Albert Bassermann

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Albert Bassermann
Albert Bassermann 1918 (cropped).jpg
Bassermann in 1918
Born(1867-09-07)7 September 1867
Died15 March 1952(1952-03-15) (aged 84)
en route to Zürich, Switzerland
Occupation(s)Screen, stage actor
Years active1887–1948
(m. 1908)

Albert Bassermann (7 September 1867 – 15 May 1952) was a German stage and screen actor. He was considered to be one of the greatest German-speaking actors of his generation and received the famous Iffland-Ring. He was married to Elsa Schiff with whom he frequently performed.


Life and career

His grave in Mannheim Bassermann-grab.JPG
His grave in Mannheim

Bassermann began his acting career in 1887 in Mannheim, his birthplace, after he began to study chemistry at the Technical University of Karlsruhe in 1884/85. He was an actor at the Meiningen Court Theatre for 4 years. He then moved to Berlin. From 1899, he worked for Otto Brahm. He began work at the Deutsches Theater Berlin from 1904, the same year that his future wife, actress Elsa Schiff, moved to Berlin to work at that same theater. In 1909, the year after they married, he started working at the Lessing Theatre, though he also continued at the Deutsches Theater, working there with Max Reinhardt from 1909 to 1915. Roles included Othello in 1910, [1] Faust Part II with Friedrich Kayssler in 1911, [2] Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and August Strindberg's The Storm with Gertrud Eysoldt in 1913. [3]

Bassermann was among the first German theatre actors who worked in film. In 1913, he played the main role of the lawyer in Max Mack's Der Andere (The Other), after the play by Paul Lindau. In 1915, he appeared in Egmont (play) with de:Victor Barnowsky at the de:Deutsches Künstlertheater. He also worked with German silent film directors Richard Oswald, Ernst Lubitsch, Leopold Jessner and Lupu Pick. In 1928 he appeared in the first staging of Carl Zuckmayer's Katharina Knie , and in November that year in Herr Lambertier by Verneuil [4] In 1933, Bassermann left Germany and lived in Switzerland, [5] then moved to the United States in 1938.

Annija Simsone, who played opposite Bassermann in the Neue Wiener Buehne Theater in the 1920s, wrote the following in her autobiography: "During the Hitler era, Bassermann did not perform in Germany, though Adolf Hitler personally held him in high regard; Elsa was Jewish. Bassermann was told that if he wanted to continue to perform in Germany, he would have to get divorced. He did not get divorced, but Elsa and he went to Switzerland instead." [5]

Although his ability to speak English was very limited, he learned lines phonetically with assistance from his wife and found work as a character actor. For his performance as the Dutch statesman Van Meer in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent , Bassermann was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor in 1940. He returned to Europe in 1946. His final film appearance was in The Red Shoes .[ citation needed ]

In her acting textbook Respect for Acting, actress Uta Hagen said: "One of the finest lessons I ever learned was from the great German actor Albert Basserman. I worked with him as Hilde in The Master Builder by Ibsen. He was already past eighty but was as 'modern' in his conception of the role of Solness and in his techniques as anyone I've ever seen or played with. In rehearsals he felt his way with the new cast. (The role had been in his repertoire for almost forty years.) He watched us, listened to us, adjusted to us, meanwhile executing his actions with only a small part of his playing energy. At the first dress rehearsal, he started to play fully. There was such a vibrant reality to the rhythm of his speech and behavior that I was swept away by it. I kept waiting for him to come to an end with his intentions so that I could take my 'turn.' As a result, I either made a big hole in the dialogue or desperately cut in on him in order to avoid another hole. I was expecting the usual 'It's your turn; then it's my turn.' At the end of the first act I went to his dressing room and said, 'Mr. Basserman, I can't apologize enough, but I never know when you're through!' He looked at me in amazement and said, 'I'm never through! And neither should you be.'"


