Sig Ruman

Siegfried Carl Alban Rumann (October 11, 1884 February 14, 1967) billed as Sig Rumann and Sig Ruman, was a German-American character actor known for his portrayals of pompous and often stereotypically Teutonic officials or villains in more than 100 films.[1]

Sig Ruman
L-R: George Cooper, Sig Rumann, and Peter Lorre in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)
Siegfried Carl Alban Rumann

(1884-10-11)October 11, 1884
DiedFebruary 14, 1967(1967-02-14) (aged 82)
Years active1928–66

Early years

Born in Hamburg, German Empire to Alban Julius Albrecht Ludwig Rumann and his wife, Caroline Margarethe Sophie Rumann on 11 October 1884[2], he studied electrical engineering, then began working as an actor and musician[3] before serving with the Imperial German Army during World War I. [4] He resumed his acting career after the war.[5] After his emigration to the United States in 1924, his acting career blossomed. Befriending playwright George S. Kaufman and theater critic Alexander Woollcott, he enjoyed success in many Broadway productions. His Broadway credits included Once There Was a Russian (1961), Lily of the Valley (1942), Eight Bells (1933), Alien Corn (1933), Grand Hotel (1930), Half Gods (1929), and The Channel Road (1929).[6]


Ruman made his film debut in Lucky Boy (1929).[1]

He became a favorite of the Marx Brothers, appearing in A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, and A Night in Casablanca. His German accent and large stature kept him busy during World War II, playing sinister Nazi characters in a series of wartime thrillers.

During this period, he also appeared in several films by director Ernst Lubitsch, a fellow German émigré, including Ninotchka (1939) (in which he portrayed a Russian) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). He played the role of Professor Herman Von Reiter in Shining Victory (1941), an adaptation of an A. J. Cronin play. Ruman continued his trend of portraying over-the-top German characters later in his career for Lubitsch's protege Billy Wilder, in his films The Emperor Waltz (1948), Stalag 17 (1953), One, Two, Three (1961), and The Fortune Cookie (1966).

Around 1936, Ruman modified his screen name from Siegfried Rumann to Sig Ruman in an attempt to make it a little less German-sounding, as anti-German prejudice was rising at that time, just prior to the beginning of the Second World War.

Despite declining health during the 1950s and 1960s, Ruman continued to appear in films and made many guest appearances on television.


Ruman died of a heart attack on February 14, 1967, outside his home in Julian, California. He was 82 and was survived by his wife Else and their daughter Senta.[7]

Selected filmography


  1. Hischak, Thomas S. (2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 650. ISBN 9780195335330. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  2. Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland
  3. Neuer Theater Almanach: Theatergeschichtliches Jahr und Adressen-Buch, 1913, p. 524
  4. Petitions for Naturalization From the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944. NARA Microfilm Publication M1972, 1457 rolls. Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21.
  5. Deutsches Bühnen-Jahrbuch: Theatergeschichtliches Jahr- und Adressenbuch, 1920, p. 255
  6. "Siegfried Rumann". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on November 19, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  7. Willis, John (1983). Screen World 1968. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. p. 239. ISBN 9780819603098. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
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