Saturday, February 01, 2014


Maximilian Schell (1930-2014)

Born in Austria in 1930, actor Maximilian Schell fled Hitler in his youth and later in his performing career would win the 1961 Oscar for best actor playing the defense attorney for Nazis on trial following World War II in Judgment at Nuremberg. Schell died this weekened at 83 after a "sudden and serious illness," according to his agent, Patricia Baumbauer.

Schell received two other Oscar nominations in his film career as best actor: in 1975's The Man in the Glass Booth and as supporting actor in 1977's Julia. He also received two Emmy nominations for the TV films Stalin and Miss Rose White in the early '90s. He appeared on Broadway three times, the first time in 1958 in Interlock, the same year his first English-language film, The Young Lions, came out. His third appearance came in 2001 in a stage production of Judgment at Nuremberg, this time playing the role of Dr. Ernst Janning whom Burt Lancaster played in the 1961 film.

Shortly after his Oscar win, he joined the cast of thieves in Jules Dassin's 1964 Topkapi. The first exposure to Schell's work for many in my generation probably came from silly 1979 sci-fi flick The Black Hole. He also played the erstwhile villain opposite James Coburn in one of the lesser Sam Peckinpah effort, 1977's Cross of Iron. He appeared in many films and roles for television both in the U.S. and abroad, including a six-episode stint on Wiseguy.

He also directed, most notably the remarkable 1984 documentary Marlene, where Marlene Dietrich reflected on her life without ever letting herself be seen in her current state.

Of all Schell's roles though, I always maintain a soft spot in my heart for his role as eccentric chef Larry London in Andrew Bergman's great comedy The Freshman with Marlon Brando doing a pitch-perfect parody of his own Vito Corleone.

RIP Mr. Schell.

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