Gustav von Seyffertitz

Active - 1917 - 1939  |   Born - Jan 1, 1863   |   Died - Jan 1, 1943   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Mystery, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Satanic-featured Austrian actor/director Gustav von Seyffertitz not only looked like a villain, but with that three-barrelled name he sounded like one -- even in silent pictures. After a lengthy stage career in both Germany and New York, Seyffertitz began appearing in World War One films as the very embodiment of the "Hideous Hun" -- America's notion of the merciless, atrocity-happy German military officer. Allegedly to avoid persecution from the anti-German organizations of the era, Seyffertitz changed his professional name to G. Butler Cloneblough -- a monicker so satiric in its timbre that one can't help that the "rechristening" was the concoction of a clever press agent. Returning to his own name after the war, Seyffertitz remained busy as a "villain of all nations:" He was British criminal mastermind Moriarty in John Barrymore's Sherlock Holmes (1922), a torturer for the Borgias in Barrymore's Don Juan (1926), and the evil American backwoods farmer Grimes in Mary Pickford's Sparrows (1926). Nearly always a supporting actor, Seyffertitz was given his full head with a mad-scientist leading role in the 1927 horror flick The Wizard. Offscreen, Seyffertitz was a kindly, temperate man, patient enough to direct Vitagraph star Alice Calhoun in three back-to-back vehicles in 1921: Princess Jones, Closed Doors and Peggy Puts It Over. In talking pictures, Seyffertitz' deep, warm voice somewhat mitigated his horrific demeanor. Though few of his talkie roles were billed, Gustav von Seyffertitz made the most of such parts as the High Priest in the 1935 version of She and the pontificating court psychiatrist in Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).

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