Saturday, February 1, 2014

Maximilian Schell, 1930-2014

Maximilian Schell and Richard Widmark in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), which won Schell a Best Actor Oscar

Maximilian Schell, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal as the counsel for the defense going up against Richard Widmark's prosecuting attorney in Judgment at Nurmberg, has died at the age of 83. Schell was born in Austria, but was able to flee to Switzerland with his family to escape the Nazis. His career unsurprisingly started in German-language cinema, but he came to the attention of Hollywood when he played a Nazi army captain in The Young Lions (1958). This got him the part of the defense counsel in the TV version of Judgment at Nuremberg the next year, and he must have done well there as Stanley Kramer wanted him to reprise the role in the movie version, which hs a whole bunch of people who were already huge stars, from Spencer Tracy and Marlene Dietrich to Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift.

Schell made quite a few Nazi-themed films, including one that earned him a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in Julia in 1977. Schell also appeared in The Odessa File, and played a Nazi general in A Bridge Too Far. But Schell's career was much more varied than that, as he also showed up in the heist comedy Topkapi, as you can see in the front of this promotional photo:

Later in life Schell made a couple of documentaries and even directed a feature film or two, such as End of the Game which I wrote about last August.

With 31 Days of Oscar going on, I don't think TCM is going to be able to get around to a programming tribute. Interestingly, none of Judgment at Nuremberg, Topkapi, or Julia (all of which won Oscars) is in the 31 Days of Oscar schedule, with only Topkapi being listed in a schedule search through April, and that not until the end of March.


Tom said...

Topkapi is one of my favorite movies. RIP

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

I'm sorry to say that I find Peter Ustinov's antics in general to be grating. He wasn't so bad in The Egyptian (which I think is on the FMC schedule again this week); was moderately annyoing in Topkapi, and "I want to reach through the screen and strangle him" bad in John Goldfarb, Please Come Home that I recently blogged about.

And I like heist movies, both the dramatic ones from the 50s and the more comedic stuff from the 60s and beyond.