Anton Diffring

Anton Diffring (born Alfred Pollack, 20 October 1916 – 19 May 1989)[1] was a German character actor, who had an extensive acting career in the United Kingdom from the 1940s to the 1980s in cinema films and television.

Anton Diffring
Anton Diffring.gif
Diffring in The Beast Must Die (1974)
Alfred Pollack

(1916-10-20)20 October 1916
Died19 May 1989(1989-05-19) (aged 72)
Other namesAnton de Vient
Years active1940–1988

Early lifeEdit

Diffring was born Alfred Pollack in Koblenz. His father, Solomon Pollack, was a Jewish shop-owner who managed to avoid internment by the Nazi authorities and survived Nazi Germany. His mother, Bertha Pollack (née Diffring), was Christian. He studied acting in Berlin and Vienna, but there is conjecture about when he left Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II. The audio commentary for the Doctor Who series Silver Nemesis mentions that he left in 1936 to escape persecution due to his homosexuality. Other accounts point to him leaving in 1939 and going to Canada, where he was interned in 1940, which is unlikely as he appears in the Ealing Studios film Convoy (released in July 1940, as the officer of the U-37, in an uncredited role). His sister Jacqueline Diffring moved to England and became a sculptor. Although he made two fleeting uncredited appearances in films in 1940, it was not until 1950 that his acting career began to take off.


Anton Diffring as Baron Frankenstein in Tales of Frankenstein (1958)

With numerous World War II dramatic productions in film and television being produced in England in the 1950s, Diffring's "Germanic" physical type of blond hair, pale blue eyes and chiselled features saw him often cast in roles as Nazi military officers in films such as Albert R.N. (1953) and The Colditz Story (1955). Some of his more notable roles as German characters were in The Heroes of Telemark (1965), The Blue Max (1966), Where Eagles Dare (1968), as SS officer Reinhard Heydrich in Operation Daybreak (1975), and the football match commentator in Escape to Victory (1981), though he also played a Polish parachutist in The Red Beret (1953). He played Hitler's foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in the American mini-series The Winds of War (1983). In the Italian war movie Uccidete Rommel, shot in an Egyptian desert in 1969, he played the role of a British officer of the SAS.

On stage, Diffring played the title role in the musical Mister Venus, opposite Frankie Howerd. It opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 23 October 1958 but closed after only sixteen performances. In the show, Diffring sang two solo numbers: "Love Like Ours" and "Tradition".[2] The book was by Ray Galton and Johnny Speight, while the music was by Trevor H. Stanford (Russ Conway) and Norman Newell. [3]

He played an important part in the TV mini-series Flambards, that of the aeronautical pioneer who assists William Russell (Alan Parnaby), second in line of inheritance to the Flambards Estate, who is obsessed with flying. Diffring's character was a German living in Britain shortly before the beginning of the Great War.

Diffring starred in a number of horror films, such as The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and Circus of Horrors (1960) and played the lead in the television pilot Tales of Frankenstein (1958). He also appeared in international films, such as Fahrenheit 451 (1966), an English-language film directed by François Truffaut.

His final performance was again as a Nazi for the BBC in the 1988 Doctor Who serial Silver Nemesis, in which he agreed to appear because the filming in England coincided with the Wimbledon Championships, which he wanted to attend.


Diffring died on 19 May 1989 from cancer at his home in Châteauneuf-Grasse, in the South of France, at the age of 72. His body was buried in the graveyard of St. Andrew's Church, in the village of White Colne in Essex.[4]


Selected television appearancesEdit


  • Brian McFarlane, The Encyclopedia of British Film, Methuen, 2003.


  1. ^ As listed on his gravestone
  2. ^ Theatre programme: Mister Venus, Prince of Wales Theatre
  3. ^ Gänzl, Kurt, 1946- (1986). The British musical theatre. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-39839-4. OCLC 59021270.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Entry for the grave of Diffring in 'Findagrave' website (2019).

External linksEdit