Reinhold Schünzel

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Reinhold Schünzel

Reinhold Schünzel (1886–1954) was the son of a German father and a Jewish mother, he was born in St. Pauli, The poorest part of Hamburg. He was a German-born actor and director, active in both Germany and the United States. Despite being Jewish, Schünzel was allowed by the Nazis to continue making films for several years until he eventually left to live abroad. Schünzel died of a heart attack in Munich, Germany when he was 65 years old.

Life in Germany[edit]

Reinhold Schünzel or Schuenzel started his career as an actor in 1915 when he was 29 years old with a role in the film Werner Krafft. He directed his first film in 1918 Maria Magdalene and in 1920 directed Das Maedchen aus der Ackerstrasse, which translated into English means "The girl from the farm road" and Katharina die Grosse which means "Catherine the Great". He was one of Germany's best-known silent film starts after World War I, a period in which films were very influenced by the consequences of the war. During this time only silent films were produced. The first exhibition of a sound films took place in 1900 in Paris. Schünzel performed different roles in comedies and dramas. He often appeared as villain or as powerful and corrupt man.

He was influenced by film makers such as his mentor Richard Oswald and Ernst Lubitsch (he worked as an actor for this last one in the film Madame DuBarry in 1919.)

Schünzel's work was very popular in Germany and the Nazi regime gave him the title of Ehrenarier or Honorary Aryan and allowed him to continue to direct and act despite he was a Jew ( A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the process of conversion to Judaism). Aryan comes from the Sanskrit aria, which means noble, and according to the Nazi ideology an Aryan is a Caucasian of non- Jewish descent. Later there were governmental interferences in Schünzel's projects; he was forced to suspend his acting career twice under orders from Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler, so he left Germany in 1937. Reinhold Schuenzel described Hitler and Wilhelm as "persons of recognized authority and the worst possible dramatic taste."

During this time Hitler's regime was persecuting the Jewish population in Germany. This period was of devastation for the Germans and for the Jewish population, since that was the beginning period for World War II. As in poetry, painting, architecture, music and other arts; the film industry was also influenced by the catastrophic events during that period of history and their works in a way reflected the pain, horror, tragedy and the disappointment within society. One of many examples was the film Hitler's Gang (1944), directed by John Farrow. This film and was about the rise of Hitler from a small political adventurer to the dictator of Germany showed in the way of a gangster film and here Reinhold Schünzel played the role of General Erich Ludendorff.


Schünzel had a daughter Marianne Stewart, who was born in Berlin, Germany and followed his father's steps becoming an actress. She appeared in Broadway plays and she was known for The Facts of Life (1960), Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte(1964), and Time Table (1956).

Schuenzel in the United States[edit]

Schünzel went to the United States in the thirthies. He began his American career in Hollywood in 1937 signed by MGM. Among the films he directed were Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938), Ice Follies (1939), Balalaika (1939), and New Wine (1941). He also acted in films like The vicious cycle, Hitler's Gang and Dragonwyck among others. Schünzel went to New York in 1945 to make a debut in Broadway, although he was familiar to New Yorker audiences after he directed and appeared with the Swiss-born German/Austrian actor Emil Jannings in a film called Fortune's Fool, which was released in New York in 1928. Also in Broadway he acted in Temper the Wind in 1946 and Montserrat in 1949. His most memorable performance was as a Dr. Anderson, a scientist in the film Notorious, in 1946.

Among the prizes he received was the Federal West German Film prize for the best supporting role in in the movie My Father's Horses. He became a U.S citizen in 1943 and he returned to Germany in 1949. He died of a heart attack in Munich at age 65. [1]

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Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) Pg. 27
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