Once again, Terry puts on his Cinema goer’s hat, and waves his usherette’s torch to put three Germans in the spotlight......He writes “When I was a boy, growing up during the Second World War, there used to be a saying, “The only good German is a dead one.” But of course, this was not true, and this was proven to be the case in some of the films that were made at that time. Let me tell you of three German actors who were not Nazi’s.
The most famous of the three was Conrad Veidt who was born in Berlin in 1893. He studied acting with Max Reinhardt, and became a stalwart of the pre-Nazi German cinema, in such films as “The Cabinet Of Doctor Calligan", (1919), after he had made his film debut in “The Spy” (1917). He spent some time in Hollywood in the late 1920’s, and on his return to Germany in the early 1930’s was detained by the Nazis because his wife was Jewish. He managed to escape Germany, and emigrated to England where he took out British citizenship, and appearing in several films by Alexander Korda, including”The Spy In Black”, 1939, “Contraband, 1940, and the Arabian Nights epic, “The Thief Of Baghdad”, 1940. He went back to Hollywood again, and in 1942, starred in his most memorable role as Colonel Strasser of the Nazi SS in “Casablanca”. The year after, in 1943, he suffered a heart attack on a Beverley Hills golf course, and died at the age of just 50. The beautiful English star, Valerie Hobson, who had appeared with him in “The Spy In Black”, said,
“He had tremendous presence, and was a lovely man to work with.”
Secondly, the handsome young actor, Helmut Dantine, who was born in Austria in October 1918. In 1937 he joined an anti-Nazi movement, and in 1938 he was arrested and put into a concentration camp near Vienna. His father was head of the Austrian Railway, who used his influence to get Helmut out, sending him to relatives in America. Helmut began his acting career at the famous Pasadena Playhouse where he was spotted by a Warner Bros talent scout. His film debut was in “International Squadron” (1941), and he made a brief appearance in “Casablanca”. (1942) Although it was forecast that he would become a great ‘leading man’ - it didn’t happen, but he did go on to make about 24 movies and a TV series. Like a number of his colleagues, he was often cast as a Nazi officer. In 1982, he too died in Beverley Hills, at the age of 63. Dantine is seen here with Humphrey Bogart in ‘Casablanca’.
Finally, we have Anton Diffring who was born in Koblenz in October 1936. He appeared in many British films and on TV. His film debut was in “Convoy” (1940), made at Ealing Studios. Again, he is best remembered for playing Nazi officers. Indeed, he even played the role of Reinhardt Heidrich, one of the most evil men in the entire Nazi regime. His most famous film was “Where Eagles Dare” with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, where, once again, he was a Nazi officer. He died in Chateau Neuf in France in May 1989 aged 73. He is buried at St Andrew’s Church, White Coln, Essex. It is a sad irony that these three fine German actors are best remembered for portraying the evil monsters that drove them from their homeland.”