Paul Henreid (1908-1992)

Paul Henreid
Paul Henreid
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Paul Henreid was a tall, elegant movie actor with a beautiful speaking voice who appeared as the charming, romantic leading man, in many movies during the 1940's and 1950's although he never reached the top echelon of Hollywood stars. He is now best remembered for playing Jeremiah Durrance opposite Bette Davis in 'Now, Voyager' and Victor Laszlo opposite Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in 'Casablanca', both in 1942. His movie career waned after 1950 when he was blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) but he then created a second successful career as a television director and producer.

In his prime, the languid Henreid was a natural successor to Charles Boyer as the suave, Continental man of the world. In all he acted in or directed more than 300 movie and television dramas.


He was born Paul Georg Julius Freiherr von Hernried Ritter von Wassel-Waldingau on 10 January 1908 in the city of Trieste, which is now part of Italy but then was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family were wealthy Viennese bankers and his father, Baron Carl Alphons von Hernried, was one of Emperor Franz Joseph's financial advisers, but after his father's death during WWI, the family fortunes were severely reduced.

After schooling in Trieste Paul studied at the prestigious Maria Theresa Academy in Vienna, where he first developed an interest in the theater. His family were opposed to an acting career, and, after graduating in 1927, Paul began studying at the Institute of Graphic Arts with the intention of becoming a book publisher. He began working as a book designer and translator whilst attending acting school at night.

He was seen performing in Vienna by a young Otto Preminger, then directing for top Austrian stage director, Max Reinhardt and working with some of the top actors in Europe. Henreid's first role for Reinhardt was in 1933, playing a schoolboy in 'Faust' and he became one of the leading figures in Reinhardt's theater company in Vienna. He developed a reputation for acting of the highest quality in stage performances in such plays as 'Men in White' and 'Mizzi'. He also made his first film appearances in 'Dawn' in 1933, the first film to be screened under the newly installed Nazi government; its premiere was just three days after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany. He had two more small parts in 'Love in Morocco' in 1933 and 'Hohe Schule' in 1934.

He was building a reputation for himself and in 1934 he turned down the chance of a film contract with Germany's UFA film studio. He was known as an avowed anti-Nazi and was designated by the new government as an "official enemy of the Third Reich". In 1935 he escaped Hitler's influence and moved to Britain.

After several stage appearances in London, Henreid resumed his film career with small roles in three movies in England: 'Goodbye Mr. Chips' (portraying a German professor), in 1939, and 'Mad Men of Europe' and 'Night Train to Munich' in 1940.

Hollywood 1940

That year, he moved to the United States (becoming an American citizen in 1941) and he quickly established a reputation on Broadway with a powerful depiction of a Nazi in 'Flight to the West', in 1940. This led to work in the popular early radio serial 'Joyce Jordan - Girl Interne' and then to a film contract with RKO in 1941.

New Name, New Persona

From the outset, RKO insisted that he change his surname, from the Germanic "von Hernried". He resisted their suggested "Herndon" and "Henrie" but agreed to the anglicised "Henreid". As Paul Henreid, he was now finally able to escape the stereotypical Germanic roles, and to play the romantic and heroic leading man role at which he was so adept.

His debut Hollywood film and his first for RKO was 'Joan of Paris' in 1942. He played a French pilot flying for the RAF and it was the first of several movies in which he would personify the wartime plight of Europe. In the same year he made the two films which would define his career and make him a Hollywood legend.

'Now, Voyager' and 'Casablanca' 1942

In 'Now Voyager' Henreid starred as a cultured, man of the world, love interest of Bette Davis, and achieved instant cult fame by lighting two cigarettes simultaneously, and, with a knowing look, passing one to Davis. Then came the classic 'Casablanca' with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Again Henreid played the sympathetic European role of Victor Laszlo, a Resistance hero, who wins Bergman from under the nose of Bogey's Rick Blaine.

