Oskar Werner

Active - 1949 - 2009  |   Born - Nov 13, 1922   |   Died - Oct 23, 1984   |   Genres - Drama

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Universally regarded as one of Western Europe's foremost stage actors, Oskar Werner was 18 years old when he made his stage bow at the Burgtheater in his native Vienna. A lifelong pacifist, Werner did everything he could to avoid conscription in the Axis army during World War II; when he finally was forced into a uniform, he deserted at the earliest opportunity. After the war, Werner resumed his theatrical career, only reluctantly making his first film in 1948; "I am married to the theater, and the films are only my mistress" he would later declare. In 1951, he made his English-language film debut as "Happy," an enigmatic German POW, in 20th Century-Fox's Decision Before Dawn. When Fox reneged on its promise to develop Werner into a Hollywood star, he went back to his true love, the theatre, vowing to only appear in films that intrigued him. In 1955, he essayed the title role in Mozart, and also played a smaller but no less significant part as the student with the scarf in Ophuls' Lola Montes. Then it was back to the stage, culminating with his formation of Theatre Ensemble Oskar Werner in 1959. Werner's definitive screen performance was the romantic intellectual Jules in Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1962), though it was his portrayal of the philosophical Dr. Schumann in Ship of Fools (1965) that earned the actor his only Oscar nomination. His friendship with Truffaut soured after their second collaboration, Fahrenheit 451 (1967); exhibiting profound disillusionment, Truffaut complained (not without justification) that Werner had become a "cold" performer. Oskar Werner died at the age of 62, just before he was scheduled to deliver a lecture at a German drama club.

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