Born: Pal Lukasz in Budapest, Hungary, 26 May 1895. Education: Attended College of Budapest; National Theatre Actors School. Military Service: Served in the Hungarian army, 1913–15: invalided out. Family: Married 1) Daisy Benes, 1927 (died 1962); 2) Annette Dreisens. Career: 1916—stage debut with National Theatre; 1917—Hungarian film debut in Sphinx; 1918–27—member of the Comedy Theatre, Budapest; also appeared in Max Reinhardt productions in Vienna and Berlin; 1922—German film debut in Samson und Delilah; 1927—invited to Hollywood by Zukor, but U.S. film debut delayed while he learned English: debut in Two Lovers, 1928; also appeared on U.S. stage, most notably in Watch on the Rhine, 1941 (also in film version); also appeared on television, in series The F.B.I. and Hotel Paradis. Awards: Best Actor Academy Award, and Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for Watch on the Rhine, 1943. Died: 15 August 1971.
Films as Actor:
Man of the Earth
Spynx (Sphinx) (Balogh); Udvari levego (Song of the Heart) (Balogh)
Sarga Arnyèk (Garas); Little Fox (Garas); Castle without a Name; Masamod (The Milliner) (Markus); Szinèszno (The Actress) (Forgacs); Nevtelen vàr (Garas); Olavi (Lajthay)
New York expresz kabel (Telegram from New York) (Garas); Hetszàzeves szerelem (Garas); Love of the Eighteenth Century
The Lady in Grey; A szurkerahàs hölgy (Deesy); Samson und Delilah (Samson and Delilah) (Curtiz); Lady Violette (Geroffy); Eine Versunkene Welt
The Glorious Life; Diadalmas elet (Gaël); Egy fiunak a fele (von Bolvary); A Girl's Way; Das unbekannte Morgen (Korda)
Two Lovers (Niblo) (as Ramón de Linea); Three Sinners (Lee) (as Count Dietrich Wallentin); Loves of an Actress (Lee) (as Dr. Durande); Hot News (Badger) (as James Clayton); The Night Watch (Korda) (as Captain Corlais); The Woman from Moscow (Berger) (as Vladimir); Manhattan Cocktail (Arzner) (as Renov)
The World of Wall Street (Lee) (as David Tyler); The Shopworn Angel (Wallace) (as Bailey); Illusion (Mendes) (as Count Fortuny); Half-Way to Heaven (Abbott) (as Nick)
Slightly Scarlet (Gasnier and Knopf) (as Malatroff); Behind the Make-Up (Milton) (as Boris); Young Eagles (Wellman) (as Von Baden); Grumpy (Cukor and Gardner) (as Berci); The Benson Murder Case (Tuttle) (as Adolph Mohler); The Devil's Holiday (Goulding) (as Dr. Reynolds); Anybody'sWoman (Arzner) (as Gustav Saxon); The Right to Love (Wallace) (as Eric Helge)
City Street (Mamoulian); Unfaithful (Cromwell); The Vice Squad (Cromwell); Women Love Once (Goodman); Strictly Dishonorable (Stahl); The Beloved Bachelor (Corrigan); Working Girls (Arzner)
No One Man (Corrigan) (as Dr. Karl Bemis); Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Wallace); Thunder Below (Wallace); A Passport to Hell (Lloyd); Rockabye (Cukor); Downstairs (Bell)
Grand Slam (Dieterle); The Kiss before the Mirror (Whale); Sing Sinner Sing (Christy); Captured! (Del Ruth); Secret of the Blue Room (Neumann); Little Women (Cukor) (as Professor Bhaer)
By Candlelight (Whale); Glamour (Wyler); The Countess of Monte Cristo (Freund); Affairs of a Gentleman (Marin); I Give My Love (Freund); The Fountain (Cromwell); Gift of Gab (Freund)
The Casino Murder Case (Fenton); Father Brown—Detective (Sedgwick) (title role); Age of Indiscretion (Ludwig); I Found Stella Parish (LeRoy); The Three Musketeers (Lee)
Dodsworth (Wyler); Ladies in Love (Griffith)
Espionage (Neumann); Dinner at the Ritz (Schuster); Brief Ecstasy (Gréville)
The Mutiny on the Elsinore (Lockwood); The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock) (as Dr. Hartz); Dangerous Secrets (Gréville)
Confessions of a Nazi Spy (Litvak) (as Dr. Kassel); Lady in Distress (Mason); Captain Fury (Roach)
The Ghost Breakers (Marshall); Strange Cargo (Borzage) (as Hessler)
