Oskar Werner

Oskar Werner

Werner as Guy Montag in the Fahrenheit 451 (1966).
Born Oskar Josef Bschließmayer
(1922-11-13)13 November 1922
Vienna, Austria
Died 23 October 1984(1984-10-23) (aged 61)
Marburg, Hesse, West Germany
Cause of death heart attack
Resting place Triesen, Liechtenstein
Years active 1939–84
Spouse(s) Elisabeth Kallina (1944–52)
Anne Power (1954–68)
Children Eleanore ("Noni")
Felix Florian

Oskar Werner (13 November 1922  23 October 1984) was an Austrian actor. He won a Golden Globe Award for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Ship of Fools (1965). Other notable films include Decision Before Dawn (1951), Jules and Jim (1962), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) and Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Early life

Born Oskar Josef Bschließmayer in Vienna, Werner spent much of his childhood in the care of his grandmother, who entertained him with stories about the Burgtheater, the Austrian state theatre, where he was accepted at the age of eighteen by Lothar Müthel. He was the youngest person ever to receive this recognition. He made his theatre debut using the stage name Oskar Werner in October 1941.[1]

In December 1941, Werner was drafted into the Deutsche Wehrmacht. As a pacifist and staunch opponent of National Socialism, he was determined to avoid advancement in the military.

So many officers had been killed on the Russian front that they needed replacements desperately. And, I was for them the embodiment of the Aryan type. But I am a pacifist. I didn't want any responsibility, so I behaved stupidly. I fell from my horse and made mistakes reading the range finders on the cannon, and finally they kicked me out of training school.[2]

He was assigned to peeling potatoes and cleaning latrines instead of being sent to the Eastern Front. In 1944, he secretly married actress Elisabeth Kallina, who was of half Jewish descent.[3] They immediately had a daughter, Eleanore. That December, he deserted the Wehrmacht and fled with his wife and daughter to the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), where they remained in hiding until the end of the war.[1] He would later remember, "The artillery fire was constant for two and a half days. The shells hit all around our little hut and it was shaking like a leaf ... We knew that to go out there would be suicide, but it was better than to have to wait for execution."[4]


Early career

Werner returned to the Burgtheater, and also acted in productions at the Raimund Theater and the Theater in der Josefstadt, frequently playing character roles. He made his film debut in Der Engel mit der Posaune, directed by Karl Hartl, in 1948.[1] The following year he portrayed Ludwig van Beethoven's nephew Karl in Eroica.

In 1950, Werner journeyed to the United Kingdom to reprise the role he had played in Der Engel mit der Posaune in its English-language version, The Angel with the Trumpet, under the direction of Anthony Bushell. He and his wife divorced at about this time but remained friends.[1] He appeared in a few more GermanAustrian films before going to Hollywood for a lead role in the 20th Century Fox war film Decision Before Dawn. When the subsequent roles promised by the studio failed to materialize, he returned to Europe and settled in Triesen, Liechtenstein, in a home he designed and built with a friend. He returned to the stage and performed in Hamlet, Danton's Death, Henry IV, Henry V, Torquato Tasso, and Becket, among others. In 1954 he married Anne Power, the daughter of French actress Annabella and adopted daughter of Tyrone Power.[1]

After a period of inactivity in films, Werner appeared in five in 1955, among them Mozart, in which he played the title role, and Lola Montès, directed by Max Ophüls. It was not until 1962, when he appeared in Jules and Jim, that he began to draw critical acclaim and international recognition.

Later career

Werner's portrayal of the philosophical Dr. Schumann in the 1965 film Ship of Fools won him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, and the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor. His portrayal of Jewish East German spy Fiedler in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) won him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture and his second BAFTA nomination. In 1966, he played book-burning fireman Guy Montag in François Truffaut's film adaptation of the cult-classic Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. He played an orchestra conductor in Interlude and a Vatican priest loosely based on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Shoes of the Fisherman in 1968, the same year he divorced Power.

In the early 1970s, Werner returned to the stage and spent time traveling in Israel, Italy, Malta, France, and the United States.[1] He appeared in an episode of Columbo in 1975, and the following year made his final screen appearance in Voyage of the Damned, for which he received another Golden Globe nomination.

Werner was an alcoholic, which was a deciding factor in the decline of his health and career.[5] His last stage appearance was in a 1983 production of The Prince of Homburg, and he made his last public appearance at the Mozart Hall in Salzburg ten days prior to his death.

Death and burial

On 22 October 1984, Werner cancelled a reading at the Hotel Europäischer Hof in Marburg, Germany because he was feeling ill. He was found dead of a heart attack the following morning, two days after French film director François Truffaut had died. He is buried in his adopted country of Liechtenstein.[1]

Filmography and television work

Year Film Role Notes
1938 Geld fällt vom Himmel
1939 Hotel Sacher Liftboy
Linen for Ireland Hotelpage Uncredited
1948 Der Engel mit der Posaune Hermann Alt
1949 Eroica Karl van Beethoven
1950 The Angel with the Trumpet Herman Alt
1951 Das gestohlene Jahr Peter Brück
Ruf aus dem Äther Der Student
Wonder Boy Rudi
Ein Lächeln im Sturm Francois Mercier
Decision Before Dawn Cpl. Karl "Happy" Maurer
1955 The Last Ten Days Hauptmann Wüst
Spionage Lt. Zeno von Baumgarten
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Lola Montès Student
1958 Ein gewisser Judas Judas TV movie
1962 Jules and Jim Jules
1964 Torquato Tasso[6] Torquato Tasso TV movie
1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Fiedler Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Ship of Fools Dr. Schumann New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1966 Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag
1968 Interlude Stefan Zelter
The Shoes of the Fisherman Fr. David Telemond
1975 Columbo Harold Van Wick Episode: "Playback"
1976 Voyage of the Damned Professor Egon Kreisler Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, (Last appearance)


See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Biography at www.oskarwerner.de.vu
  2. Armbrister, Trevor (8 October 1966). "A Very Phony Profession". The Saturday Evening Post (21): 100.
  3. Staff (6 September 2004). "Elisabeth Kallina" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. Armbrister, Trevor (8 October 1966). "A Very Phony Profession". The Saturday Evening Post (21): 100.
  5. "Oskar Werner, Actor Dies", New York Times, October 24, 1984 Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. Torquato Tasso at the Internet Movie Database
  7. Database (n.d.). "Oskar Werner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
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