Oscar Homolka

Oscar Homolka (12 August 1898 – 27 January 1978) was an Austrian film and theatre actor, who went on to work in Germany, Britain and America. Both his voice and his appearance fitted him for roles as communist spies or Soviet officials, for which he was in regular demand. By the age of 30, he had appeared in more than 400 plays; his film career covered at least 100 films and TV shows.[1]

Oscar Homolka
Oskar Homolka

(1898-08-12)12 August 1898
Died27 January 1978(1978-01-27) (aged 79)
Years active1926–1976
Grete Mosheim
(m. 1928; div. 1937)

Baroness Vally Hatvany
(m. 1937; died 1938)

Florence Meyer
(m. 1939; div. 1948)

Joan Tetzel
(m. 1949; died 1977)


After serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War, Homolka attended the Imperial Academy of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna, the city of his birth, and began his career on the Austrian stage. In 1924 he played Mortimer in the premiere of Brecht's play The Life of Edward II of England at the Munich Kammerspiele, and since 1925 in Berlin where he worked under Max Reinhardt.

Other stage plays in which Homolka performed during this period include: The first German performance of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, 1924, Anna Christie, 1924, Boubouroche, 1925, Juarez and Maximilian, 1925–26, Her Young Boyfriend, 1925, The Jewish Widow, 1925, Stir, 1925, Mérimée and Courteline, 1926, Periphery, 1926, Neidhardt von Gneisenau, 1926, Dorothea Angermann, 1926–27, Der Revisor, 1926, Androcles and the Lion, 1926, Bonaparte, 1927, The Ringer and The Squeaker by Edgar Wallace, both 1927, Underworld, 1930, Today's Sensation, 1931, The Last Equipage, 1931, The Waterloo Bridge, 1931, Faust, 1932, Karl and Anna, Doctor's Dilemma, Pygmalion, Juno and the Paycock, and many Shakespearean plays including: A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1925, Troilus and Cressida, 1927, Richard III, King Lear, and Macbeth. After his arrival in London, he continued to star on stage, including with Flora Robson in the play Close Quarters.

His first films were Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines (Uneasy Money, 1926), Hokuspokus (Hocuspocus, 1930), and Dreyfus (The Dreyfus Case, 1930), Zwischen Nacht und Morgen (Between Night and Dawn, 1931), Geheimdienst (Intelligence, 1931), Junge Liebe (Young Love, 1931), and Nachtkolonne (Night Column, 1932). According to Homolka's own account, he made at least thirty silent films in Germany and starred in the first talking picture ever made there.

After the arrival of National Socialism in Germany, Homolka – although not Jewish, but Siegbert Salomon Prawer claims he was[2] – moved to Britain, where he starred in the films Rhodes of Africa, with Walter Huston, 1936; and Everything Is Thunder, with Constance Bennett, 1936. Later, he was one of the many Austrian and specifically Viennese actors and theatrical people (many of them Jews) who left Europe for the US.[1][3]

In 1936, he appeared opposite Sylvia Sidney in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Sabotage. Although he often played villains such as Communist spies and Soviet-bloc military officers or scientists, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the crusty beloved uncle in I Remember Mama (1948).

He also acted with Ingrid Bergman in Rage in Heaven, with Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, with Ronald Reagan in Prisoner of War and with Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman of Chaillot. He returned to England in the mid-1960s, to play the Soviet KGB Colonel Stok in Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967), opposite Michael Caine. His last film was the Blake Edwards' romantic drama The Tamarind Seed in 1974.

In 1967 Homolka was awarded the Filmband in Gold of the Deutscher Filmpreis for outstanding contributions to German cinema.

His career in television included appearances in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1957 and 1960, and a 1964 episode of Hazel.

In 1973, he appeared in "Border Line", an episode of The Protectors, filmed in Austria.

Personal life

Homolka married four times:

  • His first wife was Grete Mosheim, a German actress of Jewish ancestry on her father's side. They married in Berlin on 28 June 1928 but divorced in 1937. She later married Howard Gould.
  • His second wife, Baroness Vally Hatvany (died 1938), was a Hungarian actress. They married in December 1937, but she died four months later.
  • In 1939, Homolka married socialite and photographer Florence Meyer (1911–1962), a daughter of The Washington Post owner Eugene Meyer. They had two sons, Vincent and Laurence, but divorced after nine years of marriage.
  • His last wife was actress Joan Tetzel, whom he married in 1949. The marriage lasted until Tetzel's death in 1977.


