Sunday, September 6, 2015

Born Today September 6: Max Schreck

Max Schreck:  1879-1936

Born Friedrich Gustav Maximillian Schreck on September 6, 1879 in Berlin-Friedenau, Germany, his is the most definitely the most famous face (albeit in heavy makeup) of the silent era in the modern age!  Even the youngest people with any passing knowledge of film know his face.  For a while as a child he lived in Friedenau proper, which has a very interesting history all it's own.  As he got older, he became more and more enamored with the theater, of which is father thoroughly disapproved.  His mother, however, secretly gave him money to study acting, which he did enthusiastically, graduating and got work in a number of live productions all across the country until he ended up in Berlin and Munich.  It was after this point that he began to work in films.  Despite that he's only known widely across the world for Nosferatu (1922), he acted in over 20 silent films (as the silent era lasted much longer in Germany than it did in the US), with his first talkie in 1930 funnily enough being a musical (The Land Of Smiles).  Nosferatu was basically the only horror film he acted in, however he was in one Sci-Fi talkie in 1933 entitled The Tunnel.  It turns out that the vast majority of the films he appeared in were comedies.  He had a reputation of being a rather strange character, a loner, and apparently spent a good deal of time wandering around in forests.  Despite this, he apparently also possessed a unique (some said unusual) sense of humor, and like his American contemporary Lon Chaney Sr., he had a talent for playing grotesque characters, and didn't mind make-up jobs, that other actors had no patience for.  This was helped by the fact that he stood 6'3".  His life was cut short at the age of 56 of a heart attack.  Due to his theater training, he had successfully made the transition into talkies, only to pass away from an early onset of heart failure.  Right up until his death he continued to do live theater; in fact, the night before his death he took a stand-in role as "The Great Inquisitor" in Don Carlos.  His obituary apparently made no mention of Nosferatu (as it was not the well known film then as it became), but rather highly praised a live performance as "The Miser" in a Moliére's comedy.  He is buried in the German cemetery located near Brandenburg--Wilmersdorfer Waldfriedhof Stahndorf. 

Publicity photo of Schreck from 1922, year of Nosferatu

Silent Film Credits

Der zeugende Tod (1921) (a mystery film)

Nosferatu (1922) (as Graf Orlok, his first Horror film)

Nathan der Weise (1922) (formerly lost film, essentially banned in Bavaria by intimidation from the early Nazi party who considered it "Jewish propaganda." It is a historical drama.)

The Jew of Mestri (1924) (shot in 1923, premiered in Finland in 1924, based on Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice.)

Die Straße (1923) (a drama)

The Mysteries Of A Hairdresser's Shop (1923) (comedic short, just over 30 minutes long, this remained an unreleased short for years.)

Finances Of The Grand Duke (1924) (A comedy.  A Murnau film, the only other time he worked with the director.)

Dona Juana (1928) (a drama)

Luther (1929) (a biographical and historical drama based on the life of Martin Luther.  Filmed in 1928.)

Scampolo (1928) (a comedy)

Rasputins Liebesabenteur (1928) (an historical drama)

Teenager's Republic (1929) (filmed in 1928)

Ludwig der Zweite, Kônig von Bayern (1930) (a biographical historical drama)

Entrance into the graveyard where Schreck is buried--the whole cemetery is located in an old grove forest.

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