Sunday, May 15, 2011

Albert Bassermann

On May 15, 1952 actor Albert Bassermann died. he was a classically-trained actor, who specialised in Shakespearean roles ('Richard III', 'Hamlet') and was a famous interpreter of the plays of Henrik Ibsen. He made his silver screen debut in a 1913 silent version of 'Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde' ('Der Andere'). Bassermann remained active in motion pictures throughout the 1920's, also frequently appearing on stage in Austria and Switzerland. His wife, Else Bassermann Schiff, was Jewish, and the discrimination shown towards her in his native country so outraged him that he emigrated with her to the United States in 1939.

At the age of 72, he carved out another career in Hollywood as a celebrated character actor. It took him some time to come to terms with the English language, but he was soon cast in a small part in 'Dr.Ehrlich's Magic Bullet' (1940), as Dr.Robert Koch. He also played a sympathetic chemistry professor in 'Knute Rockne, All-American'. That same year, he appeared as Van Meer in Hitchcock's 'Foreign Correspondent' and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. His distinguished-looking countenance and serious demeanour lent itself to being assigned a variety of consular or professorial roles: he was excellent as Consul Magnus Barring in 'A Woman's Face' (1941) with Joan Crawford; Professor Jean Perote in 'Madame Curie' (1944); and a dying German music teacher in 'Rhapsody in Blue' (1945). At the age of 83, he made a triumphant return to the German/Austrian stage in Ibsen plays. Albert Bassermann died of a heart attack en route from New York to Zurich on May 15, 1952 and is buried in Haupfriedhof Cemetery, Mannheim, Germany. author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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