Anton Walbrook

Adolf Anton Wilhelm Wohlbrück (19 November 1896 – 9 August 1967) was an Austrian actor who settled in the United Kingdom under the name Anton Walbrook. A popular performer in Austria and pre-war Germany, he left in 1936 out of concerns for his own safety and established a career in British cinema. Walbrook is perhaps best known for his roles in the original British film of Gaslight, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes.

Anton Walbrook
Anton Walbrook cleaned.jpg
Adolf Anton Wilhelm Wohlbrück

(1896-11-19)19 November 1896
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died9 August 1967(1967-08-09) (aged 70)
Starnberger See, Bavaria, West Germany
Years active1915–1966

Life and careerEdit

Walbrook was born in Vienna, Austria, as Adolf Wohlbrück.[1] He was the son of Gisela Rosa (Cohn) and Adolf Ferdinand Bernhard Hermann Wohlbrück.[2][3] He was descended from ten generations of actors, though his father broke with tradition and was a circus clown. Walbrook studied with the director Max Reinhardt and built up a career in Austrian theatre and cinema.

In 1936, he went to Hollywood to reshoot dialogue for the multinational The Soldier and the Lady (1937) and changed his name from Adolf to Anton. Rather than returning to Austria, where he risked persecution because he was a "Mischling ersten Grades" (mixed race in the first degree) under the Nuremberg Laws as his mother was Jewish[4] and because he was homosexual,[5] he settled in England where he continued working as an actor, making a speciality of playing continental Europeans.

He played Otto in the first London production of Design for Living at the Haymarket Theatre in January 1939 (later transferring to the Savoy Theatre), and running for 233 performances, opposite Diana Wynyard as Gilda and Rex Harrison as Leo.[6] In 1952 he appeared at the Coliseum as Cosmo Constantine in Call Me Madam, also participating alongside Billie Worth, Jeff Warren and Shani Wallis on the EMI cast record.[7]

Walbrook's grave in St John-at-Hampstead parish church yard, London

Producer-director Herbert Wilcox cast him as Prince Albert in Victoria the Great (1937) and Walbrook also appeared in the sequel, Sixty Glorious Years the following year. He was in director Thorold Dickinson's version of Gaslight (1940), in the role played by Charles Boyer in the later Hollywood remake. In Dangerous Moonlight (1941), a romantic melodrama, he was a Polish pianist torn over whether to return home. For the Powell and Pressburger team in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) he played the role of the dashing, intense "good German" officer Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, and the tyrannical impresario Lermontov in The Red Shoes (1948). One of his most unusual films, reuniting him with Dickinson, is The Queen of Spades (1949), a Gothic thriller based on the Alexander Pushkin short story, in which he co-starred with Edith Evans. For Max Ophüls he was the ringmaster in La Ronde (1950) and Ludwig I, King of Bavaria in Lola Montès.

His Red Shoes co-star Moira Shearer recalled Walbrook was a loner on set, often wearing dark glasses, as in his character costume in the film, and eating alone.[8] He retired from films in 1958, and in later years appeared on the European stage and television.

Walbrook died of a heart attack in the Garatshausen section of Feldafing, Bavaria, Germany in 1967.[1] His ashes were interred in the churchyard of St. John's Church, Hampstead, London, as he had wished in his testament.


