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Biography
Descended from ten generations of European circus clowns, Anton Walbrook learned the rudiments of acting under such masters as Max Reinhardt. On stage from his teens, Walbrook first performed before the cameras in the 1922 German serial Mater Dolorosa. He hit his stride as a matinee idol in the early-talkie period, starring in such Mittel-European productions as Viktor und Viktoria (1933) and Maskerade (1933). He made his American film debut in a roundabout manner. When RKO Radio Pictures decided to utilize generous stock footage from Walbrook's French/German film Michael Strogoff (1937) for their own The Soldier and His Lady (1937), the actor was hired to reshoot his scenes in English. Walbrook was cast as Prince Albert in his first British film, Victoria the Great (1937), a characterization he repeated in Sixty Glorious Years (1938). His British popularity was cemented by his suavely villainous portrayal of the wife-murdering protagonist ("Zee roobies...zee roobies...") in the 1939 version of Gaslight. In the 1940s, Walbrook was virtually adopted by the production team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. He played the Paderewski-inspired Polish concert pianist in Dangerous Moonlight (1941), the Czech-Canadian patriot in 49th Parallel (1941) and German officer Theodor Krestchmer-Schuldorf (a surprisingly likable portrayal of a wartime enemy) in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). The most famous of his Powell-Pressburger assignments was the showcase role of ruthless (but ultimately sympathetic) ballet impresario Boris Lermontov in The Red Shoes (1948). In the 1950s, Walbrook brilliantly essayed a brace of roles for director Max Ophuls: the worldly-wise "raconteur" in La Ronde (1950) and the ageing, foolhardy Ludwig I of Bavaria in Lola Montes. Anton Walbrook's last screen role was Major Esterhazy in I Accuse, a 1957 version of "l'affair Dreyfuss"; he then retired with such finality that many assumed he'd died long before his actual passing in 1967.

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