Oscar Actors: Bassermann, Albert–Foreign Correspondent

Career Summary:

German-born Actor

Oscar Nomination: 1, Foreign Correspondent

Age at death: 84

Albert Basserman was born in Mannheim, Germany on September 7, 1867.

Bassermann studied chemistry but was drawn to the stage, working with the theater of Max Reinhardt between 1909 and 1915. He made his film debut in the German film “Der Andere” (1913), a variation of the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story.”

He was considered to be one of the greatest German-speaking actors of his generation and received the famous Iffland-Ring. He was married to Elsa Bassermann with whom he frequently performed.

Bassermann began his acting career in 1887 in Mannheim, his birthplace, after studying chemistry at the Technical University of Karlsruhe. He then moved to Berlin, and began work at the Deutsches Theater Berlin from 1904.

In 1909, he started working at the Lessing Theatre, though he also continued at the Deutsches Theater, working there with Max Reinhardt from 1909 to 1915. Roles included Othello in 1910, Faust Part II with Friedrich Kayssler in 1911,Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and August Strindberg’s The Storm in 1913.

One of the first German theatre actors to work in film, he appeared in features by Richard Oswald, Ernst Lubitsch, Leopold Jessner and Lupu Pick.

In 1933, Bassermann left Germany and lived in Switzerland, then moved to the U.S. in 1938.

Hitler personally held him in high regard, and Bassermann was told that if he wanted to continue to perform in Germany, he would have to get divorced, because his wife was Jewish. He did not get divorced, and instead moved to Switzerland.

His poor English forced him to learn lines phonetically, and he was able to find work as a character actor.

Oscar Nomination: 1

For his performance as the Dutch statesman Van Meer in Hitchcock’s 1940 Foreign Correspondent, Bassermann was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

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Bassermann competed for the Supporting Actor Oscar with Walter Brennan, who won for “The Westerner,” William Gargan in “They Knew What They Wanted,” Jack Oakie in “The Great Dictator,” and James Stephenson in “The Letter.”

He returned to Europe in 1946, and made his final film appearance in “The Red Shoes.”

Bassermann died on May 16, 1952, in an air crash near the Zurich Airport. He was 85.