Torben Meyer

Torben Emil Meyer (1 December 1884 22 May 1975) was a Danish character actor who appeared in more than 190 films in a 55-year career.

Torben Meyer
in Casablanca (1942)
Torben Emil Meyer

(1884-12-01)1 December 1884
Died22 May 1975(1975-05-22) (aged 90)
Years active1912—1966

Early career

Meyer was born in Aarhus, Denmark and began his career as a stage actor in Denmark. He appeared in his first silent movie, Vor tids dame in 1912 and made twenty more before making Don Quixote in 1926. This movie achieved considerable international stature, and Meyer followed the migration of leading European actors to Hollywood the following year. His first American role was as a spy in the silent movie The Man Who Laughs starring Conrad Veidt in 1928. Meyer arrived just when the transition to sound was in progress. In contrast to many other European-born actors, his thick accent became an asset for him. He appeared uncredited in numerous movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s, almost always cast as a German.

In 1930, Meyer received a small part in a Michael Curtiz film A Soldier's Plaything, and in 1932, Meyer appeared in two Swedish language American films, Trådlöst och kärleksfullt and Halvvägs till Himlen. Later that year, he had a small part in Murders in the Rue Morgue, based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story which starring Bela Lugosi.

Meyer had small parts as waiters in five different movies during 1932; in German émigré director Ernst Lubitsch's film Broken Lullaby starring Lionel Barrymore, in George Cukor's What Price Hollywood?, where he plays a waiter in the famous Hollywood restaurant 'The Brown Derby', in Downstairs starring Paul Lukas, in Mervyn LeRoy's Big City Blues starring Joan Blondell and in The Match King. Also that year, he had a small part in The Animal Kingdom starring Leslie Howard.

Next Meyer went from waiter to butler in a number of films in the 1930s; The Crime of the Century, John Ford's The World Moves On, Preview Murder Mystery starring Reginald Denny, Piccadilly Jim and The First Hundred Years both starring Robert Montgomery, and The King and the Chorus Girl starring Joan Blondell. However, he was again cast as a waiter in Reunion in Vienna starring Lionel Barrymore, in The Good Fairy starring Margaret Sullavan, in Break of Hearts starring Katharine Hepburn and Charles Boyer (in this one he was headwaiter at The Ritz), in Two for Tonight starring Bing Crosby, in The Gay Deception as a butler and in To Beat the Band.

In 1935, Meyer was strangled by Boris Karloff's Frankenstein in James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein. Two years later, in 1937, Meyer had a number of bit parts; as a servant in Tovarich starring Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer and Basil Rathbone, as Raymond Massey's servant in The Prisoner of Zenda starring Ronald Colman in the title role and as Tyrone Power's chauffeur in Sonja Henie's Thin Ice. In 1938 Meyer played a German Police Prefect in a Simon Templar movie, The Saint in New York, and the following year, he played a doorman in Topper Takes a Trip starring Roland Young and Billie Burke. In 1939, Meyer had a bit part in Warner Bros. anti-Nazi movie Nurse Edith Cavell starring Anna Neagle.

Middle years

In 1940, Meyer had a small role in Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet starring Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Gordon and Otto Kruger, and later that year, featured in the Charlie Chaplin movie, The Great Dictator. He also appeared that year in Four Sons, starring Don Ameche. He is seen in the beginning of the movie as a farmer driving a hay wagon from Nazi Germany into Czechoslovakia and then gives Don Ameche's character a ride home. Later that year, he got to play 'Mr. Schmidt' in Preston Sturges' Christmas in July, his second film with the writer-director. Meyer become part of Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, appearing in every American film written and directed by Sturges with the exception of The Great McGinty.[1] Evidently as a private joke, Sturges nearly always cast Meyer as a character named "Schultz", with conspicuous exceptions as playing Dr. Kluck in The Palm Beach Story in 1942.

In 1942, at age 57, Meyer acted in one scene in the anti-Nazi movie Berlin Correspondent with Dana Andrews, playing a restaurant manager who is harassing Virginia Gilmore for her ration card. Next he had a small part as a Dutch banker in Casablanca who is seated at a baccarat table. His female friend (played by Trude Berliner) wants to have a drink with Rick but is told no by Carl, the headwaiter (S.Z. Sakall). Meyer is annoyed by this rebuff telling Carl, "Perhaps if you told him I ran the second largest banking house in Amsterdam." He is informed that it wouldn't impress Rick, "the leading banker in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen" and "his father is the bellboy!"

In 1943, Meyer played a waiter again in RKO's spy thriller Journey into Fear starring Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Río and Orson Welles. Next, he portrayed a gypsy in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man starring Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. in the title roles. This was followed with a bit role in Warner Bros.'s war drama Edge of Darkness, starring Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan, where he plays a clerk for Kaspar Torgerson (Charles Dingle) in a Norwegian cannery. Next he played Gottwald in the spy drama They Came to Blow Up America starring George Sanders and Ward Bond.

