Paul Lukas

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For those of a similar name, see Paul Lucas (disambiguation).
The native form of this personal name is Lukács Pál. This article uses the Western name order.
Paul Lukas
Paul Lukas - 1950.jpg
Lukas in 1950
Born Pál Lukács
(1891-05-26)May 26, 1891
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died August 15, 1971(1971-08-15) (aged 80)
Tangier, Morocco
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916–70
Spouse(s) Gizella "Daisy" Benes (1927–1962; her death)
Annette M. Driesens (1963–1971; his death)
Parent(s) Mária Zilahy
Janos Lukacs

Paul Lukas (May 26, 1891 – August 15, 1971) was an Hungarian-born American actor. He won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in the film Watch on the Rhine (1943).

Life and career[edit]

Lukas was born Pál Lukács in Budapest into a Jewish family,[1][2] the son of Mária (née Zilahy) and János Lukács, an advertising executive.[3]

Lukas made his stage debut in Budapest in 1916 and his film debut in 1917. At first, he played elegant, smooth womanizers, but increasingly he became typecast as a villain. He had a successful stage and film career in Hungary, Germany and Austria, where he worked with Max Reinhardt. He arrived in Hollywood in 1927, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1937.

He was busy in the 1930s, appearing in such films as the melodrama Rockabye, the crime caper Grumpy, Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, the comedy Ladies in Love, and the drama Dodsworth. He followed William Powell and Basil Rathbone portraying the series detective Philo Vance, a cosmopolitan New Yorker, once in The Casino Murder Case (1935).

His major film success came in Watch on the Rhine (1943), where he played a man working against the Nazis, a role he originated in the Broadway premiere of the play of the same name in 1941.[4] His portrayal of Kurt Mueller, a German émigré with an American wife, played by Bette Davis, was universally lauded by critics. Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times, wrote, "As the enemy of fascism, Mr. Lukas' haggard, loving, resourceful determination becomes heroic by virtue of his sincerity and his superior abilities as an actor."[5] He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role, winning out over luminary efforts as Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Walter Pidgeon in Madame Curie, and Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy. He also received the New York Film Critics Award for his performance.[5]

In 1943, he guest starred as the eponymous character in an episode of the radio program Suspense, "Mr. Markham, Antique Dealer".[6] On April 2, 1944, he starred in "The Steadfast Heart" on Silver Theater.[7]

Modern viewers also remember Lukas for his role as Professor Aronnax in Walt Disney's film version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). By that time, however,[8] he was, at age 63, suffering from memory problems during the production, apparently leading him to lash out at cast and crew alike. Even friend Peter Lorre was not immune to the abuse.

In the 1940s, Lukas was a charter member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a conservative lobbying group opposed to possible Communist influence in Hollywood.

Lukas' film career picked up momentum in the 1960s with six films, including Fun in Acapulco with Elvis Presley in 1963 and Lord Jim with Peter O'Toole in 1965. His final film, The Challenge, was released in 1970.

The remainder of his career moved from Hollywood to the stage to television. His only singing role was as Cosmo Constantine in the original 1950 Broadway stage version of Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam, opposite Ethel Merman (although he is heard singing a song in the 1933 film Little Women, displaying a pleasant voice).[citation needed]

He died August 15, 1971, in Tangier, Morocco,[9] reportedly while searching for a place to spend his retirement years.

He is buried in Spain[10]


Lukas has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1922 Samson and Delilah Ettore Ricco, tenor
1923 The Unknown Tomorrow
1928 Three Sinners
1928 Hot News
1928 Night Watch
1928 The Shopworn Angel Bailey
1930 Slightly Scarlet Malatroff
1930 Behind the Make-Up Boris
1930 The Benson Murder Case Adolph Mohler
1930 The Devil's Holiday Dr Reynolds
1930 Grumpy Berci
1930 The Right to Love Eric
1930 Anybody's Woman Gustave Saxon
1931 City Streets Big Fellow Mashal
1931 Strictly Dishonorable Gus
1931 The Vice Squad Stephen Lucarno
1932 No One Man Dr Karl Bemis
1932 Downstairs Albert, the Baron's Butler
1932 Rockabye Antonie de Sola
1932 A Passport to Hell Lt. Kurt Kurtoff
1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror Walter Bernsdorf
1933 Secret of the Blue Room Captain Walter Brink
1933 Captured! Colonel Carl Ehrlich
1933 Little Women Prof. Bhaer
1934 The Countess of Monte Criso Rumowski
1935 Age of Indiscretion Robert Lenhart
1935 The Casino Murder Case Philo Vance
1935 The Three Musketeers Athos
1935 I Found Stella Parish Stephan Norman
1936 Dodsworth Arnold Iselin
1936 Ladies in Love John Barta
1937 Brief Ecstasy
1937 Espionage Anton Kronsky
1937 Dinner at the Ritz Baron Philip de Beaufort
1938 The Lady Vanishes Dr Hartz
1939 Confessions of a Nazi Spy Dr. Kassell
1939 Captain Fury Francois Dupre
1940 Strange Cargo Hessler
1940 The Ghost Breakers Parada
1940 A Window in London Zoltini Released as Lady in Distress in USA
1941 The Monster and the Girl W. S. Bruhl
1941 They Dare Not Love Baron von Helsing
1943 Watch on the Rhine Kurt Muller
1944 Uncertain Glory Inspector Marcel Bonet
1944 Address Unknown Martin Schulz
1944 Experiment Perilous Nick Bederaux
1946 Deadline at Dawn Gus Hoffman
1946 Temptation Sir Meyer Isaacson
1947 Whispering City Albert Frederic
1948 Berlin Express Dr Bernhardt
1950 Kim Lama
1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Prof. Pierre Aronnax
1958 The Roots of Heaven Saint Denis
1962 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Karl von Hartrott
1962 Tender Is the Night Dr. Dohmler
1963 55 Days at Peking Dr. Steinfeldt
1963 Fun in Acapulco Maximillian Dauphin
1965 Lord Jim Stein
1968 Sol Madrid Capo Riccione
1970 The Challenge Dr Nagy


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ Watch on the Rhine at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ a b Bower, Ronald; Unterburger, Amy L. ed. International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press (1997) p. 740
  6. ^ "Internet Archive". 
  7. ^ "Sunday Highlights". The Nebraska State Journal. April 2, 1944. p. 28. Retrieved March 31, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ According to the featurette "The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" on disc 2 of the Special Edition DVD release.
  9. ^ Obituary Variety, August 18, 1971, page 55.
  10. ^ Paul Lukas at Find a grave
  11. ^ "Paul Lukas". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 3 October 2015. 

External links[edit]