Reinhold Schünzel

Reinhold Schünzel

Reinhold Schünzel in 1921
Born 7 November 1886
Hamburg, German Empire
Died 11 November 1954 (1954-11-12) (aged 68)
Munich, West Germany
Occupation Actor, Director, Writer, Producer
Years active 1916-1954 (film)

Reinhold Schünzel (7 November 1886 – 11 November 1954) was a German actor and director, active in both Germany and the United States. The son of a German father and a Jewish mother, he was born in St. Pauli, the poorest part of Hamburg. Despite being Jewish, Schünzel was allowed by the Nazis to continue making films for several years until he eventually left to live abroad.

Life in Germany

Reinhold Schünzel or Schuenzel started his career as an actor in 1915 when he was 29 years old with a role in the film Werner Krafft. He directed his first film in 1918 Maria Magdalene and in 1920 directed Das Maedchen aus der Ackerstrasse, ("The girl from the farm road") and Katharina die Grosse ("Catherine the Great"). He was one of Germany's best-known silent film stars after World War I, a period in which films were very influenced by the consequences of the war. Schünzel performed roles in both comedies and dramas, often appearing as a villain or a powerful and corrupt man.

He was influenced by filmmakers such as his mentor Richard Oswald and Ernst Lubitsch, for whom he worked as an actor in the film Madame Du Barry in 1919.

Schünzel's work was very popular in Germany and the Nazi regime gave him the title of Ehrenarier or Honorary Aryan, allowing him to continue to direct and act despite his Jewish heritage (his mother was Jewish). He found that the government, first under Kaiser Wilhelm II and later under Adolf Hitler, interfered with his film projects, impelling him to leave 1937. Schuenzel described both the Kaiser and Hitler "persons of recognized authority and the worst possible dramatic taste."

Moving to the United States, he worked in Hollywood, playing Nazis and scientists. One of many examples was the film The Hitler Gang (1944), directed by John Farrow. This film and was about the rise of Hitler from a small political adventurer to the dictator of Germany showed in the way of a gangster film and here Reinhold Schünzel played the role of General Erich Ludendorff.


Schünzel had a daughter Marianne Stewart, who was born in Berlin, Germany and followed her father by becoming an actress. She appeared in Broadway plays and she was known for The Facts of Life (1960), Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), and Time Table (1956).

Schuenzel in the United States

Schünzel went to the United States in the thirties. He began his American career in Hollywood in 1937 signed by MGM. Among the films he directed were Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938), Ice Follies (1939), Balalaika (1939), and New Wine (1941). He also acted in films like The vicious cycle, Hitler's Gang and Dragonwyck among others. Schünzel went to New York in 1945 to make a debut in Broadway, although he was familiar to New Yorker audiences after he directed and appeared with the Swiss-born German/Austrian actor Emil Jannings in a film called Fortune's Fool, which was released in New York in 1928. Also in Broadway he acted in Temper the Wind in 1946 and Montserrat in 1949. His most memorable performance was as a Dr. Anderson, a scientist in the film Notorious, in 1946.

Among the prizes he received was the Federal West German Film prize for the best supporting role in the movie My Father's Horses. He became a U.S citizen in 1943 and he returned to Germany in 1949. [1] Schünzel died of a heart attack in Munich, Germany.[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Selected filmography


  1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) Pg. 27

External links

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