15 July 2012

O.E. Hasse

German actor and director O.E. Hasse (1903–1978) became a star of the German cinema when he was already in his fifties. He also appeared in several international productions, including Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953) and Costa-Gravas’ État de Siège/State of Siege (1972).

O.E. Hasse
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. I 228. Photo: CCC / Constantin / Grimm. Publicity still for Die Letzten werden die Ersten sein/The Last Ones Shall Be First (1957, Rolf Hansen).

Arrested Under § 175
Otto Eduard Hasse was born to Wilhelm Gustav Eduard Hasse, a blacksmith, and Valeria Hasse in the village of Obersitzko in Imperial Germany (now Obrzycko, Poland) in 1903. He gained his first stage experiences at highschool at Kolmar together with his classmate Berta Drews. Hasse began to study law at the University of Berlin but abandoned this study after three semesters and moved over to the Reinhardt-Seminar, Max Reinhardt's actor school at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin to receive an actor's education. His film career began already in 1924 with an uncredited small part in F.W. Murnau’s classic Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924) starring Emil Jannings. The following decade he appeared incidentally in supporting roles in films like the comedy Peter Voß, der Millionendieb/Peter Voss Who Stole Millions (1932, Ewald André Dupont) featuring Willi Forst, and Die vertauschte Braut/The exchanged bride (1934, Carl Lamac) with Anny Ondra. After several performances at Sommertheater Thale in the Harz region, he became a cast member of Junge Bühne Berlin, and went to the Deutsches Theater in 1925/26. From 1926 to 1929, he performed at Vereinigte Theater Breslau and at several theatres in Berlin. From 1930 till 1939 he played at the Kammerspiele in Munich. Here, Hasse met Karl Valentin and worked with him on the film Der verhexte Scheinwerfer/The Bewitched headlights (1934, Carl Lamac). In Munich he also worked for the first time as a stage director. In the spring of 1939 he was arrested under § 175 because of his homosexuality and he was sentenced to two months in prison. It was a relatively light sentence, because he had confessed and because of his artistic achievements. Reportedly Adolph Hitler was impressed by his performance in the play Caesar and Cleopatra. After his sentence he moved to the German Theater in Prague and shortened his name to O.E. instead of Otto Eduard. Among his films during the Nazi period were the propaganda film Stukas (1941, Karl Ritter) with Carl Raddatz, the film biography Rembrandt (1942, Hans Steinhoff) and Dr. Crippen an Bord/Dr. Crippen (1942, Erich Engels). In 1944 Hasse was conscripted to the Luftwaffe and became slightly wounded.

 O.E. Hasse, Romy Schneider
Dutch postcard by N.V. Int. Filmpers (I.F.P.), Amsterdam, no. 1030. Photo: Erma / Herzog Film. Publicity still for Kitty und die grosse Welt/Kitty and the Great Big World (1956, Alfred Weidenmann).

Leader of the German Military Secret Service
After World War II, O.E. Hasse was a cast member of the Hebbel Theater, and of the Schlossparktheater. Furthermore, he appeared at numerous Berlin theatres. On the big screen, Hasse had only played minor roles until then, but after the war, he became enormously successful. First he played in German films like Berliner Ballade/Berlin Ballad (1948, Robert A. Stemmle) with Gert Fröbe, and the crime drama Epilog: Das Geheimnis der Orplid/Epilogue (1950, Helmut Käutner). Then followed roles in international productions like The Big Lift (1950, George Seaton) about Operation Vittles - the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift, the war film Decision Before Dawn (1951, Anatole Litvak), and Betrayed (1954, Gottfried Reinhardt), starring Clark Gable and Lana Turner. In Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953, Alfred Hitchcock) he played the murderer – an exiled artist, helpless and paranoid. Another acclaimed part was the title role in the film biography Canaris/Deadly Decision (1954, Alfred Weidenmann) about Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, leader of the German military Secret Service during the Nazi period. Hasse also played in two parts of the 08/15 trilogy (1955, Paul May) with Joachim Fuchsberger, and in the comedy Kitty und die große Welt/Kitty and the great world (1956, Alfred Weidenmann) with Romy Schneider. In the French crime film Les Aventures d'Arsène Lupin/The Adventures of Arsène Lupin (1957, Jacques Becker), he appeared as Kaiser Wilhelm II opposite Robert Lamoureux. He was successful with literary adaptations as Der Maulkorb/The Muzzle (1958, Wolfgang Staudte) after Heinrich Spoerl, Frau Warrens Gewerbe/Mrs. Warren's Profession (1960, Ákos Ráthonyi) after George Bernard Shaw, and Die Ehe des Herrn Mississippi/The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi (1961, Kurt Hoffmann) based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. In 1959 he was a member of the jury at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival.

 O.E. Hasse
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. A 1307. Photo: Fama / Europa / Lindner. Publicity still for Canaris/Deadly Decision (1954, Alfred Weidenmann).

The German Voice of Humphrey Bogart
During the 1960’s, O.E. Hasse focused on his stage work, but also appeared in films like Le Caporal épinglé/The Elusive Corporal (1962, Jean Renoir) starring Jean-Pierre Cassel, the Krimi Die Todesstrahlen des Dr. Mabuse/The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse (1964, Hugo Fregonese) starring Peter van Eyck, and the French drama Trois chambres à Manhattan/Three Rooms in Manhattan (1965, Marcel Carné) with Annie Girardot. One of his later films was the international political thriller État de siège/State of Siege (1972, Costa-Gravas) starring Yves Montand. Since 1950, Hasse was also the German dubbing voice of Charles Laughton, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. In 1974 he was honored with the Großes Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Germany’s Cross of Merit). He continued to film and played as old man in films as Eiszeit/Ice Age (1975, Peter Zadek), the Italian film L'età della pace/The Peaceful Age (1976, Fabio Carpi) and the TV film Konkurs/Bankruptcy (1977, Alfred Weidenmann). O.E. Hasse died in Berlin in 1978. His life partner for 30 years was Max Wiener, who worked as a manager at the Swiss media corporation Ringier. Since 1981 the German Academy of Arts donates an O.E. Hasse Prize to benefit young actors.

Trailer Canaris/Deadly Decision (1954). Source: Filmreporter.de (YouTube).

Trailer Kitty und die große Welt/Kitty and the great world (1956). Source: HoppeEntertainment (YouTube).

Sources: Gudrun Grimpe Christen (Gbbb-Berlin) (German), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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