Adolf Anton Wilhelm Wohlbrück (19 November 1896 – 9 August 1967) was an Austrian actor who settled in the United Kingdom under the name Anton Walbrook. A popular performer in Austria and pre-war Germany, he left in 1936 out of concerns for his own safety and established a career in British cinema. Walbrook is perhaps best known for his roles in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes.
Walbrook in 1945
Adolf Anton Wilhelm Wohlbrück
19 November 1896
|Died||9 August 1967 70) (aged|
Life and career
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. Walbrook studied with the director Max Reinhardt and built up a career in Austrian theatre and cinema.
In 1936, he went to Hollywood to reshoot dialogue for the multinational The Soldier and the Lady (1937) and in the process changed his name from Adolf to Anton. Instead of returning to Austria, Walbrook, who was homosexual 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.
He played Otto in the first London production of Design for Living at the Haymarket Theatre in January 1939 (later transferring to the Savoy Theatre), and running for 233 performances, opposite Diana Wynyard as Gilda and Rex Harrison as Leo. In 1952 he appeared at the Coliseum as Cosmo Constantine in Call Me Madam, also participating alongside Billie Worth, Jeff Warren and Shani Wallis on the EMI cast record.
Producer-director Herbert Wilcox cast him as Prince Albert in Victoria the Great (1937) and Walbrook also appeared in the sequel, Sixty Glorious Years the following year. He was in director Thorold Dickinson's version of Gaslight (1940), in the role played by Charles Boyer in the later Hollywood remake. In Dangerous Moonlight (1941), a romantic melodrama, he was a Polish pianist torn over whether to return home. For the Powell and Pressburger team in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) he played the role of the dashing, intense "good German" officer Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, and the tyrannical impresario Lermontov in The Red Shoes (1948). One of his most unusual films, reuniting him with Dickinson, is The Queen of Spades (1949), a Gothic thriller based on the Alexander Pushkin short story, in which he co-starred with Edith Evans. For Max Ophüls he was the ringmaster in La Ronde (1950) and Ludwig I, King of Bavaria in Lola Montès.
His Red Shoes co-star Moira Shearer recalled Walbrook was a loner on set, often wearing dark glasses and eating alone. He retired from films at the end of the 1950s and in later years appeared on the European stage and television.
- "Anton Walbrook - Tomb With a View".
- Mann für Mann.
- David Ehrenstein (20 July 2010). "The Red Shoes: Dancing for Your Life". Current. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Offermanns, Ernst (2005) (in German). Die deutschen Juden und der Spielfilm der NS-Zeit. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. p. 69.
- The Observer, 29 January 1939, p. 11
- WorldCat entry for Call Me Madam, with details of cast accessed 7 August 2018.
- Commentary track on Criterion DVD of The Red Shoes
- Moor, Andrew, Dangerous Limelight: Anton Walbrook and the Seduction of the English (2001)