Year Title Role Language Director Notes
1915 Marionetten Zirkusdirektor Richard Löwenbein
1923 Martin Luther Silent Karl Wüstenhagen
1924 Mater dolorosa Silent Joseph Delmont
1925 The Secret of Castle Elmshoh Axel Silent Max Obal
1931 Salto Mortale Robby German E. A. Dupont
1932 The Pride of Company Three Prinz Willibald German Fred Sauer
Three from the Unemployment Office Max Binder German Eugen Thiele
The Five Accursed Gentlemen Petersen German Julien Duvivier German-language version of a French film
Melody of Love Kapellmeister German Georg Jacoby
Baby Lord Cecil German Karel Lamač
1933 Waltz War Johann Strauss German Ludwig Berger
Keine Angst vor Liebe [de] Helmut Höfert German Hans Steinhoff
Victor and Victoria Robert German Reinhold Schünzel
1934 George and Georgette French Reinhold Schünzel,
Roger Le Bon
French-language version of Victor and Victoria
The Switched Bride Charles German Karel Lamač
Maskerade Ferdinand von Heideneck German Willi Forst
A Woman Who Knows What She Wants Axel Basse German Victor Janson
The English Marriage Warwick Brent German Reinhold Schünzel
1935 Regine Frank Reynold German Erich Waschneck
The Gypsy Baron Sandor Barinkay German Karl Hartl
Le Baron tzigane Sandor Barinkay French Karl Hartl,
Henri Chomette
French-language version of The Gypsy Baron
I Was Jack Mortimer Fred Sponer German Carl Froelich
The Student of Prague Balduin German Arthur Robison
1936 The Czar's Courier Michael Strogoff German Richard Eichberg
Michel Strogoff French Richard Eichberg,
Jacques de Baroncelli
French-language version of The Czar's Courier
Tomfoolery Philip German Willi Forst
Port Arthur Boris Ranewsky French Nicolas Farkas
Port Arthur German Nicolas Farkas German-language version of Port Arthur
1937 The Soldier and the Lady Michael Strogoff English George Nicholls Jr. Remake of The Czar's Courier
Victoria the Great Prince Albert English Herbert Wilcox
The Rat Jean Boucheron English Jack Raymond
1938 Sixty Glorious Years Prince Albert English Herbert Wilcox
1940 Gaslight Paul Mallen/Louis Bauer English Thorold Dickinson
1941 Dangerous Moonlight Stefan Radetzky English Brian Desmond Hurst
49th Parallel Peter English Powell and Pressburger
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff English Powell and Pressburger
1945 The Man from Morocco Karel Langer English Mutz Greenbaum
1948 The Red Shoes Boris Lermontov English Powell and Pressburger
1949 The Queen of Spades Capt. Herman Suvorin English Thorold Dickinson
1950 La Ronde Master of Ceremonies French Max Ophüls
King for One Night Graf von Lerchenbach German Paul May
1951 Vienna Waltzes Johann Strauss German Emil-Edwin Reinert
1952 Le Plaisir Narrator, German version Max Ophüls Uncredited
1954 On Trial (L'affaire Maurizius) Grégoire Waremme French Julien Duvivier
1955 Oh... Rosalinda!! Dr. Falke English Powell and Pressburger
Lola Montès King Ludwig I of Bavaria French Max Ophüls
1957 Saint Joan Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais English Otto Preminger
1958 I Accuse! Major Esterhazy English José Ferrer

Television (West Germany)Edit

Year TV Show Role Notes
1960 Venus im Licht The Duke of Altair based on Venus Observed
1962 Laura Waldo Lydecker based on Laura
1964 Der Arzt am Scheideweg Sir Colenso Ridgeon based on The Doctor's Dilemma
1966 Robert und Elisabeth (final film role)

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b "Walbrook [formerly Wohlbrück], (Adolf Wilhelm) Anton (1896–1967)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60815. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Anton Walbrook - Tomb With a View".
  3. ^ Hergemöller, Bernd-Ulrich (2001). Mann für Mann. ISBN 9783518397664.
  4. ^ Offermanns, Ernst (2005) (in German). Die deutschen Juden und der Spielfilm der NS-Zeit. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. p. 69.
  5. ^ David Ehrenstein (20 July 2010). "The Red Shoes: Dancing for Your Life". Current. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  6. ^ The Observer, 29 January 1939, p. 11
  7. ^ WorldCat entry for Call Me Madam, with details of cast accessed 7 August 2018.
  8. ^ Commentary track on Criterion DVD of The Red Shoes

General sourcesEdit

  • Moor, Andrew, Dangerous Limelight: Anton Walbrook and the Seduction of the English (2001)
  • Anton Walbrook. A Life of Masks and Mirrors by James Downs (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2020) ISBN 978-1-78997-710-3

External linksEdit