MAX SCHRECK Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Maximilian Schreck                                                                   
Born: 6 September 1879 Berlin, Germany                                                     
Died: 19 February 1936 Munich, Germany                                                     
Maximilian "Max" Schreck (September 6, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was a German           
actor. He is most often remembered today for his lead role in the film Nosferatu.         
There is some confusion as to Schreck's actual date of birth and date of death.           
Some sources state his date of birth as September 6, 1879, while others claim it           
to be June 11 of that same year.                                                           
Schreck received his training at the Staatstheater in Berlin. He made his stage           
debut in Messeritz and Speyer, and then toured Germany for two years appearing             
at theatres in Zittau, Erfurt, Bremen, Lucerne, Gera, and Frankfurt am Main.               
Schreck then joined Max Reinhardt's celebrated company of performers back in               
Berlin. Many of Reinhardt's troupe made a huge contribution to the cinema.                 
Schreck served in World War I from 1915 to 1918. For three years between 1919             
and 1922, Schreck appeared at the Munich Kammerspiele, including a role in the             
expressionist production of Bertolt Brecht's debut, Drums in the Night (in which           
he played the "freakshow landlord" Glubb). During this time he also worked on             
his first film Der Richter von Zalamea, adapted from a six-act play, for Decla             
Bioscop. In 1922, he was hired by Prana Film for their first and only production,         
Nosferatu. The company declared themselves bankrupt after the film's release to           
avoid paying copyright infringement costs to an irate Florence Stoker, the widow           
of Dracula author Bram Stoker. Schreck's Count Orlok, with his bald, rat-shaped           
head and long spidery fingers, remains a haunting character.                               
In 1923, while still in Munich, Schreck appeared in a 16-minute (one-reeler)               
slapstick, "surreal comedy" written by Bertolt Brecht with cabaret and stage               
actors Karl Valentin, Liesl Karlstadt, Erwin Faber, and Blandine Ebinger,                 
entitled Mysterien eines Friseursalons (Mysteries of a Barbershop), directed by           
Erich Engel. The same year, Schreck appeared as a blind man in the acclaimed               
film Die Straße.                                                                         
Schreck's second collaboration with Nosferatu director F.W. Murnau was decidedly           
less successful with the ill-conceived 1924 comedy Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs.         
Even Murnau did not hesitate to declare his contempt for the picture.                     
In 1926, Schreck returned to the Kammerspiele in Munich and continued to act in           
films right through the advent of sound until his death in 1936 of heart failure.         
He was married to actress Fanny Normann, who appeared in a few films, often               
credited as Fanny Schreck. Schreck had at least one brother named Augustin                 
Schreck, who also fathered Max Schreck's niece, actress Gisela Uhlen (born                 
Gisela Friedhilde Schreck).                                                               
Curiously, the word schreck is also the German word for fright, or terror. It             
comes from the Middle High German word schrecken: to frighten, or terrify.                 
Because of this, many authors who were unaware of Schreck's on-stage credits (and         
ignorant of the rather sparse details of his personal life) speculated that               
there was really no such person, and that Schreck was, in fact, some well-known           
actor who had chosen to adopt a pseudonym for his role in Nosferatu. One of the           
prime "suspects" was Alfred Abel; however, a careful examination of the                   
photographs of these two actors is sufficient to dispel such notions. Schreck             
died 19 February 1936 of a heart attack.