The following year, Meyer, wearing a beard and mustache, played a sympathetic Swiss Red Cross representative named Karl Kappel in the 20th Century Fox, The Purple Heart, a war drama of captured US army air force pilots from the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo put on trial in Japan, starring Dana Andrews and Richard Conte. After this, he played Dr. Dahlmeyer in The Great Moment starring Joel McCrea. Next he played Emil Rameau's butler in the musical Greenwich Village starring Carmen Miranda and Don Ameche. Meyer received a bit part as a hotel manager in Once Upon a Time starring Cary Grant. In Hotel Berlin in 1945, which starred Helmut Dantine and Peter Lorre, Meyer plays a barber named Franz. Later that year he was a town official in the Fred Astaire musical Yolanda and the Thief.

After World War II, Meyer continued to receive roles. In 1946, he played a Count in the Bob Hope comedy Monsieur Beaucaire. The following year, he received a small part in Millie's Daughter. Later that year, Meyer who once played a lowly waiter in the famed Los Angeles restaurant 'The Brown Derby' back in 1932, now gets to play the head waiter there in Variety Girl which had cameos from literally dozens of Hollywood stars. In 1949, he portrayed doctors in two movies; he had a small part as Doctor Shultz in the comedy The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend starring Betty Grable and a larger one as Doctor Hans Heinrich in the Bowery Boys film Hold That Baby! Later that year, Meyer played a captain of an ocean liner in the Bob Hope comedy The Great Lover.

In 1951, Meyer played Donovan in Grounds for Marriage starring Van Johnson. Later that year, he got a part as an auto mechanic in Come Fill the Cup starring James Cagney. The next year, Meyer played the mayor of a small French town during World War I in the John Ford drama What Price Glory?. Later in 1952, Meyer was a station master in The Merry Widow starring Lana Turner. The next year, Meyer appeared in the musical Call Me Madam starring Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor. Next he portrayed another waiter in the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy The Caddy, and appeared as a chef in another Martin and Lewis comedy the following year, Living It Up.

Meyer appeared in the Bob Hope comedy Casanova's Big Night which also starred Joan Fontaine and John Carradine in 1954, his fourth Bob Hope movie. Next, he got to play cards again, as he did in Casablanca, in Deep in My Heart starring José Ferrer and Merle Oberon. Meyer was out catching butterflies in the Michael Curtiz comedy We're No Angels starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov. He played a scribe in the John Wayne film The Conqueror in 1956, and later he played a French waiter in the musical Anything Goes starring Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor.

Meyer portrayed Gaston, the night watchman who discovers a murder at the beginning of the sci-fi classic The Fly starring Vincent Price in 1958. Next he played Alex, the headwaiter at the Harmonica Club in The Matchmaker starring Shirley Booth, Anthony Perkins and Shirley MacLaine. The following year, he had the role of Hugo in This Earth Is Mine starring Rock Hudson and Claude Rains, and in 1960 he appeared in the Elvis Presley movie G.I. Blues.

In the 1950s and 60s, Meyer made some guest appearances on TV shows such as I Dream of Jeannie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and I Love Lucy.

Later career and death

In 1961, at the age of 76, he got his best role in the classic Judgment at Nuremberg starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift, playing the guilt-ridden "Werner Lampe", one of the ex-Nazi judges on trial whose inability to explain his actions is one of the most powerful moments.[2] Two years later, in 1963, he had a small uncredited role in what would be the last movie of his career, A New Kind of Love.

Meyer died on 22 May 1975 of bronchial pneumonia in Hollywood, California at the age of 90. He was cremated and his ashes are in the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.[3]


