Horror Film Actors

Lon Chaney 

As Michael F. Blake points out in his Lon Chaney biography, A Thousand Faces,  “Lon Chaney was never a horror actor.”  This long-held misconception is due to the fact that only a handful of Chaney’s films survive, the most notable being The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and number of macabre films that he made with director Todd Browning. However Chaney’s films cover a wide variety of genres including Westerns comedies and melodramas. Few of which survive today.

Chaney’s ground breaking makeup techniques that he developed earned him the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Faces." Although he is often cited as America’s first horror star, he never acted in what could technically be described as a horror film; the vast majority of his films had nothing to do with the supernatural. In fact  The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and London After Midnight (1927) three of his most popular “horror “ films could be more accurately  described as  melodramas than horror films.

Lon Chaney (Leonidas Frank Chaney) was born on April 01, 1886 in Colorado Springs Colorado.  He was the second of four children, three boys and a girl. His father Frank Chaney, a barber, had not been born deaf but lost his hearing at about the age of two due to a childhood illness. Chaney’s mother, Emma Alice Chaney, was born deaf and taught at a school for deaf children before marrying. The fact that both of Chaney’s parents were hearing and speech impaired has been attributed to the reason that he became such an expert pantomimist, which made him the perfect actor for the silent films he would later star in. 

Chaney’s mother  was diagnosed with inflammatory rheumatism when he was young. His formal education came to an end during his fourth grade year so that he could tend to his mother. Chaney took  care of his mother for the next three years as well as many of the household chores. During this time Chaney would sit with his mother and draw sketches to entertain her and would act out of events taking place in the city or around the world and by mimicking his friends and neighbors.

When he was old enough Chaney took a job as a guide at Pikes Peak to help out with the household expenses. It was during this time he began his lifelong love of trout fishing. It was also around that same time that he began to work in the local opera house. His brother John helped Chaney secure a position as a prop boy. It was there that Chaney began his long and illustrious career in show business.

Chaney began his career as a performer in 1902 traveling with popular Vaudeville and theater acts. In 1905 he met and married a 16-year-old singer Cleva Cleveland, and in 1906 their only child, Creighton Chaney (future horror star known as Lon Chaney, Jr.) was born. The family of three settled in California in 1910.

Marital troubles soon developed and Cleva went to the Majestic Theater in downtown Los Angeles in April 1913, where Chaney was working, and attempted suicide by swallowing mercuric chloride a chemical compound of mercury and chlorine. The suicide attempt failed but ruined her voice as well as her singing career. Chaney divorced Cleva and the scandal brought an end to Chaney’s theatrical career. It was been reported that Lon Jr. (Creighton) was told that his mother Cleva had died while he was a boy, and later found that she had in fact lived sometime after Lon Chaney Sr.'s death.  True or not, Lon Chaney Jr. had stated numerous times that he had a rough childhood living in various homes and boarding houses until 1916 when  Lon Chaney married Hazel Hastings. 

From 1912 to 1917, Chaney worked under contract for Universal Studios doing mostly character and bit  parts. His makeup skills soon  gained him numerous small parts in several films. During this time, Chaney met and became friends with Joe De Grasse and Ida May Park, the husband-wife director team. They cast Chaney in a number of roles in their films and encouraged him to play macabre characters. The relationship would land Chaney one of his first leading roles in the drama The Piper's Price  (1917).

It was The Miracle Man (1919) based on a 1914 play by George M. Cohan, which in turn is based on the novel of the same title by Frank L. Packard that put Chaney on the radar as a character actor. This Paramount Pictures release was directed, produced, and written by George Loane Tucker, and also stars Thomas Meighan and Betty Compson. This film in which Chaney plays “The Frog" a  phony cripple, not only allowed  Chaney to showcase but his abilities as a makeup artist but as a contortionist as well. Approximately three minutes of The Miracle Man (1919)  survives today but it is enough to demonstrate Chaney’s talent. Chaney was paid $150 a week, a fraction of what he would be earning by the end of the next decade.

