Anton Walbrook - Biography

This dark, debonair, dashing and extremely distinguished Austrian actor was christened Adolf Wohlbrück in Vienna, the scion of a family of circus clowns. He broke away easily from generations of tradition as the circus life had no appeal whatsoever to Walbrook.

Trained by the legendary director Max Reinhardt, Walbrook's reputation grew on both the Austrian and German stages. In between he managed a couple of undistinguished roles in silent films. Billed as Adolf Wohlbrück, the youthfully handsome actor graced a number of romantic films come the advent of sound beginning in 1931. Among them Walzerkrieg (1933) and the gender-bending comedy Viktor und Viktoria (1933), which later served as the inspiration and basis for Blake Edwards' own Victor/Victoria (1982) starring wife Julie Andrews. Hollywood beckoned in the late 30s for Walbrook to re-shoot dialog for an upcoming international picture Michel Strogoff (1937) again playing Michael Strogoff, a role he had played impeccably in both previous French and German adaptations. With the rise of oppression in Nazi Germany he moved to Great Britain and took his trademark mustache and dark, handsome features to English language films where he went on to appear to great effect.

Portraying a host of imperious kings, bon vivants and and foreign dignitaries over the course of his career, he played everything from composer Johann Strauss to the Bavarian King Ludwig I. With a tendency for grand, intense, over-the-top acting, he was nevertheless quite impressive in a number of portrayals. Such included the sympathetic German officer in the landmark Powell and Pressburger satire Le colonel Blimp (1943) and gentle pacifist in another of their collaborations Le 49ème parallèle (1941); as Prince Albert in the black-and-white glossy costumer La reine Victoria (1937) immediately followed by its color remake Soixante années de gloire (1938) both opposite Anna Neagle's Queen Victoria; and, most notably, as the obsessively demanding impresario opposite ballerina Moira Shearer in the romantic melodrama Les chaussons rouges (1948). His stiff and stern military officers were just as notable which included sterling work in La reine des cartes (1949) and last-speaking English film L'affaire Dreyfus (1958).

He retired from films at the end of the 1950s, and in later years returned to the European stage and included television roles to his resume. He died in Germany in 1967 of a heart attack.