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Walter Rilla Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (32)

Overview (3)

Born in Neunkirchen, Germany
Died in Rosenheim, Bavaria, West Germany
Birth NameWalter Wilhelm Karl Ernst Rilla

Mini Bio (1)

The tall, expressively-browed, rather stern-looking character actor Walter Rilla was educated at the University of Koenigsberg and first worked as a newspaper journalist, drama critic and story editor for the Berliner Theater. He acted on stage from 1921, making his screen debut the following year. He quickly established himself as a leading player in German and French films, often playing aristocratic roles, which demanded a certain amount of gravitas. Involved with leftist organisations and married to a Jewish wife, Rilla was inevitably forced to flee Nazi Germany for England in 1933.

His breakthrough role in British films came courtesy of Alexander Korda, who was intent on casting him as Merle Oberon's brother Armand in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). This was followed by roles as Prince Ernest in Herbert Wilcox's period drama Victoria the Great (1937), and as the womanizing banker Roudine in False Rapture (1939). Thereafter came a succession of villainous roles. Though a British citizen from 1940, Rilla was unable to escape typecasting -- much like his compatriots Conrad Veidt and Peter van Eyck -- and his career was henceforth delineated by playing racketeers (Golden Salamander (1950)), Nazi propagandists (Lisbon Story (1946)) and evil Eastern European potentates (The Great Manhunt (1950)).

In addition to acting, Rilla sidelined as author of several BBC radio shows. Following his return to Germany in 1957, he began a new career behind the camera as writer/director of television plays. He also continued to act in just about anything, from prestige films (like Confessions of Felix Krull (1957) and Scampolo (1958)) to spaghetti westerns (Day of Anger (1967)); from Edgar Wallace potboilers (The Forger of London (1961)) to returning to his villainous ways as the evil genius Dr. Mabuse in several instalments of the popular franchise. In 1966, Rilla was awarded the prestigious Filmband in Gold for his service to the German film industry.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (2)

Alix du Frênes (195? - 21 November 1980) ( his death)
Theresa Klausner (? - 1948) ( her death) ( 1 child)

Trivia (32)

