Weitere Namen
Werner Johannes Krauß (Geburtsname)
Cast
Gestungshausen bei Coburg Wien, Österreich

Biography

Werner Krauß was born June 23, 1884, in Gestungshausen near Coburg as the son of postal clerk Paul Krauß and his wife Karoline Wust. After the death of his grandfather where he had been growing up, he came to his parents in Breslau in 1887. In 1891, his father was relocated to Liegnitz. But soon after he was laid off and was hospitalized in a sanatorium. After several stays with relatives in Emmerichshain and in Rennrod he returned with his mother to Breslau in late1893. From 1898 on, Krauß attended the Protestant school for for candidates for admission to a training college in Breslau and went to the seminar for prospective teachers in Kreuzberg in 1901 because his family wanted him to become a teacher.

Because of occasional performances as an extra at Breslau’s Lobe-Theater he was suspended from class and decided to become an actor. Without any acting education, via small and smallest travelling theatres, Stadttheater Aachen (from 1907) and Stadttheater Nuremberg (from 1910) on, Krauß finally came to Berlin in 1913 where he got an engagement at Reinhardt-Bühnen. In 1915, he was drafted for military service but was dismissed after a three-month service as a naval cadet in Kiel.

At Reinhardt’s theatre, Krauß at first mainly played the second cast or smaller roles and thus turned to the film business in early 1916. After his debut in the role of Daperdutto in the film "Hoffmanns Erzählungen" (Tales of Hoffman"), directed by Richard Oswald with whom Krauß worked repeatedly he mainly appeared in the popular genres of trivial film, detective stories, and melodramas, moral and education films. Most often, Krauß played throroughly reprobate, often retarded creeps: a sadist with high boots and whip in "Dida Ibsens Geschichte" ("The Story of Dida Ibsen"), a Chinese drug dealer in "Opium", or a cripple lusting for murder in "Totentanz" ("Dance of Death").

 

His rise to stardom in the theatre and on the movie screen started at the end of World War I: "The young generation, martyred by destitution, war, and bigotries of all kinds, celebrated him as the actor of their generation." (Pinthus, 1922). In "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari" ("The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", 1919), Krauß succeeded to adapt his style of acting to the expressionist decor and to maintain the indefiniteness of the film, its floating between reality and fiction in the role of the somnambulist medium alongside Conrad Veidt. In his mimic art and his body language Krauß completely turned into the crany/psychiatrist Caligari who embodies authority and subordination in one.

Six years later, "Geheimnisse einer Seele" ("Secrets of a Soul") came out. In the film, the contrariness of the "bourgeois devil" Caligari (Kurt Tucholsky) found its psycho-analytical explanation and solution: Krauß portrayed the analytical chemist Martin Fellmann full of nuances and thus, the film was able to convey how hidden traumatic fears and obsessions come to light behind a façade of a middle-class way of life.

The era of the German film of the 1920s that was summarized by Lotte H. Eisner under the term "The demonic movie screen" found one of its most important actors in Krauß. The silent film gave him the opportunity to express his ability to completely identify with his characters, his delight in transformation, and his talent to act with physical presence alone.

Although many of his roles were based on demonic clichées, like Jack the Ripper in "Das Wachsfigurenkabinett" ("Waxworks") or Scapianelli in "Der Student von Prag", ("The Man Who Cheated Life") or framed him in the same abhorrent way like his early films (the sleazy master butcher in "Die freudlose Gasse" ("Street of Sorrow")), Krauß managed to avoid a distinct definition of his role types. In "Scherben" ("Shattered"), he gave a dull, depressive study of a signalman who becomes the murderer of his daughter’s seducer. Furthermore, Krauß registered popular success in the role of the liberal tutor Dr. Jüttner in "Alt-Heidelberg" ("The student Prince"), the film version of a melodrama by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster.

His range of portrayals of historic personalities includes Robespierre in "Danton" ("All for a Woman"), Lord Nelson in "Lady Hamilton", Pontius Pilatus in "I.N.R.I." ("Crown of Thorns"), and Napoleon in "Napoleon auf St. Helena" ("Napoleon at St. Helena"), among others. In the film versions of theatre plays, Krauß often starred in the same role that he had already played on stage, for instance, as Iago in "Othello", in the title role of "Nathan der Weise", as Shylock in "Der Kaufmann von Venedig", as Nick Bottom in "A Midsummernight’s Dream", as Orgon in "Tartüff" ("Tartuffe"), as philistine in "Haus der Lüge" (based on Ibsen’s play "Die Wildente"), or as Theobald Maske in "Die Hose" ("A Royal Scandal").

