Jump to content

Oskar Werner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oskar Werner
Werner in 1947
Oskar Josef Bschließmayer

(1922-11-13)13 November 1922
Vienna, Austria
Died23 October 1984(1984-10-23) (aged 61)
Marburg an der Lahn, Hesse, West Germany
Resting placeTriesen, Liechtenstein
Years active1939–1984
Elisabeth Kallina
(m. 1944; div. 1952)
Anne Power
(m. 1954; div. 1968)
PartnerDiana Bennett Wanger (1965–1969)

Oskar Werner (German: [ˈɔskaʁ ˈvɛʁnɐ]; born Oskar Josef Bschließmayer; 13 November 1922 – 23 October 1984) was an Austrian stage and cinema actor whose prominent roles include two 1965 films, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and Ship of Fools. Other notable films include Decision Before Dawn (1951), Jules and Jim (1962), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) and Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Werner accepted both stage and film roles throughout his career. He won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated several times for Golden Globes, Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards.

Early life[edit]

Born in Vienna, Werner spent much of his childhood in the care of his grandmother, who entertained him with stories about the Burgtheater, the Austrian state theatre, where he was accepted at the age of 18 by Lothar Müthel. He was the youngest person to receive this recognition. He made his theatre debut using the stage name Oskar Werner in October 1941.[1][clarification needed]

In December 1941, Werner was drafted into the Deutsche Wehrmacht. As a pacifist and staunch opponent of National Socialism, he was determined to avoid advancement in the army:

So many officers had been killed on the Russian front that they needed replacements desperately. And, I was for them the embodiment of the Aryan type. But I am a pacifist. I didn't want any responsibility, so I behaved stupidly. I fell from my horse and made mistakes reading the range finders on the cannon, and finally, they kicked me out of training school.[2]

He was assigned to peeling potatoes and cleaning latrines instead of being sent to the Eastern Front. In 1944, he secretly married actress Elisabeth Kallina [de], who was half Jewish.[3]

They had a daughter Eleanore. That December, he deserted the Wehrmacht and fled with his wife and daughter to the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), where they remained in hiding until the end of the war.[1] He would later remember, "The artillery fire was constant for two and a half days. The shells hit all around our little hut and it was shaking like a leaf ... We knew that to go out there would be suicide, but it was better than to have to wait for execution."[2]



Werner returned to the Burgtheater and acted in productions at the Raimund Theater and the Theater in der Josefstadt, frequently playing character roles. He made his film debut in Der Engel mit der Posaune, directed by Karl Hartl, in 1948.[1] The following year he portrayed Ludwig van Beethoven's nephew Karl in Eroica.[citation needed]

In 1950, Werner journeyed to the United Kingdom to reprise the role he had played in Der Engel mit der Posaune in its English-language version The Angel with the Trumpet, directed by Anthony Bushell. He and his wife divorced at about this time but remained friends.[1] He appeared in a few more German-Austrian films before going to Hollywood for a lead role in the 20th Century Fox war film Decision Before Dawn.[citation needed]

When the subsequent roles promised by the studio failed to materialize, he returned to Europe[4] and settled in Triesen, Liechtenstein in a home he designed and built with a friend. He returned to the stage and performed in Hamlet, Danton's Death, Henry IV, Henry V, Torquato Tasso, and Becket.

After a period of inactivity in films, Werner appeared in five in 1955, including Mozart, in which he played the title role, and Lola Montès, directed by Max Ophüls. It was not until 1962, when he appeared in Jules and Jim, that he began to draw critical acclaim and international recognition.[citation needed]


Werner's portrayal of the philosophical Dr. Schumann in the 1965 film Ship of Fools won him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor,[4] the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama,[5] and the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor.[6] His portrayal of Fiedler in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965) won him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture[5] and his second BAFTA nomination.[7]

In 1966, he played a book-burning fireman Guy Montag who rebels against a controlled society in François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.[4] He played an orchestra conductor in Interlude[8] and a Vatican priest loosely based on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Shoes of the Fisherman in 1968.

