Wednesday 16 October 2013

Otto Waldis

Born: 20 May 1901, Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Died: 25 March 1974, Hollywood, California, USA

Berlin Express (1948) as Kessler


  1. Just screened Berlin Express (1948) w/ Robert Ryan and Merle Oberon an intriguing post war film noir about a clandestine organization of neo-Nazis (survivors of the 3rd Reich and planners of a 4th one.). Shot in devastated Frankfurt w/ some Hollywood rear projection spliced in was a harrowing reminder of how bombed out some of Germany was from allied bombing - endless blocks of skeleton walls w/ people scurrying like daytime ghosts. Sounded like Joseph Cotton was doing the V.O. - in fact there were a lot of similarities of the film to Third Man. Since no one was too sympathetic to creators of the Holocaust that's often overlooked. Still I think a lot of people had no idea that there was an insurrection in Germany after the war like the one in Iraq - though the intelligence services certainly did. So the film had an outsized impact on me for a fairly low budget thriller which at times had a highly unlikely narrative - five strangers on a train rally to pursue a kidnapped official of the International Peace Commission (played by Paul Lukas - also seen in the Lady Vanishes - another political (pre) war thriller by Hitchcock). In any case, I had no idea who Otto Waldis was but who played a brewer and higher up in the organization. Just thought here was an actor who was really good in the role. Something about him - a casual conviction maybe that masked a deep commitment from the actor. Thought maybe he was a local actor they had picked up while filming on location in Germany or some such. But he was certainly one of those superb actors who has been forgotten. Characters are the best and sadly, often forgotten.

  2. All the while I was watching Berliner Express something was nagging in the back fields of my mind. The foggiest of notions - That not only was the brewer and higher up of the underground organization trying to resurrect the 3rd Reich a fine if unknown actor but I kept shoving down the thought that he looked vaguely familiar. Thought I must be imagining that. Like a wicked devilish trickster of the mind badgering me. Really. After posting my 1st comment I went back - now equipped with his name Otto Waldis - and sure enough, he played the same kind of casual brutality in Judgement at Nuremburg. It was a short scene but one that was absolutely stunning and one I never forgot from the film - even with the brilliance of Maximillian Schell in such a disturbing role - trying to somehow justify Germans' behavior during and now after the war as having some kind of honor. In any case, Otto Waldis' callousness in a scene describing the enormity of the numbers of Holocaust victims when questioned about it by his fellow prisoners - his matter of fact statement in describing how it was indeed possible depending on the capability of the facilities (gas chambers) was something that was permanently branded on my brain. So what a discovery: how some actors stick in your mind through several incarnations. Stephan Morrow, Artistic Director, The Great American Play Series
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