Year Title Role Notes
1912Manegens stjerneDumme Peter
1913Staalkongens Villie
1913Kæmpedamens bortførelse
1913Ballettens DatterDelange - Theatre Manager
1913AtlantisWilly Snyders - artist
1913Kärleken rårKuno
1913Fra fyrste til knejpevært
1914Under Skæbnens Hjul
1914Af elskovs naadeLaege
1914Den kulørte slavehandler
1915Appetit og kærlighedJens
1915Held i UheldFritz Tummel
1915Et huskorsLensgreve Rosenørn
1915CigaretpigenPedro Delmart - Painter
1916En uheldig skygge
1916En nydelig onkel
1916Lotteriseddel No. 22162Charles - Apache
1916Manden uden fremtidTobby Spratt
1916Filmens Datter
1916SønnenMr. Grøn
1916Truet lykkeSimoni
1917Manden uden SmilPianist
1918Prøvens DagMr. von Scholten
1919Hans store ChanceArthur
1919Hvorledes jeg kom til FilmenGordon Sidney
1919Dømmer ikkePhilip Saphir
1919Prinsens Kærlighed
1919En ung mans vägAgapetus von Dufva
1920LykkeperWalter Crone
1921Hendes fortidMoses Volkenthal
1921Film, flirt og forlovelseThe Baron
1922Der var engangCeremonimesteren
1923Den sidste dansHerr von Schneppen
1924Min ven privatdetektiven
1924Little DorritHauptschließer Chivery
1925Fra Piazza del PopoloBenedetto - Servant
1926Maharadjahens yndlingshustru IIIMohun Singh
1926Don QuixoteSancho Carrasco
1928The Man Who LaughsThe SpyUncredited
1928Jazz MadKline
1928Noah's ArkMan on TrainUncredited
1928The VikingOdd
1928The Last WarningGene
1929Behind Closed DoorsCaptain von Gilden
1930Behind the Make-UpWaiter
1930LummoxSilly Willie
1930MambaGerman SoldierUncredited
1930The Bad OneUncredited
1930Just Like HeavenPierre
1930The Lottery BrideMinerUncredited
1930A Soldier's PlaythingGerman Actor in HorseUncredited
1931Trådlöst och kärleksfullt
1931Just a GigoloWaiterUncredited
1931Halvvägs till himlenDirector
1932Broken LullabyWaiter at InnUncredited
1932Murders in the Rue MorgueThe DaneUncredited
1932What Price Hollywood?Nick - Brown Derby HeadwaiterUncredited
1932DownstairsCafe WaiterUncredited
1932Big City BluesSecond WaiterUncredited
1932Six Hours to LiveSturges - ButlerUncredited
1932Le bluffeurCol. Ginsberg
1932The Animal KingdomMeyer - Idealistic PrinterUncredited
1932The Match KingHans, HeadwaiterUncredited
1933The Crime of the CenturyEric Ericson - Butler
1933Reunion in ViennaHeadwaiter StrumpfUncredited
1933Ladies Must LoveBeermasterUncredited
1933Cradle SongPapaUncredited
1933The Worst Woman in Paris?Taxi DriverUncredited
1934MandalayMr. Van BrinkenUncredited
1934All Men Are EnemiesClerkUncredited
1934Little Man, What Now?HeadwaiterUncredited
1934The World Moves OnHead ButlerUncredited
1934By Your LeaveCostume Company FitterUncredited
1934Music in the AirPharmacistUncredited
1935Enter MadameCarlson
1935The Night Is YoungAdjutantUncredited
1935The Good FairyHead WaiterUncredited
1935Bride of FrankensteinVictim in FlashbackUncredited
1935Mark of the VampireCard PlayerUncredited
1935Break of HeartsThe Ritz HeadwaiterUncredited
1935The Girl Who Came BackZarabella
1935Front Page WomanJanitorUncredited
1935The Black RoomPeter
1935Two for TonightWaiterUncredited
1935The Gay DeceptionWaiterUncredited
1935Thunder in the NightCafe OwnerUncredited
1935Charlie Chan in ShanghaiFrench DiplomatUncredited
1935The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte CarloMinor RoleUncredited
1935SplendorBaron Von Hoffstatter
1935To Beat the BandHeadwaiterUncredited
1935East of JavaDerelictUncredited
1935A Tale of Two CitiesLackey #1Uncredited
1935If You Could Only CookSwedish ServantUncredited
1936King of BurlesqueLeopold the ValetUncredited
1936It Had to HappenSign PainterUncredited
1936The Preview Murder MysterySmith's ButlerUncredited
1936The Farmer in the DellParty GuestUncredited
1936Till We Meet AgainKraus
1936Champagne CharlieMinor RoleUncredited
1936Piccadilly JimPett's ButlerUncredited
1936Star for a NightSaddle MakerUncredited
1936In His StepsUncredited
1936Wedding PresentWinternitzUncredited
1936The Accusing FingerProprietorUncredited
1936EspionagePolice InspectorUncredited
1936The King and the Chorus GirlEric - the ButlerUncredited
1937Thin IceChauffeur
1937The Good Old SoakHeadwaiterUncredited
1937Shall We DanceShow ProducerUncredited
1937The Emperor's CandlesticksTrain AnnouncerUncredited
1937She's No LadySwedish WaiterUncredited
