Paul Henreid

Active - 1933 - 1982  |   Born - Jan 10, 1908 in Trieste, Austria-Hungary  |   Died - Mar 29, 1992   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Action, Comedy, War

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Some sources list actor Paul Henreid's birthplace as Italy, but at the time of his birth, Henreid's hometown of Trieste was still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Of aristocratic stock, Henreid felt drawn to theatrical activities while attending college. He briefly supported himself as a translator before Max Reinhardt's assistant Otto Preminger officially discovered him and launched his stage career. Still billed under his given name of Von Hernreid, he made his film debut in a 1933 Moroccan production. Relocating to England in 1935, he was often as not cast as Teutonic villains, most memorably in the 1940 melodrama Night Train.

In 1940, Henreid became an American citizen--and, at last, a leading man. Henreid's inbred Continental sophistication struck a responsive chord with wartime audiences. He spent his finest years as an actor at Warner Bros., where he appeared as Jerry Durrance in Bette Davis' Now Voyager (1942), as too-good-to-be-true resistance leader Victor Laszlo in Casablanca (1942), and as troubled medical student Philip Carey in the 1946 remake of Of Human Bondage (1946). Henreid exhibited a great deal of vivacity in such swashbucklers as The Spanish Main (1945), Last of the Buccaneers (1950) and The Siren of Bagdad (1953); in the latter film, the actor engagingly spoofed his own screen image by repeating his lighting-two-cigarettes bit from Now Voyager with an ornate water pipe. He was also an effective villain in Hollow Triumph (1948, which he also produced) and Rope of Sand (1949).

Henreid's star faded in the 1950s, a fact he would later attribute (in his 1984 autobiography Ladies Man) to the Hollywood Blacklist. He turned to directing, helming such inexpensive but worthwhile dramas as For Men Only (a 1951 indictment of the college hazing process) and A Woman's Devotion (1954). One of his best directorial efforts was the 1964 meller Dead Ringer, starring his former Warners co-star (and longtime personal friend) Bette Davis. In addition, Henreid directed dozens of 30- and 60-minute installments of such TV series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Maverick. His last on-camera appearance was as "The Cardinal" in Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977).

Henreid married Elizabeth Gluck in 1936, with whom he had two daughters, Monika Henreid and Mimi Duncan. On March 29, 1992, he died of pneumonia, following a stroke, in Santa Monica, California.

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  • Was the son of a baron.
  • Worked as a designer and translator at a publishing company while studying acting at night.
  • Was discovered by Max Reinhardt's managing director during an acting-school performance.
  • Had strong anti-Nazi sentiments, but portrayed a Nazi officer in Mad Men of Europe (1939) and a Gestapo agent in Night Train (1940).
  • Became an American citizen in the 1940s.
  • Was blacklisted in the 1950s, so he transitioned from acting to directing.
  • Penned Ladies' Man: An Autobiography in 1984.
  • Has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • Died one week before the 50th-anniversary rerelease of Casablanca (1942), the film in which he portrayed resistance leader Victor Laszlo.