Homolka made his home in Britain after 1966. He died of pneumonia in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on 27 January 1978, three months after the death of his fourth wife, actress Joan Tetzel. He was 79 years old.[1] He and Tetzel are buried in Christ Church churchyard, Fairwarp, East Sussex, England. Their gravestone is notable for having a pair of theatrical masks carved into the surface.[4]


1926Adventures of a Ten Mark NoteDirektor Haniellost film
1927AftermathDer Matrose
Tragedy of the StreetAnton
The Girl Without a HomelandPlempe
Regine, die Tragödie einer FrauRobert, ihr Bruder
The Holy LieJack
The Trial of Donald WesthofLessing
Petronella – Das Geheimnis der BergeFridolin Bortis
1928Prince or ClownZurube
The SerfsGouverneur Fürst Kurganow
The Prince of RoguesAntmann
The Green AlleyDoctor Horner
1930Revolt in the ReformatoryErzieher
DreyfusMajor Walsin-Esterhazy
1931Road to RioRicardo
Between Night and DawnAnton
In the Employ of the Secret ServiceLanskoi, generalmajor
1932Night ConvoyAndré Carno
Nights in Port SaidWinston Winkler
1933Moral und LiebeRobert Keßler
Spies at WorkBlünzli (Agent B 18)
Invisible OpponentJames Godfrey
1936Rhodes of AfricaPaul Kruger
Everything Is ThunderDetective Schenck Götz
SabotageKarl Anton Verloc
1937Ebb Tide[5]Captain Jakob Therbecke
1940Seven SinnersAntro
Comrade XCommissar Vasiliev
The Invisible WomanBlackie Cole
1941Rage in HeavenDr. Rameau
Ball of FireProfessor Gurkakoff
1943Mission to MoscowMaxim Litvinov
HostagesLev Pressinger
1947The Shop at Sly CornerDesius Heiss
1948I Remember MamaUncle Chrisnominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1949Anna LucastaJoe Lucasta
1950The White TowerAndreas
1951Der schweigende MundDr. Herbert Hirth
1952Top SecretZekov
1953The House of the ArrowInspector Hanaud
1954Prisoner of WarColonel Biroshilov
1955The Seven Year ItchDr. Brubaker
1956War and PeaceField Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov
1957A Farewell to ArmsDr. Emerich
1958The KeyCaptain Van Dam
1961Mr. SardonicusKrull
1962Boys' Night OutDoctor Prokosch
MooncussersUrias Hawke
The Wonderful World of the Brothers GrimmThe Duke
1964The Long ShipsKrok
1965Joy in the MorningStan Pulaski
1966Funeral in BerlinColonel Stok
1967The HappeningSam
Billion Dollar BrainColonel Stok
1968Assignment to KillInspector Ruff
1969The Madwoman of ChaillotThe Commissar
1970The ExecutionerRacovsky
Song of NorwayEngstrand
1974The Tamarind SeedGeneral Golitsyn

See also


  1. "Oscar Homolka, Actor, Dies at 79. The Uncle in I Remember Mama". The New York Times. January 29, 1978. Retrieved 2015-01-06. Oscar Homolka, for decades one of the leading character actors of stage, theatre and television, with a range from somber terror to chortling affability, died Friday in Sussex, England. He was 79 years old.
  2. Prawer, Siegbert Salomon (2007). Between Two Worlds: The Jewish Presence in German and Austrian Film, 1910–1933. Berghahn Books. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-84545-303-9.
  3. Obituary Variety, February 1, 1978, p. 110.
  4. Iain MacFarlaine. "Joan Margaret Tetzel". Find a Grave.
  5. "Advertisement with photo captioned, "Discovery of the Year! Oscar Homolka, Frances Farmer, Ray Milland and others of the cast of Paramount's Ebbtide in Technicolor use the new screen and stage make-up by Elizabeth Arden". Screenland. September 1937. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
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