The Monster and the Girl (Heisler); They Dare Not Love (Whale); The Chinese Bungalow (Chinese Den) (G. King) (as Yuan Sing)
Watch on the Rhine (Sherman and Shumlin) (as Kurt Mueller); Hostages (Tuttle)
Uncertain Glory (Walsh); Address Unknown (Menzies); Experiment Perilous (Tourneur)
Deadline at Dawn (Chapman); Temptation (Pichel)
Whispering City (Ozep)
Berlin Express (Tourneur)
20,000 Leagues under the Sea (Fleischer) (as Professor Aronnax)
The Roots of Heaven (Huston)
Scent of Mystery (Holiday in Spain) (Todd and Cardiff); Tender Is the Night (King) (as Dr. Dohmler)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Minnelli) (as Karl von Hartrott)
Fifty-Five Days at Peking (Ray) (as Dr. Steinfeldt); Fun in Acapulco (Thorpe) (as Maximillian)
Lord Jim (Brooks) (as Stein)
Sol Madrid (Hutton) (as Capo Riccione)
The Challenge (Smithee)
On LUKAS: book—
Parish, James Robert, and William T. Leonard, Hollywood Players: The Thirties, New Rochelle, New York, 1976.
On LUKAS: articles—
Photoplay (New York), December 1930, June 1931, January 1932, June 1933, November 1934, and September 1940.
Time (New York), 14 April 1941.
New Yorker, 10 May 1941.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 30 April 1984.
* * *
In his more than 40 years in Hollywood, Hungarian-born Paul Lukas enjoyed an active career playing a combination of the suave, continental leading man to some of the screen's most glamorous actresses—Ruth Chatterton in Anybody's Woman, Sylvia Sidney in City Streets, Constance Bennett in Rockabye, and Loretta Young in Grand Slam—to the suave, continental villain in numerous Nazi-based war films. Rarely were his roles substantial enough for him to draw upon his extensive theatrical training. However, he did achieve top-ranking star status with his portrayal of Kurt Mueller in Watch on the Rhine in 1943.
Few of his films of the 1930s stand out, but he was particularly memorable as Professor Bhaer in Little Women. He played detective Philo Vance in The Casino Murder Case, Athos in The Three Musketeers, and Arnold Iselin in William Wyler's excellent Dodsworth. He was appropriately mysterious as the charming Dr. Hartz in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, but probably his best 1930s role was as Dr. Kassel, the propaganda chief, in Confessions of a Nazi Spy. This was patriotic wartime melodrama brilliantly acted by Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, and Lukas with swiftly paced direction by Anatole Litvak.
It was the Nazism of World War II that also set the scene for Lukas's greatest film success, Watch on the Rhine. He had starred in the 1941 New York stage version of this, Lillian Hellman's most subtly written play. His portrayal of Kurt Mueller, the German émigré with an American wife, was universally lauded by critics. Brooks Atkinson wrote in the New York Time, "As the enemy of fascism, Mr. Lukas' haggard, loving, resourceful determination becomes heroic by virtue of his sincerity and his superior abilities as an actor." When Warner Brothers produced the film version, they hired five members of the original Broadway cast, including Lukas, and the director, Herman Schumlin. They enlisted Hellman's friend Dashiell Hammett to write the screenplay and cast Bette Davis as Mueller's wife to ensure box-office success. However, it was Lukas's film, and he received the Academy Award and the New York Film Critics Award for his moving performance.
Despite the success of Watch on the Rhine, Lukas's career remained one of fairly cardboard leading roles opposite beautiful actresses (for example Hedy Lamarr in Experiment Perilous), and eventually evolved into mature character roles: he was Professor Aronnax in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Stein in Lord Jim.