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Wolfgang Preiss

Wolfgang Preiss

Wolfgang Preiss (27 February 1910 – 27 November 2002) was a German theatre, film and television actor. The son of a teacher, Preiss studied philosophy, German, and drama in the early 1930s. He also took private acting classes with Hans Schlenck, making his stage début in Munich in 1932. He appeared in various theatre productions in Heidelberg, Königsberg, Bonn, Bremen, Stuttgart and Berlin. In 1942, he made his film début - he was specifically exempted from military service - in the UFA production Die grosse Liebe with Zarah Leander. After the end of the Second World War, Preiss returned to the theatre, and from 1949 worked extensively dubbing films into German. In 1954, he returned to film acting, appearing in Alfred Weidenmann's Canaris. The following year, Preiss played the lead role of Claus von Stauffenberg in Falk Harnack's film The Plot to Assassinate Hitler, which dramatised the 20 July plot. This role brought Preiss to popular attention and also the 1956 Federal Film Award. From then on, Preiss was largely typecast in the role of the upright and obligation-conscious German officer to the other A-list actor playing the fanatic (i.e. Paul Scofield in The Train), a part he played in many films, later reprising it in numerous international productions, predominantly in Italy and the USA, while occasionally playing a more typically cynical or brutal Nazi officer. Preiss appeared in such productions as The Longest Day (1962), Otto Preminger's The Cardinal (1963), and with Jean-Paul Belmondo in Is Paris Burning? (1966). He starred alongside Burt Lancaster in John Frankenheimer's The Train (1964), Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express (1965), Robert Mitchum in Anzio (1968), with Richard Burton, in the title role of Erwin Rommel in Raid on Rommel (1971), and The Boys From Brazil (1978) with Gregory Peck. Preiss played Field Marshal Von Rundstedt in Richard Attenborough's all-star war epic A Bridge Too Far (1977). From 1968–1988 he played in American film and television productions five different German field marshals, having already played a fictional Afrika Korps general in an episode of The Rat Patrol (1966). In addition, for the cinema-going public of West Germany, he became the epitome of the evil genius in his role as Doctor Mabuse, a role he first played in 1960 (following Rudolf Klein-Rogge) in Fritz Lang's The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. He went on to play the role four more times. In the 1980s, Preiss turned to television, notably playing General Walther von Brauchitsch in the American TV miniseries Winds of War and War and Remembrance, based on the books of Herman Wouk. In 1987, Preiss received a second Federal Film Award for his outstanding work in film. In film dubbing, Preiss provided the voice for such actors as Lex Barker, Christopher Lee, Anthony Quinn, Claude Rains, Richard Widmark and Conrad Veidt as "Major Strasser" in the 1975 remastered version of Casablanca.