Some of Chaney’s best known works came from his collaboration with director Tod Browning. All together Chaney would appear in 10 films directed by  Browning, often portraying macabre and/or mutilated characters, such Alonzo the Armless, the  carnival knife-thrower in The Unknown (1927) co-starring Joan Crawford. Crawford later stated that she had learned more about acting  watching Chaney work than from anything else in her career. "It was then," she said, "I became aware for the first time of the difference between standing in front of a camera and acting.

Chaney was noted for being a demanding actor insisting that his costars memorize their dialogue despite the fact that they were acting in silent films. Chaney believed that speaking the actual dialogue made the scenes more realistic. Is a matter of historical fact that Chaney went to great strides to bring his characters to life sometimes at the risk of his personal safety and health. For The Penalty (1920), in which he played a legless hoodlum, he wore painful leg harnesses that enabled him to walk on his knees with the aid of a pair of shorten crutches. He wore the device long enough to inhibit the circulation in his legs and reportedly collapsed on the set several times.

To prepare himself for the role of Quasimodo in the film The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)  Lon Chaney interviewed  people who suffered from various physical deformities. His make-up, which he developed himself,  for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) was unparalleled for its time, consisting of a  knotted wig, nose putty on the cheeks, false teeth, eye make-up, and made 15lb a plaster hump which, contrary to popular myth did not cause Chaney any back problems.

As with The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Chaney was granted the freedom to develop his own make-up for The Phantom of the Opera (1925).  The makeup has been noted for being the most accurate depiction of the Phantom, based on the description given in  Gaston Leroux’s novel. To create the skull-like appearance of the Phantom,  Chaney painted his eye sockets black, pulled the tip of his nose up and pinned it in place with wire and enlarged his nostrils with black paint. Chaney went to great strides to keep the appearance of the Phantom one of the closest guarded Hollywood secrets. He would not allow any photographs of the makeup to be published before the film’s release. It has been reported that when audiences first saw The Phantom of the Opera (1925), they screamed or fainted at the scene where Christine pulls the mask away, revealing the Phantom’s ghastly face.

 In 1927 Chaney once again teamed up with Tod Browning to make what would become one of the most famous and sought of all lost films, London After Midnight (1927). The last known copy of the film was destroyed in the 1967 MGM Vault fire. London After Midnight (1927) was just as bizarre and macabre as the other Chaney and Browning collaborations. In this film Chaney plays dual roles of  Inspector Edward C. Burke and The Man in the Beaver Hat. It was the character “The Man in the Beaver Hat” a supposed vampire that put Lon Chaney at the top of Universal’s short list for actors for the leading role in Dracula which was at that time in preproduction. The film would gross almost $500,000 at the box office making it the most successful collaborative film between Chaney and Browning.

Even with his success as an actor and the financial awards that went with it Lon Chaney Senior never seemed quite comfortable with his newfound stardom. As Lon Chaney Jr. once related:

“His ideal someone to look up to was the head teller of the bank. He wanted me to become someone like that. Dad never seemed like a star or actor to me. He had a curious suspicion of his newfound success. He always doubted it, always fearing it would end. He kept up his membership in the stagehands union to his dying day, just in case. He was so unassuming that when he died I suddenly realized I didn’t have a single picture of him, didn’t own a single clipping of him or his work. He wouldn’t leave any of the publicity stuff around. Somehow he always feared it.”

The Unholy Three (1930) would be Chaney’s last film and first and only talkie. This film, directed by Jack Conway, was  a remake of the 1925 film of the same name which had been directed by Tod Browning.  Chaney appears as Professor Echo / Mrs. O'Grady and used different voices for the ventriloquist, the old woman, a parrot, the dummy, and the girl. Chaney signed a legal affidavit declaring all the voices he performed in The Unholy Three (1930) were actually his own.

During the filming of Thunder (1929) a particle of artificial snow, made out of cornflakes, lodged in his throat and caused a very serious infection. Chaney soon developed pneumonia and later that same year he was diagnosed with bronchial lung cancer.  The actor’s condition gradually worsened and despite aggressive treatment he died on August 26, 1930, just seven weeks after the release of his final film The Unholy Three (1930).

