Studio publicity photo of Ingrid Bergman with Mathias Wieman in Fear, 1954
|Born||23 June 1902
|Died||3 December 1969
Life and career
Wieman was born in Osnabrück, the only son of Carl Philipp Anton Wieman and his wife Louise. Raised in Osnabrück, Wiesbaden and Berlin, where he studied four terms of philosophy, history of art and languages, Wieman wanted to actually become an airplane technical designer and flier. He started his acting career on the stage in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater. In the early 1920s, he was a member of the Holtorf-Truppe, a stock theater group that included future director Veit Harlan. His fellow stage actors included his future wife, Erika Meingast, Marlene Dietrich, Dora Gerson and Max Schreck (the vampire in Nosferatu). Later he began working in silent and sound films; he landed supporting roles in Femme, Königin Luise and Das Land ohne Frauen. In 1930, along with Leni Riefenstahl, he appeared in Avalanche (Stürme über dem Mont Blanc), and in 1932 he played the lead in Riefenstahl's Das Blaue Licht.
At the height of his film career, during the decade of the 1930s, Wieman acted in such productions as The Man Without a Name (Mensch ohne Namen), Queen of Atlantis (Die Herrin von Atlantis), The Countess of Monte Cristo (Die Gräfin von Monte Christo), Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen, The Rider of the White Horse (Der Schimmelreiter), Viktoria, Patriots, and Togger. He also had an international success with his appearance in "The Eternal Mask" (Die Ewige Maske). The movie was awarded with the American National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Film in the United States in 1937 (National Board of Review Awards 1937). The film was also nominated for an award at the Venice Film Festival. Also in 1937, Wieman was made Staatsschauspieler, an honorary title bestowed by the German government and the highest honour attainable by an actor in Germany.
1940s and after
Wieman's life and work under the Nazi regime is a complex subject that can't be fairly or properly dealt with in a few sentences. Detailed information can be read (in German) at this excellent web site: Biographie des Schauspielers und Rezitators Mathias Wieman. It can also be helpful to refer to film and theatre director Leopold Lindtberg's comments regarding Wieman.
Wieman was eventually classed as "persona non grata" by Joseph Goebbels, this greatly reduced his activity. He acted in the following movies in the 1940s: Ich klage an, Das andere Ich, Paracelsus, Träumerei and Wie sagen wir es unseren Kindern. After the failed 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler happened in 1944, Mathias and his wife Erika helped the family of Count Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg. This assistance is detailed by Charlotte von der Schulenburg in the book Courageous Hearts: Women and the Anti-Hitler Plot of 1944 (Dorothee Von Meding, Berghahn Books, 1997).
After World War II he was able to work more intensively in the film business again, normally in support roles. To his fairly well known work belongs The Alfred Nobel Story (Herz der Welt), As Long as You're Near Me (Solange du da bist), The Last Summer (Der letzte Sommer), Ripening Youth (Reifende Jugend), The Girl and the Legend (Robinson soll nicht sterben), and opposite Ingrid Bergman in Roberto Rossellini's Fear (La Paura). Two of the films Mathias starred in were in competition at the Cannes Film Festival: In 1952, Herz Der Welt; and in 1954, Solange Du Da Bist.
Wieman also made many records (LPs) of classic stories where he would narrate the story accompanied by orchestral music. One example is Peter und der Wolf with Mathias and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1950 conducted by Fritz Lehmann and the Orchestre National de France in 1962 conducted by Lorin Maazel. Another example is Mathias Wiemans kleine Diskothek. In 1992 Deutsche Grammophon issued a commemorative set of CDs in honour of the 100th anniversary of Wieman's birth: Für Kenner & Kinder.
On stage, Wieman appeared in a number of productions including, Goethe's Faust, Pygmalion (play) by George Bernard Shaw, the most famous play of Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and in Bertolt Brecht's In The Jungle of Cities (Im Dickicht der Städte).
After World War II, Wieman moved to Switzerland with his wife, stage actress Erika Meingast, there in 1969 he died of cancer. Mathias and his wife Erika (died in 1972) were cremated and the ashes buried in the Wieman family plot in the Johannesfriedhof cemetery in Osnabrück.
In 1958, his hometown of Osnabrück awarded him the prestigious Justus-Möser-Medaille for his achievements in acting on stage and screen. And in 1965, Wieman received the Bambi (prize) film award. Other Bambi award winners that same year were Elke Aberle, Willy Fritsch, Marianne Hoppe, Brigitte Horney, Hilde Krahl, Sophia Loren, Michael Maien, Liselotte Pulver, Heinz Rühmann, and Hans Söhnker.
- Queen Louise (1927)
- Mata Hari (1927)
- Land Without Women (1929)
- Man Without a Name (1932)
- The Countess of Monte-Christo (1932)
- The Eternal Mask (1935)
- Anna Favetti (1938)
- Cadets (1939)
- Gedächtnisfeier für Mathias Wieman, Lindtberg: Reden und Aufsätze - Atlantis Verlag - Zürich - 1972. Pages 238-241.
- Mathias Wieman at the Internet Movie Database
- Meingast Family Site with information about Mathias Wieman
- Photographs of Mathias Wieman
- Mathias Wieman Web Site - Created by Dieter Svensson. Includes photographs and very detailed biographical information. In German.
- City of Osnabrück web page about Mathias. In German.
- Mathias Wieman and Erika Meingast gravesite in the Osnabrücker Johannesfriedhof
- "Ich klage an" - 1941 medical drama about euthanasia. Full length.
- "Unternehmen Michael" - 1937 World War 1 drama. Full length.
- Bust of Mathias Wieman recently discovered at the University of Vienna (in German).
- Blog (in German) by Thomas Hunziker about "The Eternal Mask" being shown at the 2010 Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.
- Film review in English of "The Eternal Mask" from Time magazine. "Cinema: The New Pictures: Jan. 25, 1937." 1937. Time. 25 January.
- Time magazine article mentioning Mathias Wieman being recognized by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for his "outstanding performance" in "The Eternal Mask." "Cinema: Tops." 1938. Time. 03 January.
- "New York Times" review of "Unternehmen Michael" (The Private's Job). Cursor down to under "At the 86th St. Garden Theatre" for the review. Nugent, Frank S., "Goodbye Broadway," New York Times, May 14, 1938.
- Information about a portrait done of Mathias Wieman by artist Hans Jürgen Kallmann.