February 2, 2014, - 8:52 am

Maximillian Schell, Actor Extraordinaire, RIP

By Debbie Schlussel

Sad to hear that one of my favorite film actors, Maximillian Schell, died yesterday at age 83.


Maximillian Schell in “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “The Odessa File”

Although he masterfully portrayed Nazis in many films, Schell’s family actually fled their native Austria to Switzerland to escape Hitler and his henchmen. My favorite Schell roles were his portrayal of a defense attorney in “Judgment at Nuremberg” (his breakout role) and his portrayal of a Nazi who wanted to rebirth the Third Reich in “The Odessa File” (a great thriller that stands the test of time–read my article on the movie and its real-life incarnations). And don’t forget his role in the fabulous mob parody, “The Freshman” and the stylish caper movie, “Topkapi.” He had 107 acting credits, according to IMDB, but was also a writer and director in his prolific showbiz career. And he was an Oscar winner . . . when the Oscars still rewarded good acting (instead of “good” lefty politics).

They don’t make actors like him anymore.

Maximillian Schell, Rest In Peace.

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17 Responses

Yes he was a great man. I liked the O.D.E.S.S.A. File as a much better movie than “monument men” which is distortion of history and what really happened.

Jonathan Gartner on February 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

He is an Austrian actor. His sister Maria, who died a decade ago was also a famous actress in her own right.

The other actor from the German-speaking World in the 1960s was the German star Hardy Kruger. His daughter Diana is a standout on the new cable TV show, “The Bridge.”

Actors like them just aren’t up to their standards nowadays. And European actors seldom seek international roles.

I keep thinking about the Golden Age Of Cinema and all of its great lights are flickering out by one by one. Maximilian Schell was of the few stll left and he’s now gone.

NormanF on February 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Great actor and great actors are becoming pretty much redundant these days so it’s doubly sad.

Cross of Iron is another great film he acted in.

Captain Stransky: I will show you how a true Prussian officer fights.

Sargeant Steiner: Then I will show you, where the Iron Crosses grow.

Frankz on February 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I remembered “Judgment at Nuremburg” many years ago and was really impressed with the cast. Schell was great as Dr. Reinhardt in “The Black Hole”. Did you know that he was a good friend of Vanessa Redgrave and was casted as her ex-husband in “Deep Impact”?

Rob on February 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Oh! I almost forgot, Schell played the SS general in the movie, “A Bridge Too Far”. He played as the real life Wilhelm Bittrich, the SS officer who was denounced by the Nazis toward the end of the war and was the source for Cornelius Ryan’s book for which the movie was based on.

Rob on February 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Schnell was excellent in Judgement at Nuremberg, its one of the only Holocaust movies that is actually good as a movie.

Jew613 on February 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm

He was a splendid actor who was blessed with a wonderful screen presence. He was terrific in the ODESSA File as well as the Freshman. A truly talented actor, unlike some of the “actors” we see on movie screens today. Ashton Kutcher eat your heart out.

Peter on February 2, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Possibly my favorite actor as well RIP. Certainly Judgment at Nuremberg the role with which I’m most familiar. I own it on DVD. I was introduced to the film by one of my favorite professors in college and thought Mr. Schell was amazing ever since.

He also played Peter the Great in a TV film/miniseries in the 80s. Sadly that has hag Vanessa Redgrave in it, but Schell was great in the parts he was in, despite reportedly taking ill at the time.

Brian R. on February 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Robert Merril version of the Star Spangle Banner was vastly superior to the Opera singer today. Do not sing it like an Opera Aria. It was really meant for baritone.

maman on February 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm

He was a very worthy actor. You would be hard pressed to find such a talent today.

Worry on February 2, 2014 at 8:41 pm

So sad the world is praising a guy who died abusing drugs, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, instead of Schell.

RIP Maximillian Schell

Jeff W. on February 2, 2014 at 11:14 pm

A great actor, indeed. My favorite film of his: 1981’s “The Chosen”, although he was overshadowed by Rod Steiger as a Chasidisha Rabbi. Performance of a lifetime.

phillip slepian on February 3, 2014 at 7:51 am

Absolutely awesome actor Debbie. Your column is spot on. He was integral to some of my favorite movies. Especially the two you mentioned.

jake49 on February 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

An awesome actor who could play so many parts; but I always loved him as a German WW II officer. He played a great “Capt Stransky” (opposite James Coburn and James Mason) in “The Cross of Iron” (possibly one of the best war movies ever made). Despite his excellent English, his German tone (more than a mere accent) always came through. I can still hear him slamming Triebig and his homosexual lover, telling the private to repeat something “Laut! Lauter! LAUTER!”

Schell’s brother, Carl, was also an actor, and played von Richthofen in “The Blue Max.”

Russ on February 3, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Me too…I love him in “Cross of Iron”

Rick on February 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm

He played Reuven’s dad in The Chosen! That’s how I remember him best, from the film adaptation of one of my favorite books.

Veronica on February 8, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    And The Man in the Glass Booth as well.

    Veronica on February 8, 2014 at 9:47 pm

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