Despite his association with the horror genre and crime dramas Chaney often stated that of all of his films Tell It to the Marines (1926) was his favorite. Chaney refused to wear any film makeup for this film, because - he reportedly reasoned –“ to have done so would have detracted from the documentary reality and integrity of the picture.” For his role in the film, Chaney became the first actor to become an honorary member of the United States Marines. When Chaney died, Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler, who he befriended during the making of Tell It to the Marines (1926), arranged for a military chaplain and honor guard to participate at Chaney's funeral.  Thousands turned out to attend the actor’s funeral and all the major studios in Hollywood shut down for five minutes to pay homage to the great actor.

Following his death, Chaney's widow donated his makeup case to the Los Angeles County Museum, where it is sometimes displayed for the public. Makeup artist and Chaney biographer, Michael Blake asserts that Chaney's makeup case is one of the most important artifacts in the history of movie makeup.

Few silent film actors ever achieved the fame that Lon Chaney had.  Most are now forgotten; their names are now merely a footnote in the pages of cinema history. Yet nearly 100 years after his image first flickered onto the silver screen, Lon Chaney is still a household name and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest actors in cinema history.

 Mae Clarke

Mae Clarke born August 16, 1910 was an American actress  most noted for her role as Henry Frankenstein's bride and for the scene in Public Enemy in which James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into her face. Clarke learned to dance early in life growing up in Atlantic City. By the age of 13 she was performing in nightclubs and amateur theatricals. While performing as a dancer and a burlesque artist at the Strand Roof nightclub in New York City she shared a room with fellow actress  Ruby Stevens who would become a lifelong freiend. Stevens would later change her name to Barbara Stanwyck. In June of 1932 Clarke suffered a nervous breakdown followed by another in 1934 some sources contributes the break downs as a result of overwork and marital problems. In 1933 Clark was in a serious car accident which scarred her face. These events marked the beginning of her career's decline. Clarke was now resigned to perform in a number of B- rated movies she did however have a recurring role in the early days of the soap opera General Hospital. Her last film appearance was in an unaccredited role in the comedy Watermelon Man (1970). Sadly toward the end of her life, Clarke fell on financial hard times she retired to the Motion Picture & Television County House and Hospital, there she devoted the rest of her life doing what she loved best, abstract painting.

Mae Clark and Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931) Universal Pictures

 Colin Clive
Colin Clive born on January 20, 1900 Clive was an-English stage and screen actor. Although Clive appeared in over 18 films and numerous states place it is the role of Henry Frankenstein that he is best remembered for. Clive would reprise his role as Henry Frankenstein in the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein.  In his portrayal of Henry Frankenstein, Clive set the standard for the mad scientist role in films for decades to come.  Clive died on June 25, 1937 from complications of tuberculosis he was only 37 years old.

 Colin Clive As Henry Frankenstein- Frankenstein (1931) Universal Pictures

 Dwight Frye

Dwight Frye was born on February 21 1899 in Salina Kansas. As an actor he is most remembered for portraying mentally unbalanced characters, Frye’s most notable roles were Renfield in Todd Browning's1931 version of Dracula and as Fritz, the hunchbacked assistant of Dr. Henry Frankenstein in James Wells Frankenstein (1931). He would later reprise his role as Fritz in the bride of Frankenstein 1935. Frye also performed on both screen and stage and a variety of productions including musicals and comedies, he also-appeared in a stage production of Dracula. During World War II Frye helped contribute to the war effort by working the night shift as a tool designer at Lockheed Aircraft. Frye had been chosen to play Newton D Baker the former Secretary of War in the film Wilson, which was to be a biographical film based on the life of US President Woodrow Wilson. It was said that Frye had been chosen for the part due to his resemblance to the Baker. Tragically, however on November 7, 1943, a few days before filming was to begin Frye died of a heart attack while riding on a bus in Hollywood.

Dwight Frye as Fritz. Frankenstein (1931). Universal Pictures

 Rondo Hatton

Rondo Hatton who is remembered for his roles as the “Creeper” was known as a kind gentleman was born in Hagerstown, Maryland on April 22, 1894 to Stewart Price and Emily Zarring Hatton, who were both teachers. Accounts of his early life report the Hatton was handsome as a young who excelled in sports. As an adult Hatton suffered from a condition called Gigantism caused by the Hyper secretion of growth hormones resulting in enlarging of the forehead, mouth, jaw, fingers, joints, and feet, and a coarsening of the skin.  It is believed that his disfigurement was the reason for to his divorce from his first wife Elizabeth James.