In the early 1970s, Werner returned to the stage and spent time traveling in Israel, Italy, Malta, France, and the United States.[1] He appeared in the episode of Columbo titled "Playback" in 1975, and the following year made his final screen appearance in Voyage of the Damned, for which he received another Golden Globe nomination.[9] He had an uncredited role as a Wehrmacht Officer in the 1974 film The Odessa File.[10]

Werner was also set to appear in Michael Cimino's love triangle drama Perfect Strangers alongside Roy Scheider and Romy Schneider. The film was two weeks into preproduction shooting when it was halted, due to a lot of political machinations at the studio.[11][12]

His last stage appearance was in a production of The Prince of Homburg in 1983, and he made his last public appearance in 1984 at the Mozart Hall in Salzburg 10 days before his death.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In 1944, while serving in the Wehrmacht, Werner secretly married actress Elisabeth Kallina, who was half Jewish.[3] The couple had a daughter, Eleanore. They divorced in 1952. In 1954, he married Anne Power, the daughter of French actress Annabella and adopted daughter of Tyrone Power.[1] They were divorced in 1968. From 1965 to 1969, Werner was in a relationship with Diana Bennett Wanger, daughter of actress Joan Bennett, and they had one son, Felix Florian Werner, born 1966.

Werner was an alcoholic, which contributed heavily to the decline of his health and career.[4]

On 22 October 1984, he cancelled a reading at the Hotel Europäischer Hof in Marburg an der Lahn, Germany, feeling ill. He was found dead of a heart attack the following morning, at 61. He is buried in Liechtenstein.[1]

Filmography and television work[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1938 Geld fällt vom Himmel
1939 Hotel Sacher Liftboy
Linen from Ireland Hotelpage Uncredited
1948 The Angel with the Trumpet Hermann Alt
1949 Eroica Karl van Beethoven
1950 The Angel with the Trumpet Herman Alt
1951 Das gestohlene Jahr [it] Peter Brück
Call Over the Air Der Student
Wonder Boy Rudi
Ein Lächeln im Sturm Francois Mercier
Decision Before Dawn Cpl. Karl "Happy" Maurer First American film.
1955 The Last Ten Days Hauptmann Wüst
Espionage Lt. Zeno von Baumgarten
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Lola Montès Student
1958 Ein gewisser Judas Judas TV movie
1962 Jules and Jim Jules
1964 Torquato Tasso[13] Torquato Tasso TV movie
1965 The Spy Who Came In from the Cold Fiedler Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Ship of Fools Dr. Schumann New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1966 Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag
1968 Interlude Stefan Zelter
The Shoes of the Fisherman Fr. David Telemond
1975 Columbo Harold Van Wick Episode: "Playback"
1976 Voyage of the Damned Professor Egon Kreisler Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Dachs, Oskar Werner Gebundene Ausgabe: 224 Seiten Verlag: Kremayr & Scheriau; Auflage: N.-A. (1 January 1992); ISBN 3218004780/ISBN 978-3218004787.(in German)
  2. ^ a b Armbrister, Trevor (8 October 1966). "A Very Phony Profession". The Saturday Evening Post (21): 100.
  3. ^ a b Staff (6 September 2004). "Elisabeth Kallina" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine (in German), Der Spiegel; retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Krebs, Albin (24 October 1984). "Oskar Werner, Actor, Dies; Acclaimed for 'Ship of Fools'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Golden Globe Awards | Oskar Werner". goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  6. ^ "BAFTA | Film | Foreign Actor in 1966". bafta.org. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  7. ^ "BAFTA | Film | Foreign Actor in 1967". bafta.org. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  8. ^ Adler, Renata (3 July 1968). "Screen: 'Interlude,' the Story of Yet Another Affair". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  9. ^ "Winners and Nominees: Oskar Werner". The Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  10. ^ "Internet Movie Database: Oskar Werner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  12. ^ Kachmar, Diane C. (2015). Roy Scheider: A Film Biography. McFarland. ISBN 9781476609034.page 209
  13. ^ Torquato Tasso at IMDb

External links[edit]