Helmut Dantine

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Helmut Dantine
Helmut Dantine.jpg
Dantine pictured in 1946
Born Helmut Guttman
(1918-10-07)7 October 1918
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 2 May 1982(1982-05-02) (aged 63)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940–1979
Spouse(s) Gwen Anderson (?-1943)
Charlene S. Wrightsman (1947-1950) one son
Nicola "Niki" Dantine (?-1982; his death) three daughters

Helmut Dantine (7 October 1918 – 2 May 1982) was an Austrian-born American actor who often played Nazis in thriller films of the 1940s.[1] His best-known performances are perhaps the German pilot in Mrs. Miniver and the desperate refugee in Casablanca who tries gambling to obtain visa money for himself and his wife. As his acting career waned, he turned to producing.

Early life[edit]

Dantine's father, Alfred Guttman, was the head of the Austrian railway system in Vienna.[2] As a young man, Dantine became involved in an anti-Nazi movement in Vienna.[2] In 1938, when he was 19 years old, the Nazis took over Austria during the Anschluss. Dantine was rounded up with hundreds of other enemies of the Third Reich and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp outside Vienna.[2]

Three months later, using their influence, his parents obtained his release and immediately sent him to California to live with a friend. His father later died in Austria; however, his mother, Ditha Guttman, was safely brought from Austria to California in 1960, with the help of her son. Ditha lived in California until her death in 1983.[citation needed]

Film career[edit]

Dantine enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, and began his U.S. acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse.[1] He was spotted by a talent scout and signed to a Warner Bros. contract. Dantine spent the early 1940s there, appearing in Casablanca (1942), Edge of Darkness (1943; his first lead role), Northern Pursuit (1943; as the Nazi villain) and Passage to Marseille (1944). Dantine was loaned out to other film companies for two notable films in 1942: To Be or Not to Be and Mrs. Miniver, the latter his first credited role. In 1944, exhibitors voting for "Stars of Tomorrow" picked Dantine at number ten.[3]

In 1947, he co-starred with Tallulah Bankhead in the Broadway play The Eagle Has Two Heads. According to Jean Cocteau, Bankhead made alterations to the play, and the production was a flop, lasting only 29 performances.[4] He also performed in the 1950 Broadway play Parisienne.[5]

Dantine starred in the short-lived live television series Shadow of the Cloak during the 1951–52 season.

Dantine acted in the 1956 film production of Tolstoy's War and Peace as Dolokhov, a Cossack officer assigned to harrying the retreat of the French Napoleonic army from Moscow. He also directed the 1958 military aviation film Thundering Jets, starring Rex Reason.

As his acting career wound down, he became a vice-president of Hollywood mogul Joseph Schenck's company in 1959;[6] Schenck was his wife's uncle. Dantine's last screen appearances were in three films for which he was the executive producer: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), and The Killer Elite (1975), both directed by Sam Peckinpah, and The Wilby Conspiracy (1975).

Personal life[edit]

Before graduating from UCLA, he married fellow theater student Gwen Anderson; they divorced in 1943.[6]

He became an American citizen sometime around or before 1945.[6]

In 1947, he married Charlene Stafford Wrightsman (1927–1963),[6] the younger daughter of Charles B. Wrightsman, an oil millionaire whose collection of French furniture and decorative arts fills several galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The couple had a son,[6] Dana Wrightsman Dantine, before divorcing in 1950.

In 1958, Dantine married Nicola Schenck, daughter of Nicholas Schenck, one of the founders of Loews. His wife acted under the name Niki Dantine; the couple had three children: Dita, Nicola and Shelley. In 1971, Helmut and Niki Dantine were divorced.[6]


On 2 May 1982, Helmut Dantine died in Beverly Hills from a heart attack at the age of 63.[1][6]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Helmut Dantine, Film Actor; Often Played Arrogant Nazi". The New York Times. UPI. 6 May 1982. 
  2. ^ a b c Aljean Harmetz. The Making of Casablanca. Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. (New York: Hyperion, 2002) p. 211
  3. ^ "SAGA OF THE HIGH SEAS.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860-1954). Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 11 November 1944. p. 9. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Jean Cocteau. Past Tense: Diaries: vol.1; translated by Richard Howard. (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1987) p. 36
  5. ^ Parisienne at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Actor-producer Helmut Dantine dead at 63". The Miami News. Associated Press. 6 May 1982. 

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