While working as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune, Hatton was assigned to cover the filming of Hell Harbor (1930). The director of the film, Henry King noticed Hatton and hired him for a small role, that of a waterfront tavern keeper.  In 1936 Hatton moved the Hollywood where sustained himself by acting in uncredited roles and bit parts. Universal Studios attempting to capitalize on Hatton’s condition for shock value and signed him on for a six movie contract. The studio publicity department would often promote the fact that Hatton had no need for makeup for his roles. He made his first appearance for the studio in the Sherlock Holmes movie, The Pearl of Death (1944).  The Brute Man (1946), ironically, its plot was in eerie reflection of Hatton’s own life about a handsome college athlete scarred and turned into a monster by an accident. Perhaps because of his worsening condition, Hatton had trouble remembering his lines and often seem confused to his fellow actors.
Despite Hatton’s difficulties on the set, Universal Studios had planned a series of Creeper movies featuring him. Unfortunately Hatton died of a heart attack on February 2, 1946 he was only 51 years old. His last film, The Brute Man (1946), would not be released until October 1, 1946, eight months after his death.

Gloria Holden 

Gloria Holden who played Countess Marya Zalesk  aka Dracula's daughter in Dracula’s Daughter (1936) is best remembered for two roles. in The Life of Emile Zola (1937), and the title role in Dracula's Daughter (1936). It is rumored that her role of Countess Marya Zaleska influenced the writings of Anne Rice.  Rice does mention Dracula's Daughter in her novel The Queen of the Damned. Despite the loyal following the role of Countess Marya Zaleska earned her, Holden throughout her life would always have an aversion to the role. Shortly before her death, when a fan who asked Holden for her autograph happened to mention Dracula's Daughter, Holden responded by saying “Oh, that awful thing.”

Gloria Holden ( Universal Pictures)

Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff, whose name is synonymous with the horror genre, was no monster to those who knew him. Remembered as a soft spoken and polite bookish fellow who relished his afternoon tea and the writings of Joseph Conrad, he was fond of children, animals and gardening and an avid cricket fan.

“The monster not only gave me recognition as an actor it created for me a certain niche, which has given me a career” Boris Karloff once said of Frankenstein's creature, a role which he immortalized in 1931.
Born William Henry Pratt the youngest of nine children in 1887 November 23, it was his father's intention that all of his sons, eight total, would follow him into the Counselor service. But at the age of nine young Billy Pratt, as he was called by his friends, decided to become an actor after winning the part of the demon king in a production of Cinderella in 1896. He later attended Enfield Grammar School, Uppingham School, Merchant Taylors' School, and King's College London where he prepared for a career in the consular service. Then at the age of 19, against his family's wishes, the young and determined Billy Pratt dropped out of school to follow his dream.
In May of 1909 the future actor left England for Montréal Canada. His There he scraped out a living at starvation wages. To make ends meet he turned to selling horses, real estate and working as a laborer. It was during this period that Billy Pratt became Boris Karloff. “After all, one can’t be an actor and be called Pratt!” Karloff once explained. Karloff spent 10 years in repertory companies, went to Hollywood, appearing in forty five silent films for Universal Studios, among them The Last of the Mohicans, Forbidden Cargo and an installment in the popular Tarzan series but the success he sought, to be a full time actor, eluded him.
The man of a thousand faces, fellow actor, Lon Chaney once told Karloff, “Find something no one else can or will do, and they’ll begin to take notice of you. Hollywood is full of competent actors. What the screen needs is individuality!”
Karloff took Chaney’s advice and when James Whale offered him the role of Frankenstein’s creature Karloff jumped at the chance. It was believed by the studio that Colin Clive’s character, Henry Frankenstein would be the focus of the film, in fact Karloff’s role was considered such a minor part that he was not invited to the premiere. But the movie going audience fell for the lurching monster and Karloff’s performance was praised by movie goers and critics alike. After decades of struggling, Karloff’s career took off. Later screen credits would list him as “Karloff” or as “Karloff the uncanny.”
Karloff insisted on his afternoon tea during his long days of filming.

