|Born||Fritz Nathan Kohn
12 May 1892
|Died||22 July 1970
|Occupation||Actor; theatre director|
Life and career
Kortner was born in Vienna as Fritz Nathan Kohn. He studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After graduating, he joined Max Reinhardt in Berlin in 1911 and then Leopold Jessner in 1916. After his breakthrough performance in Ernst Toller's Transfiguration in 1919, he became one of Germany's best-known character actors and the nation's foremost performer of Expressionist works. He also appeared in over ninety films beginning in 1916. His specialty was in playing sinister and threatening roles, although he also appeared in the title role of Dreyfus (1930). He originally gained attention for his explosive energy on stage and his powerful voice, but as the 1920s progressed his work began to incorporate greater realism as he opted for a more controlled delivery and greater use of gestures.
With the coming to power of the Nazis, the Jewish Kortner fled Germany in 1933, emigrating first to Vienna, then to Great Britain, and finally to the United States, where he found work as a character actor and theater director. He returned to Germany in 1949, where he became noted for his innovative staging and direction of classics by William Shakespeare and Molière, such as a Richard III (1964) in which the king crawls over piles of corpses at the finale.
Kortner died in Munich in 1970, aged 78.
- 1971: Letzten Endes. Fragmente. (posthumous autobiography, edited by Johanna Kortner)
- 1996: Aller Tage Abend. Autobiographie. Droemer-Knaur, München, 1996, ISBN 3-426-02336-9.
- Aller Tage Abend. Autobiographie. Alexander Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89581-098-3.
- 2005: Aller Tage Abend. Auszüge, gelesen von Fritz Kortner. Alexander Verlag, Berlin ISBN 3-89581-137-8.
- Critchfield, Richard D. From Shakespeare to Frisch: The Provocative Fritz Kortner. Heidelberg: Synchron Publishers, 2008. ISBN 3-93502-599-8; ISBN 3-935025-99-8