Bassermann died on 16 May 1952, at or near the Zurich Airport, soon after his flight from the United States had arrived. [6] He is buried in Mannheim. [7]


1913 Der Andere Dr. HallersThe Other
Der KönigProvinzschauspieler
Der letzte TagProfessor Osterode
1914Urteil des ArztesDr. Erwin Hofmüller
1917Du sollst keine anderen Götter haben
Der eiserne WilleHausierer David
Herr und Diener
1918 Father and Son
The Zaarden Brothers
Doctor Schotte
Lorenzo Burghardt
1919Eine schwache Stunde
Das Werk seines LebensPeter
1920Die Duplizität der Ereignisse
The Voice
The Sons of Count Dossy The Count/The Thief's Son
Dolls of Death
1921Der FrauenarztDr. Wolfgang Holländer
The Nights of Cornelis Brouwer Cornelis Brouwer
Burning Country
The Last Witness Olaf Baggerson
Die kleine Dagmar
1922 Frauenopfer GrafWomen's Sacrifice
The Loves of Pharaoh Sothis
Lucrezia Borgia Pope Alexander VI
1923 The Man in the Iron Mask Cardinal Mazarin The Man with the Iron Mask
Earth Spirit Dr. Schoen
Christopher Columbus Columbus
Old Heidelberg The Student Prince
Abenteuer einer Nacht
1924 Helena AisakosHelen of Troy
1925 Letters Which Never Reached Him Konsul Werner Gerling
The Director General Generaldirektor Herbert Heidenberg
1926 Professor Imhof
1929 Fräulein Else Dr. Alfred Thalhof
Napoleon at Saint Helena Governor Hudson Lowe
1930 Alraune Privy Councillor ten BrinkenDaughter of Evil
Dreyfus Col. Picquart The Dreyfus Case
1931 1914 Count Bethmann Hollweg
A Woman Branded Dr. Ringius
Inquest Dr. Konrad Bienert
KadettenGeneral von SeddinCadets
1932 The Golden Anchor Piquoiseau
1933Ein gewisser Herr GranTschernikoff, Kunsthändler
1935 Last Love Thomas Bruck
1938 Heroes of the Marne Col. von Gelow
1940 Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet Dr. Robert Koch
Foreign Correspondent Van MeerNominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Knute Rockne, All American Father Julius Nieuwland
A Dispatch from Reuters Franz Geller
Escape Dr. Arthur Henning
Moon Over Burma Basil Renner
1941 A Woman's Face Consul Magnus Barring
The Great Awakening Ludwig van Beethoven
The Shanghai Gesture Van Elst, The Commissioner
1942 Fly-by-Night Dr. Storm
Invisible Agent Arnold Schmidt
Desperate Journey Dr. Ludwig Mather
The Moon and Sixpence Dr. Coutras
Once Upon a Honeymoon Gen. Borelski
Reunion in France General Hugo Schroeder
1943 Good Luck, Mr. Yates Dr. Carl Hesser
Madame Curie Prof. Jean Perot
1944 Since You Went Away Dr. Sigmund Gottlieb Golden
1945 The Captain from Köpenick Wilhelm Voigt, a shoemakerI Was a Criminal
Strange Holiday School PrincipalThe Day After Tomorrow; uncredited
Rhapsody in Blue Prof. Franck
1946 The Searching Wind Count von Stammer
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Jacques Rival
Escape Me Never Prof. Heinrich
1948 The Red Shoes Sergei RatovFinal film role

See also

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  1. Styan 1982, p. 54.
  2. "Faust". Global Performing Arts Database. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  3. Styan 1982, pp. 38, 61.
  4. Dilettante (1929). "Letters from Abroad – Berlin" (PDF). The Bermondsey Book, Dec. Jan. Feb. 1928-9. VI (I): 109. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  5. 1 2 Annija Simsone, Atminas, Atminas, Gramatu Draugs, copyright 1961, page 109. Note: The book is in Latvian; an English translation exists but has not been published.
  6. "Albert Bassermann, German Actor, Dies". Rutland Daily Herald. Vermont, Rutland. Associated Press. 16 May 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 1 November 2019 via
  7. "Historische Grabstätten der Friedhöfe Mannheim". Friedhöfe Mannheim (in German). 22 May 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2023.