Henreid's movie career had peaked although he did not know it at the time. He continued to appear in movies regularly for the next two decades without ever coming close to the impact his 1942 movies had created. He portrayed a Polish aristocrat in 'In Our Time' in 1944 and an Irish priest in 'Devotion' in 1946. In the same year he played the lead role in 'Of Human Bondage' but the film was panned by the critics as just a weak repeat of the Bette Davis 1934 success.

In 1949 he appeared with Burt Lancaster and his 'Casablanca' co-stars, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre in the promising adventure movie 'Rope of Sand', but it was a far cry from his 1942 successes and, again the reviews were disappointing. During the 1950's Henreid continued to appear regularly in mediocre movies which were invariably poorly received, such as 'Last of the Buccaneers' in 1950 and 'Thief of Damascus' in 1952. In 1955 he valiantly tried to carry the poorly scripted and poorly directed swashbuckler, 'Pirates of Tripoli', but, it too, failed at the box office.


The House Un-American Activities Committee, better known by its acronym, "HUAC", was an organisation in the United States House of Representatives which was formed in the 1930's to investigate suspected cases of disloyalty to the United States government. In 1950 under Senator Joseph McCarthy it began a high-handed witch hunt against suspected Communists in Hollywood. Henreid was vocal in his opposition to McCarthyism and was one of a group of Hollywood stars, led by Humphrey Bogart, who went to Washington to make a stand against the excesses of HUAC. As a result he was blacklisted as a "communist sympathiser" by HUAC which did great damage to his career.

Directorial Career

As his acting career came to a gradual and inglorious end during the late 1950's, Henreid switched to an active role in producing and directing movies, both on screen and on television. His film-directing career began with 'For Men Only' in 1952, in which he also appeared as an actor. His television career began in 1953 in the series 'The Ford Television Theater', and he continued to act from time to time on the small screen for the next twenty years in such series as 'Playhouse 90' in 1957, 'The Aquanauts' in 1960 and 'It Takes a Thief' in 1969.

He enjoyed the challenge and immediacy of television directing, which he began in 1957 with an episode of 'The Schlitz Playhouse'. He went on to direct more than 80 episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" for television between 1957 and 1962, hired by Hitchcock in defiance of the blacklist.

Throughout the 1960's Henreid continued to direct many series for television, including 'The Third Man' between 1962 and 1965, 'Bonanza' in 1966, 'The Big Valley' from 1965 to 1968 and 'Bracken's World' for two years from 1969.

He also directed two movies in 1964, 'Dead Ringer' starring his old friend, Bette Davis, cast in the dual role of twin sisters, and 'Ballad in Blue', starring Ray Charles, who was then at the pinnacle of his musical career.

As well as his extensive television work, Henreid continued to act in occasional movies during the 1960's, including 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' in 1962, directed by Vincente Minnelli, and 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' in 1969 with Katharine Hepburn. His final movie appearance was with Richard Burton in 1977 in 'Exorcist II: The Heretic'.


Henreid married Elizabeth Gluck, a Viennese dress designer whom he called Lisl, in 1936. It was Lisl who financially supported Henreid when the couple arrived in Hollywood in 1940, before he established himself. The couple had two daughters, Mimi and Monika and stayed together until Henreid's death.

Paul Henreid died of pneumonia on 29 March, 1992 in Santa Monica, California. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica

Paul Henreid Academy Awards

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Paul Henreid Filmography

Dawn (as Paul von Hernreid)
Love in Morocco (uncredited)
High School (aka Hohe Schule)(as Paul von Hernried)
Eva, the Factory Girl(as Paul von Hernried)
...nur ein Komödiant(as Paul von Hernreid)
Victoria the Great(uncredited)
Goodbye, Mr Chips(as Paul Von Hernried)
Mad Men of Europe (as Paul von Hernreid)
Night Train to Munich (as Paul von Hernried)
Under Your Hat(as Paul von Henreid)
Joan of Paris
Now, Voyager
In Our Time
Between Two Worlds
The Conspirators
Hollywood Canteen
The Spanish Main
Of Human Bondage
Song of Love
Hollow Triumph
Rope of Sand