Between November 1923 and June 1924, Krauß stayed in New York where he participated in Reinhardt"s production of Karl Vollmoeller’s pantomime "Das Mirakel". After his return to Germany, he performed at Staatstheater (from 1924 to 1926, and from 1931 to 1933), at Deutsches Theater (from 1926 to 1931), and at Vienna’s Burgtheater (from 1928 to 1929). In the early 1930s, he starred in roles in two premieres at Deutsches Theater that rank among his most successful and most often played theatre performances: the role of Wilhelm Voigt in Carl Zuckmayer’s play "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick", directed by Heinz Hilpert, and the role of Matthias Clausen in Gerhart Hauptmann’s play "Vor Sonnenuntergang", directed by Max Reinhardt. However, Ufa who had contracted Krauß banned him from participating in the film version of "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick" ("The Captain from Köpenick"), directed by Richard Oswald, because at the same time, he was supposed to play the title role in "Yorck", an ovation to Prussian militarism.

When his contract with Staatstheater ended in January 1933, Krauß went to Vienna to perform at Burgtheater. There, he made one of his first performances in the role of Napoleon in Benito Mussolini’s and Giovacchino Forzano’s "Hundert Tage" ("Hundred Days") that was made into a film version in 1934. As a result, he was invited by the "Duce". Shortly after, Krauß also met with Goebbels who appointed him the deputy president of Reichstheaterkammer and with Hitler. Goebbels and Hitler established Krauß as one of the leading cultural representatives of the Nazi regime. In September and October 1933, he made a guest performance with the play "Vor Sonnenuntergang" (performed in English) in London.

From 1934 on, Krauß again performed at Berlin’s Staatstheater besides his theatre work in Vienna. In 1935, he toured Latin America for several months. In the summer of 1937, Krauß and Max Reinhardt worked together for the last time when Krauß played the role of Mephisto in Reinhardt’s production of "Faust" at Salzburg Festival.

Krauß only occasionally appeared in sound films, for instance, as a mechanic who is pronounced dead and is fighting for the recognition of his identity in the film version of Balzac’s "Mensch ohne Namen" ("The Man Without a Name"). In "Burgtheater" ("Vienna Burgtheater"), he played an aging actor who realizes the impossibility of his love to a substantially younger actress and decides to completely devote himself to his art.

During the Nazi regime, Krauß was used in several films that were classed as "particularly valuable for state policy": In "Robert Koch, der Bekämpfer des Todes", he portrayed the antagonist of the title hero played by Emil Jannings, privy council Virchow as a cold, patronizing representative of a democratic system that is conflicting with the brilliant individual. "Die Entlassung" ("The Dismissal"), again with the antipodes Jannings and Krauß in the roles of Bismarck and Hollstein, is a variation of the same plot scheme.

In the anti-Semitic agitation film "Jud Süß" ("Jew Süss") that was finished in 1940, Krauß proved his mutability in a ghoulish way by playing Jews in five different roles. As director Veit Harlan said, the "deeper meaning" of this cast was to show "how all these different temperaments and characters (…) in the end come from one single root". (Der Film, January 20, 1940).

At the end of the war, Krauß resided in his house at Mondsee in the Salzkammergut. In August 1946, he was banished from Austria and relocated to Stuttgart. In May 1948, he was classified as "less charged" in the third trial and sentenced to pay the procedural costs of 5000 Deutsche Mark – besides his participation in "Jud Süß", Krauß was mainly accused of having played the role of Shylock as an "anti-Semitic caricature" in 1943 at Burgtheater. After his return to Vienna, he became an Austrian citizen and went back to Burgtheater where he was a cast member until his death.

Krauß made his first appearance in post-war Germany in June 1950 as King Lear at Ruhrfestspiele in Recklinghausen. During a Burgtheater tour of Germany, Krauß caused a scandal in the role of John Gabriel Borkmann in December 1950 in Berlin: The guest performance was cancelled ahead of time by the city’s senate because of demonstrations against Krauß in front of the theatre. Performances would have only been possible under police protection.

In 1951, Krauß regained German citizenship, and in 1954, his rehabilitation culminated when he received the Federal Cross of Merit as well as the Iffland-Ring. During the 1950s, Krauß repeatedly performed in West Germany, for instance, in Hamburg, in West Berlin, and in Düsseldorf. Furthermore, he starred in three films. However, these films did not distinguish themselves from the common standard of contemporary restorative German cinema.

Werner Krauß was married three times. From 1908 to 1930, he was married to Paula Saenger. Their son Egon was born in 1913. From 1931 to 1940, Krauß was married to the actress Maria ("Migo") Bard, and from 1940 on, he was married to Liselotte Graf. Their son Gregor was born 1945. During a performance of "King Lear" at Burgtheater on October 20, 1959, Krauß suffered a qualm. He died after a longer illness on October 20, 1959, in Vienna.

FILMOGRAFIE

1957/1958
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1942/1943
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1941
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1940
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1938/1939
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1936
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1935
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1931
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1928/1929
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1927
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1925
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1925
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1925
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1923/1924
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1923
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1923
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1922/1923
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1922/1923
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1922/1923
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1922/1923
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1921/1922
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1921/1922
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1921
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1921
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1920/1921
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1920
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1919/1920
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1919/1920
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1919
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1919
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1919
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1919
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1919
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1918/1919
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1918/1919
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1918
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1918
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1917/1918
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1917
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1917
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1916/1917
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1916/1917
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1916
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1916
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