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Anton Walbrook

A Life of Masks and Mirrors

Series:

James Downs

Viennese-born actor Adolf Wohlbrück enjoyed huge success on both stage and screen in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, becoming one of the first truly international stars. After leaving Nazi Germany for Hollywood in 1936, he changed his name to Anton Walbrook and then settled in Britain, where he won filmgoers’ hearts with his portrayal of Prince Albert in two lavish biopics of Queen Victoria. Further film success followed with Dangerous Moonlight and Gaslight, several collaborations with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – including his striking performance as Lermontov in The Red Shoes – and later work with Max Ophuls and Otto Preminger.

Despite great popularity and a prolifi c career of some forty films, alongside theatre, radio and television work, Walbrook was an intensely private individual who kept much of his personal life hidden from view. His reticence created an aura of mystery and «otherness» about him, which coloured both his acting performances and the way he was perceived by the public – an image that was reinforced in Britain by his continental background.

Remarkably, this is the first full-length biography of Walbrook, drawing on over a decade of extensive archival research to document his life and acting career.

Dr James Downs is an archivist in the University of Exeter’s Special Collections Department, also home to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, where he previously worked for almost a decade. He has written and presented conference papers about Walbrook on several occasions as well as being interviewed at the actor’s grave for the «Life and Death in Hampstead Sound Trail» and curating the 2013 exhibition «Anton Walbrook – Star and Enigma.» In addition to teaching film adaptation and cataloguing archival material relating to other German émigrés, he has written two books and over thirty articles on a range of topics relating to the history of film and photography, visual culture and religious history, and since 2018 he has been the editor of the magazine Photographica World.