Karloff’s career spanned more than four decades including 140 films of which 45 were silent. During his long career Karloff would worked on stage, screen, radio and television. He hosted the television series Thriller from 1960 to 1962 and received a Grammy Award for his narration of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Karloff was instrumental in starting the Screen Actor Guild and would serve on its board for more than twenty years insisting that the studios follow the SAG rules. Karloff never relinquished his British citizenship or legally changed his name he would sign his contacts as “William H. Pratt a.k.a Boris Karloff.” Karloff died in 1969 in England at the age of 81.
Right - Glenn Strange as the monster and Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann in House of Frankenstein. (1944)Universal Pictures.

Below - Glenn Strange is best remembered for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series

Una O'Connor

Classic horror fans will remember Una O'Connor from such films as The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The spunky former stage actress co-starred with such Hollywood giants as Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Boris Karloff.  With her hands waving in the air and her high pitched shrill voice O’Connor would steal the scene in any film. Born Agnes Teresa McGlade on October 23, 1880 in Belfast, Ireland, O’Connor changed her name when she began her stage career with Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. After she appeared in a few British films, the most notable of which was Alfred Hitchcock's Murder! (1930,) she moved to California and began working in Hollywood. Director James Whale cast O'Connor in two of her best remembered roles The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to provide some comic relief. O’Connor is also noted for her work in the films The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn and Witness for the Prosecution (1957) with Tyrone Power in what would be his and O’Connor’s final screen appearance. O’Connor never married and had no children, she died in New York City on February 4,1959 from heart disease at the age of 78.

Irving Pichel

Irving Pichel (24 June 1891 - 13 July 1954) who played  Sandor, Countess Marya Zaleska’s servant in Dracula’s Daughter was not only an actor but a director as well and is credited with discovering Natalie Wood. Pichel starred in dozens of films throughout his acting career, directed over thirty including The Miracle of the Bells (1948), Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948), and Destination Moon (1950). Destination Moon (1950) is credited as the first science fiction film that attempted to use an abundance of realistic technical detail in the story line.
 Irving Pichel (Universal Pictures)
 In 1947, Pichel was one of the “Hollywood Nineteen” also known as the "Unfriendly Nineteen". The “Hollywood Nineteen” was a group of nineteen individuals that were subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the United States' second Red Scare. (1947-1957). Despite the fact that Pichel was never called to testify, he was nonetheless blacklisted. He died on July 13, 1954 shortly after finishing his last film, Day of Triumph (1954)

Edward van Sloan  

Edward van Sloan born on November 1, 1882 in Chaska, Minnesota is best remembered for numerous his roles in Universal horror films. He began his acting career in 1911. During the 1920s he appeared in numerous stage plays including the stage play version of Dracula with Bella Lugosi in 1927 . Van Sloan made his screen debut as Abraham Van Helsing, in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). He is noted for often portraying a doctor or expert who foils the plans of the monsters and evil doers.

Dr. Waldman(Edward Van Sloan) attempts to subdue the creature (Boris Karloff). Frankenstein (1931). Universal Pictures

Paul Wegener

Although nearly forgotten, Paul Wegener has unquestionably made the largest and longest lasting impact on the horror genre than any other single artist. His influence can be found in films, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Frankenstein (1931), Metropolis (1927) and many more films through the proceeding decades. Wegener was born December 11, 1874 in Jerrenkowitz to Anna Wolff and Otto Wegener. He was a poorly child expected only to live for a short while. His father moved away to England where Anna and Paul followed six weeks later after the child's health had improved. However, when Anna died shortly before Paul's third birthday, Wegener’s relationship with his father became what can only be described as dysfunctional. Otto seems to have lost all interest is youngest child after losing his wife.
At the age of 20 the 6’6” Wegener gave up his law studies to pursue an acting career. He made his stage debut at the Stadt Nurnberg. He continued to act in theater until 1905 when he made his film debut in DIE BYZANTIER directed by Victor Hahn. At the premier a talent-scout for Max Reinhardt of the Deutschen Theater was impressed with Wegener’s performance. The young actor was offered a contract with the Deutschen Theater which he gladly accepted. But after two years Wegener was denied renewal of his contract.
Wegener had been experimenting with trick photography during his days as a law student. Wegener reasoned that the same techniques of using double exposure to produce ghostly images in still photography can also be used in the motion picture as well. Wegener was also convinced that cinema could communicate, completely independent from literature and the stage, with imagery alone.