1937The Prisoner of ZendaMax - Butler
1937Wife, Doctor and NurseSecond TailorUncredited
1937Madame XPeridcordUncredited
1937Fight for Your LadyHungarian Police OfficerUncredited
1937Prescription for RomanceHotel Desk ClerkUncredited
1938The First Hundred YearsKarl
1938Bulldog Drummond's PerilHoffmanUncredited
1938Romance in the DarkProf. Jacobsen
1938Romance in the DarkArt CriticUncredited
1938The Saint in New YorkGerman Police PrefectUncredited
1938I'll Give a MillionDoormanUncredited
1938The Great WaltzTicket Taker at Dommayer'sUncredited
1938Topper Takes a TripHotel DoormanUncredited
1939Island of Lost MenCafe ManagerUncredited
1939Nurse Edith CavellGerman OfficerUncredited
1939Everything Happens at NightStation MasterUncredited
1940Dr. Ehrlich's Magic BulletKadereitUncredited
1940The Way of All FleshSandor Nemzeti
1940Four SonsGustav
1940The Great DictatorBald Barbershop CustomerUncredited
1940Christmas in JulyMr. Schmidt
1940No, No, NanetteFurtlemertleUncredited
1941The Lady EveMr. Clink - PurserUncredited
1941SunnyJean (head waiter)
1941Sullivan's TravelsThe Doctor
1941Bedtime StoryDinglehoffUncredited
1942The Adventures of Martin EdenJacobUncredited
1942CrossroadsOld ManUncredited
1942Berlin CorrespondentManager
1942The Palm Beach StoryDr. Kluck
1942CasablancaDutch Banker at Cafe TableUncredited
1943Frankenstein Meets the Wolf ManGypsyUncredited
1943Edge of DarknessCannery ClerkUncredited
1943They Came to Blow Up AmericaGraumark Hotel Desk ClerkUncredited
1943Jack LondonLiterary GuestUncredited
1943The Miracle of Morgan's CreekDr. MeyerUncredited
1944The Purple HeartKarl KappelUncredited
1944Once Upon a TimeHotel ManagerUncredited
1944The Great MomentDr. Dahlmeyer
1944Hail the Conquering HeroMr. SchultzUncredited
1944Greenwich VillageKavosky's ButlerUncredited
1945Hotel BerlinFranz, the BarberUncredited
1945A Royal ScandalStoogeUncredited
1945Yolanda and the ThiefTown OfficialUncredited
1946The Kid from BrooklynGarden Party GuestUncredited
1946HeartbeatThief at BallUncredited
1946Monsieur BeaucaireCountUncredited
1946Alias Mr. TwilightStarling
1947The Mighty McGurkSecond Brewer
1947The Sin of Harold DiddlebockBarber with Mustache
1947The Beginning or the EndMilkmanUncredited
1947Millie's DaughterMr. JohnsonUncredited
1947Variety GirlAndre - Brown Derby Headwaiter
1947Song of LoveStage ManagerUncredited
1947The ExileSea Captain
1948To the VictorElderly FrenchmanUncredited
1948Letter from an Unknown WomanCarriage DriverUncredited
1948Julia MisbehavesCommissarUncredited
1948Sealed VerdictCourtroom interpreter
1948Unfaithfully YoursDr. Schultz
1949The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful BendDr. Shultz
1949Hold That Baby!Dr. Hans Heinrich
1949The Great LoverShip's CaptainUncredited
1949And Baby Makes ThreeWaiterUncredited
1950The Great RupertMr. Petrushka - the BakerUncredited
1951Grounds for MarriageDonovan
1951The Company She KeepsMaitre'd in French RestaurantUncredited
1951That's My BoyPhotographerUncredited
1951Night into MorningButcherUncredited
1951Come Fill the CupDelmar - Ives' Auto MechanicUncredited
1951The Blue VeilPhotographerUncredited
1951My Favorite SpyHeadwaiterUncredited
1952What Price GloryMayorUncredited
1952The Merry WidowStation MasterUncredited
1953Call Me MadamRudolphUncredited
1953The Story of Three LovesMan in Saloon(segment "Equilibrium"), Uncredited
1953Ma and Pa Kettle on VacationDoorman at Hotel LouisUncredited
1954Casanova's Big NightAttendantUncredited
1954About Mrs. LeslieMaitre D'Uncredited
1954Living It UpChefUncredited
1954Deep in My HeartCard PlayerUncredited
1955We're No AngelsButterfly ManUncredited
1956The ConquerorScribeUncredited
1956Anything GoesFrench WaiterUncredited
1956Hollywood or BustWaiterLast Martin & Lewis comedy; waiter, Uncredited
1957Public Pigeon No. 1WaiterUncredited
1957The Helen Morgan StoryManagerUncredited
1958The FlyGastonUncredited
1958The MatchmakerAlex, Headwaiter, Harmonica Club
1959This Earth Is MineHugoUncredited
1959Li'l AbnerButlerUncredited
1960G.I. BluesHeadwaiterUncredited
1961Judgment at NurembergWerner Lampe
1963A New Kind of LoveHotel ClerkUncredited


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