Ludwig Stössel

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Ludwig Stössel
Ludwig Stössel.jpg
On Perry Mason, circa 1958.
Born (1883-02-12)February 12, 1883
Lockenhaus, Austria
Died January 29, 1973(1973-01-29) (aged 89)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Other names Ludwig Stoessel
Ludwig Stossel
Ludwig Strossel
Occupation Actor
Years active 1926–1963
Spouse(s) Eleanore Stössel

Ludwig Stössel (February 12, 1883 – January 29, 1973) was an actor born in Lockenhaus, Austria. He was one of many Jewish actors and actresses who were forced to flee Europe when the Nazis came to power in 1933.

Biography[edit]

Stössel began performing on the stage in Austria and Germany when he was only 17. He soon became a successful character actor and performed on the most prestigious stages in Germany, among them the Max Reinhardt, the Barnowsky (de) stage and the Künstlertheater (de) in Berlin. Stössel later became a movie actor. His first motion picture was a small role in the silent movie In der Heimat, da gibt's ein Wiedersehn! (We'll Meet Again in the Heimat) in 1926 at the age of 43. He appeared in about a half dozen silent movies in Germany and landed more roles with the arrival of sound.

Stössel's first sound movie was Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Skandal um Eva ((Scandalous Eva)) in 1930. The following year, he appeared in Max Neufeld's Opernredoute (The Opera Ball). Later that year, he appeared as a hotel owner in the German comedy Die Koffer des Herrn O.F. (The Suitcases of Mr. O.F.), starring Peter Lorre and Hedy Lamarr. In 1932, he appeared as Riederer in Der Rebell (The Rebel). Next, he played Leon in Hände aus dem Dunkel (Hands from the Darkness). In 1933, Stössel had a small part in Fritz Lang's famous mystery thriller Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse). This film was later banned by the Nazi government. He played Pichler in the Carl Boese's comedy Heimkehr ins Glück (Homecoming to Happiness). This would be his last movie in Germany.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Stössel was forced to leave Germany because of his Jewish background. He returned to Austria and appeared in a few movies, but he concentrated on the theater. In 1934, he appeared in the comedy Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice). His last movie in Austria was in 1937 with Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (The Priest from Kirchfeld). After Hitler's forces took over Austria in the Anschluß of 1938, Stössel was imprisoned several times before he was able to escape Vienna and get to Paris. He and his wife, Lore Birn, eventually reached London. He appeared in Dead Man's Shoes and another British film production before heading to Hollywood in 1939.

Stössel made his American movie debut in 1940, playing a pastor in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi takeover in the wartime drama Four Sons, starring Don Ameche. In 1942, he appeared with Ilka Grüning in Underground. Stössel and Grünig were reunited in the Oscar-nominated Kings Row, starring Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Claude Rains. Stössel and Grünig also appeared together in the Sonja Henie film Iceland. Later that year, Stössel was cast to play Lou Gehrig's father in Pride of the Yankees starring Gary Cooper in the title role. German actress Elsa Janssen played Gehrig's mother. A few months later, at the age of 59, he played Mr. Leuchtag, who is leaving Europe for America with his wife in Casablanca.

Stössel appeared in supporting roles in over 40 movies after Casablanca, most in the following ten years. The next year, he had a small role in another Humphrey Bogart movie, Action in the North Atlantic. He did a couple of anti-Nazi movies, such as Hitler's Madman (1943), in which he portrayed the mayor of a small town that is wiped out by a Nazi mass execution in reprisal for the assassination of SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich. Later that year, he appeared in The Strange Death of Adolph Hitler.

In 1944, he appeared in the Boris Karloff horror movie The Climax. Later in 1944, Stössel teamed up with his movie wife from Pride of the Yankees, Elsa Janssen, to play Mr. and Mrs. Steelman, a German couple loyal to America who drive their traitorous pro-Nazi son, played by George Sanders (who is actually working undercover for the U.S. government), out of their house in the spy drama They Came to Blow Up America. In 1945, they teamed up again to play Mr. and Mrs. Otto in the "B" crime drama Dillinger. Next, he was bitten in the throat by Count Dracula, played by John Carradine, in House of Dracula. Later in 1945, Stössel played a teacher, who along with a llama, is in the opening scene of the Fred Astair musical Yolanda and the Thief.

When the Second World War ended in 1945, Stössel decided not to return to Germany like many other German actors and actresses, but remained in his adopted country making movies. In 1946, Grünig and Stössel got to play husband and wife again in Temptation starring Merle Oberon, George Brent and Paul Lukas.

In 1947, he had a small role portraying Albert Einstein in The Beginning or the End. In 1948, he portrayed one of the lonely bachelor professors at a musical research institute in the Danny Kaye musical A Song is Born. In 1949, Grünig and Stössel appeared in their last film together when they received roles in the drama The Great Sinner, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. In 1953, Stössel played a grand duke in the musical Call Me Madam, starring Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor. His last film was in 1960, where he had a small role in the Elvis Presley movie G.I. Blues.

Stössel also performed on television. In 1955, he played Ludwig, a Carl the waiter clone, in the television version of Casablanca. He made two guest appearances on Perry Mason during the series' second season, including the role of Adolph Van Beers in "The Case of the Shattered Dream." From 1958 to 1960, Stössel played Charles Bronson's father in ABC's television series Man with a Camera. From 1953 to 1963, Stössel appeared as a guest in a number of television shows, including Cavalcade of America, My Three Sons, The Donna Reed Show, and The New Phil Silvers Show (where he parodied his Gallo wine television commercials). He guest starred in two Robert Young comedy series, Father Knows Best and Window on Main Street.

Stössel became famous for a long series of commercials for Italian Swiss Colony wine producers. Dressed in an Alpine hat and lederhosen, he was their spokesman. His motto was "That Little Old Winemaker, Me!" (they did not use his voice, but had Jim Backus dub the line).

Stössel died on January 29, 1973 in Beverly Hills after a fall just 14 days short of his 90th birthday. He was cremated at Groman Mortuary in Hollywood Forever, with the ashes sent to Vienna, Austria.

Partial filmography[edit]

External links[edit]