Hugo Haas

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Hugo Haas
Hugo Haas in Pickup trailer.jpg
Hugo Haas in Pickup (1951)
Born(1901-02-19)19 February 1901
Died1 December 1968(1968-12-01) (aged 67)
Vienna, Austria
OccupationActor, film director, screenwriter
Years active1926–1962
Spouse(s)Maria von Bibikoff
(m. 1938; div. 19??)
Relatives Pavel Haas

Hugo Haas (19 February 1901 1 December 1968) was a Czech film actor, director and writer. [1] He appeared in more than 60 films between 1926 and 1962, as well as directing 20 films between 1933 and 1962.


Life and career

Haas was born in Brno, Austria-Hungary (now in the Czech Republic), and died in Vienna, Austria from complications of asthma. He and his brother, Pavel Haas, studied voice at the Brno Conservatory under composer Leoš Janáček. Pavel Haas went on to become a noted composer himself before he was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

Czechoslovak theater and film

After graduating from the conservatory in 1920, Hugo Haas began acting at the National Theater in Brno, in Ostrava and in Olomouc. In 1924 he moved to Prague and regularly appeared at the Vinohrady Theatre, [2] where he remained until 1929. In 1930, [3] Karel Hugo Hilar made Hugo Haas a member of the Prague National Theatre drama company, where he remained until his emigration in 1939. One of his most highly acclaimed roles was as Doctor Galén in The White Disease , which Karel Čapek had written especially for him. His final role at the National Theater was as Director Busman in Čapek's R.U.R. [3]

Hugo Haas made his film debut as Notary Voborský in the silent film Jedenácté přikázání (The Eleventh Commandment) in 1923. (Twelve years later he played the same role again in Jedenácté přikázání directed by Martin Frič.) With the advent of sound film, Haas was able to apply his comedic talent in Svatopluk Innemann's Muži v offsidu in 1931. By 1938 Haas had acted in some thirty films.

In 1936 he directed his first film, Camel Through the Eye of a Needle (co-directed with Otakar Vávra). He later directed Kvočna (the film score was composed by his brother Pavel), The White Disease and Co se šeptá. His final comedy in Czechoslovakia was Miroslav Cikán's Andula Won , which appeared in cinemas in 1938. [4]


Following the 1938 Munich Agreement and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in early 1939, Hugo Haas was dismissed from the National Theater due to his Jewish origin. [3] In April he and his wife, Maria von Bibikoff ("Bibi"), fled via Paris, Spain, and then from the port of Lisbon, Portugal, to the port of New York in October–November 1940. Their son, Ivan, was taken in by his brother Pavel. Hugo Haas' father Lipmann (Zikmund) Haas and brother Pavel died at Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

United States

By the mid-1940s, Hugo Haas had become a character actor in American films. In 1951 he launched a successful if unacclaimed career as a film director in Hollywood with a string of B movie melodramas, usually starring blonde actresses in the role of a predatory mantrap. Haas usually cast himself as the male lead in the films although the female role almost always dominated the storyline and was usually exclusively promoted on film posters. His work also includes a touching human drama, The Girl on the Bridge (1951) – which he co-wrote, directed and starred in – about a kindly watchmaker who after having lost his wife and family in the Holocaust, befriends, marries, and raises a second family with a young woman he saves from suicide.

Cleo Moore starred in six films for Haas, becoming a well-known film star in that era. Other actresses who starred in Haas' films were Beverly Michaels and Carol Morris. The Haas pictures generally received poor reviews but were for the most part commercially successful, and on occasion featured such well-known names as Eleanor Parker, John Agar, Vince Edwards, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, Julie London, Corinne Griffith, and Marie Windsor.

Haas' final film, Paradise Alley, was rejected by the major studios and sat unreleased for over three years, finally surfacing in a limited run in 1962.

Return to Europe

In the late 1950s Hugo Haas returned to Europe. After a brief stay in Italy, he settled in Vienna in 1961, where he made occasional appearances on television. Except for a brief visit during the centennial celebrations for the National Theater in Prague in 1963, he never returned to his homeland.

Selected filmography

Grave of Hugo Haas at the Jewish Cemetery in Brno Hugo Haas grave.jpg
Grave of Hugo Haas at the Jewish Cemetery in Brno

As director

As actor

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  1. "Hugo Hass". csfd. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  2. Z. Sílová, R. Hrdinová, A. Kožíková, V. Mohylová : Divadlo na Vinohradech 1907–2007 – Vinohradský ansámbl, published by Vinohrady Theatre, Prague, 2007, p. 192, ISBN   978-80-239-9604-3
  3. 1 2 3 Kolektiv autorů: Národní divadlo a jeho předchůdci, Academia, Prague, 1988, p. 128
  4. Figlárová, Jana (13 August 2009). "Postava Hugo Haase v české meziválečné kinematografii" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2015.