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Felix Bressart
Shopcorner trailer 2.jpg
Born
Solomon Breslau

(1892-03-02)March 2, 1892
DiedMarch 17, 1949(1949-03-17) (aged 57)
OccupationActor
Years active1928–1949
Spouse(s)Frieda Lehner (1925–1949, his death)

Felix Bressart (March 2, 1892 – March 17, 1949) was a German-American actor of stage and screen.

Life and career

Bressart (pronounced "BRESS-ert") was born in East Prussia, Germany (now part of Russia).[1] His acting debut came in 1914 as Malvolio in "Twelfth Night," and he went on to act in Austria, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, and Yugoslavia.[2][1] He was an experienced stage actor when he had his film debut in 1927. He began as a supporting actor, for example as the Bailiff in the box-office hit Die Drei von der Tankstelle (1930), but soon established himself in leading roles of minor movies. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, the Jewish Bressart left Germany and continued his career in German-speaking movies in Austria, where Jewish artists were still relatively safe. After acting in forty German films, he emigrated to the United States in 1936.[1]

One of Bressart's former European colleagues was Joe Pasternak, who had become a Hollywood producer. Bressart's first American film was Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939), a vehicle for the Universal Pictures' star, Deanna Durbin. Pasternak chose Bressart to perform in a screen test opposite Pasternak's newest discovery, Gloria Jean. The German community in Hollywood helped to establish Bressart in America, as his earliest American movies were directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Henry Koster, and Wilhelm Thiele, director of The Three from the Filling Station (originally Die Drei von der Tankstelle, 1930), a film which features Bressart in a small role.

Bressart scored a great success in Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939), as one of the Soviet emissaries followed by the lead character portrayed by Greta Garbo, to Paris. A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture, the studio signed Bressart as a contract player. Most of his MGM work consisted of featured supporting roles in major films including Edison, the Man, Comrade X and Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner, all released in 1940.

Lobby card from Edison, the Man – Bressart is third from the left.
Lobby card from Edison, the Man – Bressart is third from the left.

He combined his mildly inflected East European accent with a soft-spoken delivery to create kindly, sympathetic characters, as in Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942), in which he sensitively recites Shylock's famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech from The Merchant of Venice.

Other films Bressart appeared in include Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Three Hearts for Julia (1943), The Seventh Cross (1944), and Without Love (1945). Perhaps his largest role was in an RKO "B" musical comedy Ding Dong Williams, in 1945. Bressart, billed third, played the bemused supervisor of a movie studio's music department, and appeared in formal wear to conduct an orchestral version of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu.

After almost 40 Hollywood pictures, Felix Bressart suddenly died of leukemia at the age of 57. His last film was to be My Friend Irma (1949), the movie version of a popular radio show. Bressart died during production, forcing the studio to re-shoot his completed scenes with Hans Conried.[1] In the finished film, Bressart is still seen in the long shots.

Complete filmography

German language films

English language films

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Felix Bressart, 57, Veteran of Films". The New York Times. New York, New York. March 23, 1949. ProQuest 105703957.
  2. ^ "Felix Bressart 'Not His Type'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. August 15, 1943. p. 43. Retrieved September 27, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.