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Kortner, Fritz


Born: Fritz Nathan Kohn in Vienna, Austria, 12 May 1892. Education: Studied at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Vienna. Family: Married the actress Johanna Hofer, son: Peter Kortner. Career: Actor in Mannheim and Hamburg; 1911—joined Max Reinhardt's theater, Berlin; achieved star status with his performance in Die Wandlund, 1919, and became a leading actor-director in German-language theater; 1915—film debut in Manya, Die Türkin; 1918—film directing debut with Gregor Marold; 1933—left Germany with rise of Nazis and found refuge in New York after stays in Vienna, Prague, and London; wrote two Broadway plays and worked as actor and screenwriter in Hollywood; returned to Germany after the war and regained his stage reputation. Awards: Deutscher Filmpreis for career, 1966. Died: Of leukemia in Munich, 25 July 1970.

Films as Actor:


Die grosse Gafahr (Sauer); Im Banne der Vergangenheit (Piel); Manya, die Türkin (Piel); Police Nr. 1111 (Piel)


Das zweite Leben


Der Brief einer Toten (Friesler)


Die andere Ich (Friesler) (as Professor); Frauenehre (Kundert) (as Jagdehilfe); Sonnwendhof (Leyde); Der Stärkere (Wiene)


Satanas (Murnau); Das Auge des Buddha (Mondet) (as Indian servant); Ohne Zeugen (Baron and Kundert)


Die Brüder Karamasoff (The Brothers Karamazov) (Buchowetzki and Froelich); Katherina die Grosse (Catherine the Great) (Schünzel) (as Potemkin); Weltbrand (Gad); Danton (All for a Woman) (Buchowetzki); Das Haus zum Mond (Martin); Der Schädel der Pharoanentochter (Tollen); Die Lieblingsfrau des Maharadscha (Mack); Die Nacht der Königin Isabeau (Wiene); Gerechtigkeit (Lux)


Hintertreppe (Backstairs) (Jessner); Am roten Kliff (Henning); Aus dem Schwarzbuch eines Polizeikommissars (Hanus); Der Eisenbahnkönig (Illès); Die Verschwörung zu Genua (Leni); Landstrasse und Gross-stadt (Wilhelm)


Peter der Grosse (Peter the Great) (Buchowetzki); Am Rande der Gross-stadt (Kobe); Der Graf von Essex (Felner); Der Ruf des Schicksals (Guter); Die Finsternis und ihr Eigentum (Hartwig); Luise Millerin (Froelich); Sterbende Völker (Reinert)


Schatten (Warning Shadows) (Robison); Arme Sünderin (Gariazzo); Nora (Viertel)


Armes kleines Mädchen (Kayser); Dr. Wislizenus (Kobe); Moderne Ehen (Otto)


Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac) (Wiene) (as Nera)


Dürfen wir schweigen (Oswald)


Beethoven (The Life of Beethoven) (Löwenstein) (title role); Maria Stuart (Feher) (as Bothwell); Mata Hari (Mata Hari, the Red Dancer) (Feher); Primanerliebe (Land); Alpentragödie (Land); Die Ausgestossenen (Gerger); Die Geliebte des Gouverneurs (Feher) (+ co-sc); Mein Leben für das Deine (Morat); Revolutions-hochzeit (The Last Night) (Sandberg); Die Frau auf der Folter (A Scandal in Paris); Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box) (Pabst) (as Dr. Schön); Frau Sorge (Land)


Die Frau, nach der Mann sich sehnt (Three Loves) (Bernhardt); Atlantik (Dupont); Giftgas (Dubson); Die Nacht des Schreckens (Righelle); Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen (Tourneur); Die Frau im Talar (Trotz); Somnambul (Trotz)


Dreyfus (The Dreyfus Case) (Oswald) (title role); Menschen in Käfig (Love Storm) (Dupont); Der Andere (Wiene) (dual role); Die grosse Sehnsucht (Szekely)


Der Mörder Dmitri Karamasoff (The Murderer Dimitri Karamazov) (Ozep) (title role)


Danton (Behrendt) (title role)


Chu Chin Chow (Forde) (as Abu Hassan); Evensong (Saville) (as Kober)


Abdul the Damned (Grune) (title role); The Crouching Beast (Hanbury) (as Ahmed Bey)


Midnight Menace (Bombs over London) (Hill) (as Peters)


The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler (Hagan) (as Marbach, + sc)


The Hitler Gang (Farrow) (as Otto Strasser)


The Wife of Monte Cristo (Ulmer); Somewhere in the Night (Mankiewicz); The Razor's Edge (Goulding) (as Kosti)


The Brasher Doubloon (Brahm)


Berlin Express (Tourneur); The Vicious Circle (The Woman in Brown) (Wilder)


Der Ruf (The Last Illusion) (von Maky) (+ sc)


Epilog (Käutner)


Blaubart (Christian-Jacque) (as Haushofmeister); Die Stimme des Anderen (Engel) (+ co-sc)

Films as Director:


Gregor Marold


Else von Erlenhof


Der brave Sünder (The Upright Sinner) (+ co-sc)


So ein Mädel vergisst man nicht (+ co-sc)


Die Stadt ist voller Geheimnisse (City of Secrets; Secrets of the City) (+ co-sc); Sarajevo


Die Sendung der Lysistrata (for TV)


By KORTNER: book—

Alle Tage Abend, 1960.

On KORTNER: books—

Fritz Kortner, Berlin, 1970.

Brand, Matthias, Fritz Kortnerin der WeimarerRepublik: Annäherungsversuche an dieEntwicklung einesjüdischen Schauspielers in Deutschland, Rheinfelden, 1981.

Völker, Klaus, Fritz Kortner: Schauspieler und Regisseur , Berlin, 1987.

On KORTNER: articles—

Film Dope (London), January 1985.

Kasten, J., "Die Sehnsucht der Faune," in Filmwaerts (Hannover), May 1992.

* * *

Fritz Kortner, like his contemporary Conrad Veidt and the slightly older Emil Jannings, was associated with Max Reinhardt's Berlin theater in the years before and after World War I, and like them he became an important stage actor, combining a stage and a film career. His long life allowed him to continue after World War II as a leading, if often controversial, figure on the German-language stage.

His acting had a wider range than that of Werner Krauss, though like Krauss he was often cast in important parts in the expressionist films of the 1920s. He could be flamboyant (as in Warning Shadows), or more contained, as Lotte Eisner's description of him in Backstairs indicates: "Everything is motivated: the slow reactions of a poor indecisive man scared of love, the hesitations of an outcast of fortune who, having won his happiness by dint of guile, stops wanting to believe in it. . . . This instinctively Expressionistic actor blends into the setting." But he was also able to play such characters as Dr. Schön in Pandora's Box, Beethoven, Dmitri Karamazov, Bothwell, and Dreyfus.

England failed to recognize his ability when he went into exile after Hitler's taking power in Germany, and he acted in such minor films as Chu Chin Chow and Abdul the Damned; he had slightly better luck in the United States. After World War II he made a few films in Germany, but concentrated on stage work.

—George Walsh

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