Father of director Wolf Rilla
German actor who began in silents who took his family and fled the Nazi regime in the late 30s, later capitalizing on vile, foreign-tongued villains in British espionage.
Returned to Germany in the 1960s and wrote and directed for TV.
He was directed by his son Wolf Rilla in Cairo (1963).
Through the '60s, he expanded his creative endeavors to include writing and directing TV movies.
Only because of the pressure of the National Socialists he had to finish his career in Germany and he went to England where he soon found work in the movies "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934), "Victoria the Great" (1937), "Shadow of the Eagle" (1950) and "The Gamma People" (1956).
Along with his Jewish wife, he immigrated to England in the mid '30s, landing in popular costume dramas such as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Victoria the Great.".
In a career spanning over 50 years, prolific German actor Walter Rilla weathered the storm of rising Nazism, fleeing his native land and finding work in British and French productions before finally returning home, where he also directed and wrote for television.
As a result of World War II, many of Rilla's roles were as evil foreigners, a typecasting that mellowed into distinguished elderly gentlemen over time.
Returning to West Germany in the late '50s, he found further work in a range of national and international pictures, including several "Dr. Mabuse" films and the spaghetti Western "Day of Anger.".
Walter Rilla returned to Germany only in 1957 and he was able to gain a foothold in the new environment very fast.
The actor Walter Rilla began his film career at the beginning of the 20's with movies like "Hanneles Himmelfahrt" (1922).
Rilla started an art journal that included works by writers such as Bertolt Brecht, before becoming an assistant director in theater in the early 1920s. He next turned to acting, first appearing on the big screen in 1922, playing a steady stream of intelligent young men, including a turn in the F.W. Murnau comedy "Finances of the Grand Duke.".
He made his last screen appearance in the Thomas Mann adaptation Unordnung und frühes Leid/Disorder and Early Torment (Frans Seitz, 1977) with Ruth Leuwerik and Martin Held.
In 1926 Rilla starred opposite Elisabeth Bergner and Conrad Veidt in Der Geigenspieler von Florenz/Impetuous Youth (Paul Czinner, 1926), and two years later he costarred with Carmen Boni and Marlene Dietrich in Prinzessin Olala/Art of Love (Robert Land, 1928).
He made his film debut with a small role as the death angel in the Gerhart Hauptmann adaptation Hanneles Himmelfahrt/Hannele's Ascension (Urban Gad, 1922). Soon Rilla became one of the most important German character actors and worked with such other prominent directors as Victor Janson, Max Mack, and Reinhold Schünzel.
In 1957 Walter Rilla returned to Germany. There he had his first role in the Thomas Mann adaptation Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull/Confessions of Felix Krull (Kurt Hoffmann, 1957) alongside Horst Buchholz. He followed this hit with a role in an equally popular film, Scampolo (Alfred Weidenmann, 1958) starring Romy Schneider. He then played in the last Mario Lanza vehicle, For the First Time (Rudolph Maté, 1959).
In addition, Rilla was a writer, screenwriter, producer, and director of several stage and TV productions, and he worked as a television actor.
From 1920 on, he worked as a story editor for the Berliner Theater.
In 1919 he founded the literary journal Erde (Earth). At the time, he was involved with the Communist Party and, when established with the leftish KAPD party.
He was the son of railway engineer Friedrich Wilhelm Rilla and his wife Caroline, née Gründer.
In 1924 he appeared in one of F. W. Murnau's rare attempts at comedy, the hilarious Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs/The Finances of the Grand Duke (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1924) starring Alfred Abel. A year later he starred opposite Jane Novak in the German-British coproduction Die Prinzessin und der Geiger/The Blackguard (Graham Cutts, 1925) written by the then 26 years-old Alfred Hitchcock.
Later films include the interesting Belgian surrealistic horror film Malpertuis/The Legend of Doom House (Harry Kümel, 1971) with Mathieu Carrière and Orson Welles.
He made an easy transition into sound film. He played for example Baron Hans von Velten in Namensheirat/Marriage in Name Only (Heinz Paul, 1930), Robert in Männer um Lucie/Men Around Lucie (Alexander Korda, 1931) with Liane Haid, and Lord Windermere in Lady Windermeres Fächer/Lady Windermere's Fan (Heinz Hilpert, 1935).
After the war, Rilla continued his evil film ways in a progression of appearances as sultans, megalomaniacs and corporate villains. Probably the most interesting of these films is the thriller Desperate Moment (Compton Bennett, 1953) starring Dirk Bogarde as a man who tries to clear himself of murder in post-war Germany. Rilla directed one film himself, Behold the Man! (1951).
In 1933 Walter Rilla moved with his family to London to escape the rising power of Adolph Hitler. His wife was Jewish and he refused to separate from her.
In 1940 he became a British citizen. During the war years Rilla specialized in sinister foreigners - and, of course, Nazis - in such war films as The Adventures of Tartu/Sabotage Agent (Harold S. Buquet, 1943) starring Robert Donat and Valerie Hobson, and Candlelight in Algeria (George King, 1944) starring James Mason. Aside from acting, Walter Rilla worked in the UK as a producer and screenwriter, and as an author of radio plays for the BBC. He also published some novels.
Walter Rilla died in 1980 in Rosenheim, Germany. He had been married twice. First he married Theresa Klausner, who died in 1948. They had a son, prominent British-based film screenwriter and director Wolf Rilla (1920-2005). Since 1959, Walter Rilla was married to the French writer Alix Degrelle-Hirth du Frênes.
From 1957 on he had an engagement at the Kleine Komödie in München (Munich). In 1966 he was awarded the Filmband in Gold for his work in German cinema.
He had no trouble establishing himself in British films after 1933. He started out in the hits The Scarlet Pimpernel (Harold Young, 1934) featuring Leslie Howard, and Abdul the Damned (Karl Grune, 1935) with Fritz Kortner.

Rilla only appeared in character parts, but he did work with respected directors like Robert Siodmak and Herbert Wilcox on successful British and French productions. He was seen for example as Prince Ernst in the Wilcox staged historical drama Victoria the Great (Herbert Wilcox, 1937) with Anna Neagle, and a year later, again in that role in the sequel, Sixty Glorious Years/Queen of Destiny (Herbert Wilcox, 1938). Other films were the adventure Hell's Cargo/Dangerous Cargo (Harold Huth, 1939), and the romance Black Eyes/False Rapture (Herbert Brenon, 1939).
Rilla visited the Fridericianum school in Königsberg and the University of Königsberg. He studied literature, art history and philosophy in Königsberg, Breslau, Lausanne and Berlin.
Worked as a journalist for the Neuesten Breslauer Nachrichten (the Latest Breslau News).

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