The real creator of the film must be the camera. Getting the spectator to change his point of view, using special effect to double the actor on the divided screen, superimposing other images , all this technique, form, gives the content its real meaning”      Paul Wegener

The concept of Autorenfilm, the idea of a movie should be considered a work of art based on the author’s work alone, was growing in popularity in Germany during the 1910’s. This was a radical concept in the age when film was not thought of as an art form at all.  Paul Wegener was a strong proponent of Autorenfilm and applied this concept and trick photography techniques to his first horror project The Student of Prague (1913).
 The Student of Prague (1913) also known as A Bargain with Satan,  would rocket Paul Wegener to stardom making him the world’s first horror star. Wegener not only starred in this 1913 silent film he also co-directed it with Stellan Rye. With a run time of 1 hour 25 minutes, The Student of Prague (1913, which is hailed as the first true feature length film in history, premiered on August 22, 1913. It is reported the some of the audience members actually screamed when the student’s image steps out of the mirror. Although this effect was achieved with the ever so common double exposure technique that effect had never been seen by the movie going audience at that time and it did make quite an impression.
For his next project Wegener found inspiration from an ancient Jewish legend. While The Student of Prague (1913) is hailed as the first feature length horror film, The Golem (1915) is considered to be the first feature length monster film. The Golem (1915) was set in contemporary times and in this retelling of the legend, a Jewish rabbi restores a golem to life and uses the creature as a servant. The golem falls in love with the antique dealer's daughter. The daughter finds the golem repulsive and does not return his love, in retaliation the creature being begins to commits a series of murders.
Wegener was a natural for the role of the golem with his large stature and sharp features. Not only did he star in this film he also co-wrote and co-directed with Henrik Galeen. And he would again reprise the roles as star, writer and co-director  along with Rochus Gilese in The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917). This film unlike the original had more of a comic twist. It was and still is for that matter considered a comedy /horror. The Golem (1915) and The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917) are both lost films.
The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920) a prequel to (1915) was directed by Paul Wegener and Carl Boese. Written by Wegener and Henrik Galeen, the script was adapted from the 1915 novel The Golem by Gustav Meyrink and once again Wegener reprised his role as the golem. The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920) is considered to be an excellent example of German Expressionism in film.
Paul Wegener appeared in his first and only Hollywood film in 1926 in Rex Ingram's The Magician (1926), based on Somerset Maugham's story. In this film he played Oliver Haddo who with the aid of a dwarf attempted to create life in an old tower during a thunderstorm, foreshadowing James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931).
In 1933 when the National Socialists came to political power, theatre companies were disbanded and many of the actors and directors were arrested, persecuted or exiled.  Wegener became an actor of the German state and agreed to appear in Nazi propaganda films. However there was another side to Wegener,  who secretly donated money to resistance groups and hide those being persecuted in his apartment at the risk of his own personal safety.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the Soviet Supreme Commander General Berzarin ordered a sign to be placed in front of Wegener’s home in Berlin-Wilmersdorf to protect the aging actor from the occupying forces.   The sign read:
                         Loved and adored ALL OVER THE WORLD. "
 Despite his declining health, Wegener joined with other actors and artists to help rebuild cultural life in Berlin after the end of the war. In 1947 he suffered a stroke that caused him to go to Switzerland for medical care.  In 1948 Wegener returned to Berlin and accepted a part in  the film DER GROSSE MANDARIN (1948), his last film role. In July 1948 he reprised his role a "Nathan the Wise" at the Deutschen Theatre. During the first scene he collapsed and the curtain was brought down. Two months later, on September 13th, 1948, Paul Wegener died in his sleep.

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