German 43: Exiles and Émigrés
 

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Photo of Fritz KortnerKortner, Fritz

(Vienna 1892–Berlin 1970)

Actor. Born in Austria, Kortner became one of the Weimar Republic's most illustrious actors, appearing in such silent classics as Satanas (1920, dir. F. W. Murnau) and Backstairs (dir. Leopold Jessner, 1921). It was his portrayal of Dr. Schön in G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929), however, that highlighted his facial expressions in hauntingly effective ways and turned him into a veritable star. Even with sound productions like E. A. Dupont's Atlantic (1929), Kortner was able to maintain his status as one of Europe's preeminent film actors. But with the rise of the Third Reich came vicious attacks against him because he was Jewish. Noting Berlin's turn towards fascism, he emigrated to Britain before he could be detained. In 1941, Kortner moved to Hollywood, where he was a character actor in a handful of anti-Nazi features: The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler (1943), The Hitler Gang (1944), and Berlin Express (1948). His alienation from his Weimar career manifested itself in the facial expressions that made him famous, but were now used to combat Nazi nationalism. Only a short while after the end of the war, Kortner would return to Germany to appear in Josef von Baky's The Last Illusion (1949). The move would prove successful; he regained his prewar fame and made a living acting in and directing for German cinema, theater, and television.


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