Click for large image
Paul Henreid was born Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter von Wassel-Waldingau (!) in Austria in 1905, in Trieste, which was then in Austria-Hungary, but is today in Italy. He worked as a translator and was discovered by Otto Preminger at the start of his career, and had some roles in German movies, billed as "Paul Von Hernried". He went to England in 1935 and had some relatively small roles there. He got a major role as a German villain in Night Train to Munich in 1940, and perhaps realizing that if he stayed in Europe he would be forced to only play Nazis, he moved to the U.S. and "Americanized his name to "Paul Henreid" and he got the lead role in RKO's Joan of Paris in 1942, as an RAF flyer stranded in occupied France. Although the movie and Henreid were well received, RKO did not sign him to a contract, but Warners did, and he got the kind of break actors dream of every day, playing the lead role of Jerry Durrance opposite Bette Davis' Charlotte Vail in the doomed romance Now, Voyager, surely one of the most romantic (and best movies of its kind) ever. In it is the most memorable scene where Henreid lights two cigarettes and gives Davis one, and men all over the world have copied that ever since! That same year, Henreid had an even more amazing break. Warners needed someone to play the key role of Czech freedom fighter Victor Laszlo, in their war movie Casablanca, and since they had cast great German actor Conrad Veidt as the lead Nazi villain, Major Strasser, they needed someone who could hold his own opposite the imposing Veidt (both mentally and physically, as Veidt was 6'3"). Henreid, with his aristocratic air and large size (he was 6'3" as well) fit the bill perfectly, and he was wonderful as Laszlo. Two odd bits of trivia are that it was Veidt who had kept Henreid from being deported from England when WWII broke out, and that Veidt could only be obtained for Casablanca by paying him the most of any actor on the movie, making twice what Bogart (under contract to Warner's) made!. After these two great successes Henreid continued at Warners, playing the leads in a variety of movies, but he could not of course equal those two earlier great successes. Perhaps his best role was in a remake of another doomed romance, playing noble tortured Philip Carey in Warners first remake of Bette Davis great hit Of Human Bondage, opposite Eleanor Parker as the vile Mildred. In the early 1950s Henreid was caught up in the Hollywood blacklisting, and he began acting in low budget movies, but the film roles he got were way beneath him. He carved out a new career as a director, of a few movies, but mostly of TV, and he directed 28 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1964 old friend Bette Davis helped him get signed as the directer of her identical twin murder thriller, Dead Ringer, and it is an enjoyable movie and quite good of its type. Henreid passed away in 1992 at the age of 84. While he likely did not have the career he might have hoped for, Henreid did have two of the greatest film roles ever, ironically both in the very same year, in two of the finest movies ever made!
view gallery of sold items featuring Paul Henreid