Anton Walbrook: A Life of Masks and Mirrors



"In this first Walbrook biography, Downs perfectly captures the private story and the public persona of a greatly underexplored performer, combining facts, such as when Walbrook first obtained his trademark moustache, with deeper textual analysis of his screen work. An excellent read for any fans of Walbrook, German cinema, film stars or movies in general." (Gillian Kelly, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 42.1, 2022)

"Few leading actors of classic cinema remain as enigmatic as Anton Walbrook, the subject of this very readable, frank and thoughtful biography. Despite Walbrook's indelible performances in films such as the original Gaslight (1940), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), The Red Shoes (1948) and La Ronde (1950), this is his first full-length biography, which makes it all the more welcome. There is much to discover in these pages about the Viennese-born star of German and British cinema with the ability to ooze charm or villainy at will, sometimes in the same breath." (Pamela Hutchinson, Sight and Sound, June 2021)

"James Downs presents a fascinating and meticulously researched biography of a charming and darkly beguiling star who deserves our attention. It is enriched by archival evidence and images that illuminate Walbrook's work as well as his equally intriguing, but carefully sequestered, private life; all refracted through his experience of exile." (Professor Michael Williams, University of Southampton)

"It is often difficult to separate the elements of personal life and dramatic performance that create the star persona, but that of the stage and screen actor Anton Walbrook presents a unique and fascinating challenge. In his richly researched biography, James Downs brings a scholar's authority and a fan's enthusiasm to his subject, illuminating not only the career of one of British cinema's most reserved stars, but the political and production background of his stage, screen and television performances in the UK and Germany." (Mandy Merck, author of Cinema's Melodramatic Celebrity: Film, Fame and Personal Worth , 2020)

Viennese-born actor Adolf Wohlbruck 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 prolific 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.

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Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
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