In Knute Rockne, All American, chemistry professor Albert Basserman was the all-wise mentor and severest critic of teacher-cum-coach Rockne (Pat O'Brien). In real life, Basserman had himself studied chemistry, but abandoned that science early on to work with Vienesse stage impresario Max Reinhardt. A prominent and popular stage and film actor in his native Germany, Basserman emigrated to Switzerland in 1933 rather than endure the incoming Hitler regime. He worked briefly in the French film industry before coming to America in 1939. Basserman spent the next eight years portraying sagacious elderly Europeans, usually scientists and music teachers. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his dual role in Foreign Correspondent (1940). Basserman's heartfelt, well-defined screen characterizations are all the more impressive when one realizes that he could not speak English, and had to learn his lines phonetically. Albert Basserman journeyed to England in 1948 for his final film assignment, The Red Shoes.
by Hal Erickson biography