Frederick Stafford

Frederick Stafford (11 March 1928 – 28 July 1979) was a Czechoslovak-born actor. Born Friedrich Strobel von Stein, he spoke fluent Czech, German, English, French and Italian, and was a leading man in European spy-movies.

Frederick Stafford
Frederick Stafford Topaz trailer (2) 1969.png
Friedrich Strobel von Stein

(1928-03-11)March 11, 1928
DiedJuly 28, 1979(1979-07-28) (aged 51)
Cause of death(plane crash)
Years active1965–1977
Spouse(s)Marianne Hold (1964-1979) (his death) (1 child)
ChildrenRoderick Stafford (b. 1964)


Early lifeEdit

By some accounts, Stafford claimed to have played water polo at the 1948 Summer Olympics.

He was the son of a Slovak factory owner. He studied chemistry and spent time in Switzerland. He was worried about the Russians taking over Czechoslovakia and in 1948 decided to leave. It would take too long to move to the US or Canada so he went to Australia in 1949.[1] While there he changed his name to "Frederick Stafford". "I always liked the name," he later said.[2]

He became a taxi driver, a lumberjack and a businessman.[2] He qualified as a doctor of chemistry after university in Sydney and Perth.[3] Fluent in five languages, in the 1950s he held a series of positions in the pharmaceutical industry.[4]

By 1962 he was a regional manager for Bristol Meyers headquartered in Hong Kong. He travelled for them in the Middle East and Far East. Two years later in Bangkok he met an Austrian actress Marianne Hold and married her seven days later.[2]

Film careerEdit

In 1964 French director André Hunebelle discovered Stafford on holiday at a hotel in Bangkok and asked him "How would you like to make movies with me?" Stafford replied, "Why not?"

According to another account "I married an Austrian girl in Bangkok in 1964 and among the bouquets at the wedding was one from a French film producer. He said he wanted me to star in his films. That's how it all began. I was rushed off to Brazil to make my first film in Rio de Janeiro, and have been busy ever since."[3]

He played a starring role in his first film, replacing Kerwin Mathews as an agent code-named OSS 117 in OSS 117 Mission for a Killer (1965) with Mylène Demongeot. The film was the eleventh biggest movie of the year in France.[5]

"Getting into a different industry didn't have a big effect on me," said Stafford later. "I don't think it made a difference because I didn't get into business at an early age when a man is still being formed... I don't know if there is such a thing as luck... Maybe in a lottery but you have to get out and buy the ticket first."[2]

He followed this with the similar Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut (1965) and a second OSS117 film, Atout cœur à Tokyo pour OSS 117 (1966).

Stafford made a macaroni combat war film in Italy, Dirty Heroes (1967) with John Ireland. He followed it with Estouffade à la Caraïbe (1967), and L'Homme qui valait des milliards (1967).

Stafford made two more Italian war films, The Battle of El Alamein (1969) with Michael Rennie.


These movies brought the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, who signed him in 1968 to play the leading role as agent André Devereaux in Topaz (1969).[6] Universal signed him to a non exclusive contract for seven years.[7]

The film was not a success. The casting of Stafford, whose performance was found lacking by critics,[weasel words] was largely blamed for its failure. Channel4 claimed, "Heading the international cast is a very wooden Stafford, who is no Cary Grant."

He made Eagles Over London (1969) with Van Johnson.

In March 1970 Stafford claimed that Harry Saltzman wanted him to play James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service but he was unable to accept due to his commitment to make Topaz. He said "although at first I thought no one could take over from Sean. But after seeing the latest Bond film... I know I can." He added "I certainly didn't realise this film business would keep my interest like it has. It is a real change from chemistry, and at present I can't see myself going back to that."[3]

Later careerEdit

He made a comeback in 1972 as Commissario Luca Micelli in the Italian Giallo Shadows Unseen.

Five years after Topaz, he starred with French actress Claude Jade (who had played his daughter in Topaz) in the Italian thriller Special Killers (1973). In that movie, Stafford's character has a brief platonic romance with Jade's character despite a 20-year age difference.

His last successes were the Spanish Movies Metti che ti rompo il muso (1975) and White Horses of Summer (1975, starring Jean Seberg, his co-star from 1966 Estouffade à la Caraïbe), the Italian thriller Werewolf Woman (1976) and the Spanish-Italian-French coproduction Hold-Up (1977). He also made La trastienda and Sfida sul fondo.

