. He returned to Europe in 1946. His final film appearance was in The Red Shoes.

In her acting textbook Respect for Acting, actress Uta Hagen said: "One of the finest lessons I ever learned was from the great German actor Albert Basserman. I worked with him as Hilde in The Master Builder by Ibsen. He was already past eighty but was as 'modern' in his conception of the role of Solness and in his techniques as anyone I've ever seen or played with. In rehearsals he felt his way with the new cast. (The role had been in his repertoire for almost forty years.) He watched us, listened to us, adjusted to us, meanwhile executing his actions with only a small part of his playing energy. At the first dress rehearsal, he started to play fully. There was such a vibrant reality to the rhythm of his speech and behavior that I was swept away by it. I kept waiting for him to come to an end with his intentions so that I could take my 'turn.' As a result, I either made a big hole in the dialogue or desperately cut in on him in order to avoid another hole. I was expecting the usual 'It's your turn; then it's my turn.' At the end of the first act I went to his dressing room and said, 'Mr. Basserman, I can't apologize enough, but I never know when you're through!' He looked at me in amazement and said, 'I'm never through! And neither should you be.'"


Bassermann died on May 16, 1952, at or near the Zurich Airport, soon after his flight from the United States had arrived. He was 85.[6] He is buried in Mannheim.


Year Title Role Notes
1913Der AndereDr. HallersThe Other
Der KönigProvinzschauspieler
Der letzte TagProfessor Osterode
1914Urteil des ArztesDr. Erwin Hofmüller
1917Du sollst keine anderen Götter haben
Der eiserne WilleHausierer David
Herr und Diener
1918Vater und Sohn
Die Brüder von Zaarden
Dr. Schotte
Lorenzo Burghardt
1919Eine schwache Stunde
Das Werk seines LebensPeter
1920Die Duplizität der Ereignisse
The Voice
The Sons of Count Dossy
Dolls of Death
1921Der FrauenarztDr. Wolfgang Holländer
The Nights of Cornelis BrouwerCornelis Brouwer
Burning Country
The Last WitnessOlaf Baggerson
Die kleine Dagmar
1922FrauenopferGrafWomen's Sacrifice
The Loves of PharaohSothis
Lucrezia BorgiaPope Alexander VI
1923The Man in the Iron MaskCardinal MazarinThe Man with the Iron Mask
Earth SpiritDr. Schoen
Christopher ColumbusColumbus
Old HeidelbergThe Student Prince
Abenteuer einer Nacht
1924HelenaAisakosHelen of Troy
1925Letters Which Never Reached HimKonsul Werner Gerling
The Director GeneralGeneraldirektor Herbert Heidenberg
1926Professor Imhof
1929Fräulein ElseDr. Alfred Thalhof
Napoleon at Saint HelenaGovernor Hudson Lowe
1930AlraunePrivy Councillor ten BrinkenDaughter of Evil
DreyfusCol. PicquartThe Dreyfus Case
19311914Count Bethmann-Hollweg
A Woman BrandedDr. Ringius
InquestDr. Konrad Bienert
KadettenGeneral von SeddinCadets
1932The Golden AnchorPiquoiseau
1933Ein gewisser Herr GranTschernikoff, Kunsthändler
1935Last LoveThomas Bruck
1939Le Héros de la MarneCol. von Gelow
1940Dr. Ehrlich's Magic BulletDr. Robert Koch
Foreign CorrespondentVan MeerNominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Knute Rockne, All AmericanFather Julius Nieuwland
A Dispatch from ReutersFranz Geller
EscapeDr. Arthur Henning
Moon Over BurmaBasil Renner
1941A Woman's FaceConsul Magnus Barring
The Great AwakeningLudwig van Beethoven
The Shanghai GestureVan Elst, The Commissioner
1942Fly-by-NightDr. Storm
Invisible AgentArnold Schmidt
Desperate JourneyDr. Ludwig Mather
The Moon and SixpenceDr. Coutras
Once Upon a HoneymoonGen. Borelski
Reunion in FranceGeneral Hugo Schroeder
1943Good Luck, Mr. YatesDr. Carl Hesser
Madame CurieProf. Jean Perot
1944Since You Went AwayDr. Sigmund Gottlieb Golden
1945The Captain from Köpenick Wilhelm Voigt, a shoemakerI Was a Criminal
Strange HolidaySchool PrincipalThe Day After Tomorrow; uncredited
Rhapsody in BlueProf. Franck
1946The Searching WindCount von Stammer
1947The Private Affairs of Bel AmiJacques Rival
Escape Me NeverProf. Heinrich
1948The Red ShoesSergei RatovFinal film role

See also


  1. Styan 1982, p. 54.
  2. "Faust". Global Performing Arts Database. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  3. Styan 1982, pp. 38,61.
  4. 'Dilettante' (1929). "Letters from Abroad - Berlin" (PDF). The Bermondsey Book, Dec. Jan. Feb. 1928-9. VI (I): 109. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  5. Annija Simsone, Atminas, Atminas, Gramatu Draugs, copyright 1961, page 109. Note: The book is in Latvian; an English translation exists but has not been published.
  6. "Albert Bassermann, German Actor, Dies". Rutland Daily Herald. Vermont, Rutland. Associated Press. May 16, 1952. p. 3. Retrieved November 1, 2019 via


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