In 1977 Stafford returned to Australia after 15 years.[8] He announced he intended to make four films in Australia including one about the pyjama girl murder; Our Man in Sydney, a detective thriller, and Andamooka, about life on the Australian opal fields.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

He married German actress Marianne Hold whom he met whilst both of them were in Bangkok. His son is the singer Roderick Stafford, who was born in 1964.


Stafford died in 1979 in a collision of two aircraft above Lake Sarnen, Switzerland. A Morane-Saulnier Rallye piloted by Czech-born Pavel Krahulec, M.D., and in which Stafford was a passenger collided with a Piper aircraft, piloted by businessman Alois Fischer of Thoune, Switzerland[10]


Year Title Roles Director co-starring Notes
1965 OSS 117 Mission for a Killer Hubert Bonnisseur de la Bath, alias OSS 117 André Hunebelle Mylène Demongeot, Raymond Pellegrin
1966 Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut Richard Blake / Agent 505 Manfred R. Köhler Geneviève Cluny, Harald Leipnitz, Willy Birgel
Atout coeur à Tokyo pour OSS 117 Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, alias OSS 117 Michel Boisrond Marina Vlady
1967 Dirty Heroes Joe Mortimer, Sesame Alberto De Martino Daniela Bianchi, Curd Jürgens, Adolfo Celi, Michel Constantin, John Ireland
Estouffade à la Caraïbe [fr] Sam Morgan Jacques Besnard [fr] Jean Seberg
L'Homme qui valait des milliards [de] Jean Sarton Michel Boisrond Anny Duperey, Peter van Eyck, Raymond Pellegrin
1969 The Battle of El Alamein Lt. Giorgio Borri Giorgio Ferroni George Hilton, Robert Hossein, Michael Rennie, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg
Eagles Over London Captain Paul Stevens Enzo G. Castellari Van Johnson, Francisco Rabal
Topaz Andre Devereaux Alfred Hitchcock Dany Robin, Claude Jade, Karin Dor, John Vernon, John Forsythe, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret
1972 Shadows Unseen Commissioner Luca Miceli Camillo Bazzoni Marilù Tolo, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Raymond Pellegrin, Judy Winter
1973 La ragazza di via Condotti (Special Killers) Sandro Mattei Germán Lorente [es] Claude Jade, Michel Constantin
Metti che ti rompo il muso Rocky Miller Giuseppe Vari Silvia Monti, Massimo Mollica
1974 Hold-Up Robert Cunningham Germán Lorente [es] Nathalie Delon, Marcel Bozzuffi
1975 White Horses of Summer Nicholas Kingsburg Raimondo Del Balzo Jean Seberg
La trastienda [es] Doctor Navarro Jorge Grau Rosanna Schiaffino
1976 Werewolf Woman Inspector Modica Rino Di Silvestro Dagmar Lassander
Sfida sul fondo Valdesio Melciade Coletti Dagmar Lassander (final film role)


  1. ^ ...and Hitchcock's new star: 'I've been watching you' Change is the essence By Kimmis Hendrick. The Christian Science Monitor 22 Mar 1969: 4.
  2. ^ a b c d 'Topaz' Star Chemist With AllIngredients Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times (7 Oct 1968: c26
  3. ^ a b c "Now it's Australian 007 Mk. 2". Sydney Morning Herald. March 28, 1970. p. 14.
  4. ^ p, 238 Magazanik, Michael Silent Shock: The Men Behind the Thalidomide Scandal and an Australian Family's Long Road to Justice Text Publishing, 22 May 2015
  5. ^ "French box office 1965". Box Office Story.
  6. ^ Stafford Signed for 'Topaz' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 24 Sep 1968: f17.
  7. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Show Biz Novel to Be Shot Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 28 Mar 1969: i23.
  8. ^ "The prodigal returns — as a Continental". The Australian Women's Weekly. 44 (41). Australia, Australia. 16 March 1977. p. 5. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Murder film plan". The Canberra Times. 51 (14, 590). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 22 January 1977. p. 17. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Marianne Hold - The Private Life and Times of Marianne Hold. Marianne Hold Pictures". Retrieved 29 July 2017.

External linksEdit