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02 January 2013

Walter Reyer

Good-looking Austrian actor Walter Reyer (1922 – 1999) appeared in over 50 films and television shows between 1954 and 1997, but foremost he was a stage actor. For a long time he worked for the famous Burgtheater in Vienna and the Salzburger Festspielen.

Walter Reyer
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3885. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Czerwonski / Erma Prod. / Ufa Filmverleih. Publicity still for Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress (1957, Ernst Marischka).

Walther Reyer
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4662. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Lars Looschen / Ufa. Publicity still for Jacqueline (1959, Wolfgang Liebeneiner).

Sissi
Walter (sometimes Walther) Reyer was born in Hall in Tyrol, Austria in 1922. His father was an officer. After graduating, he first studied medicine and then acting with Fred Liewehr. At 23, he started his career as a radio announcer at Radio Innsbruck. In 1947 he made his stage debut at the Vorarlberger Landesbühne in Bregenz. In the following years he performed in theatres in Innsbruck and Graz. He made his film debut in the West-German comedy Das Sündige Dorf/The Sinful Village (1954, Ferdinand Dörfler) as the son of Joe Stöckel. In 1955 Reyer came to Vienna and played alternately at the Theater in der Josefstadt and the Burgtheater. From 1956 to 1958 he was a member of the Burgtheater, where he played young heroes. After 1958, he kept attached to the famous theater company, but he mainly played character roles. Among his most successful films were Sissi – Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi – The Young Empress (1956, Ernst Marischka) and Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress (1957, Ernst Marischka), starring Romy Schneider. These were the second and third parts of the highly romanticized trilogy about the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, nicknamed Sissi. He was the dashing Hungarian count Andrassy, and appeared also in other films in uniform. Historical films were quite popular at the time. Reyer played another supporting part as assistant doctor in the drama Der Arzt von Stalingrad/The Doctor of Stalingrad (1958, Géza von Radványi) starring O.E. Hasse. The film, based on a novel by Heinz G. Konsalik, addresses the issue of German Prisoners of War held by the Soviet Union in camps well into the 1950's. He then played a major role in the adventure film Der Tiger von Eschnapur/The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959, Fritz Lang) and its sequel Das Indische Grabmal/The Indian Tomb (1959, Fritz Lang). Fritz Lang returned to Germany to direct these films, which together tell the story of a German architect (Paul Hubschmid), the Indian Maharahaja (Reyer) for whom he is supposed to build schools and hospitals, and the Eurasian dancer (Debra Paget) who comes between them. Lang's Indian epic is based on work he did forty years earlier on a silent version of Das Indische Grabmal. He and his then-wife Thea von Harbou co-wrote the screenplay, basing it on Von Harbou's novel of the same name. Lang was set to direct, but that job was taken over from him by producer Joe May. Though Lang did not control the final form of this silent version, it is one of his most revered films.

Walter Reyer, Romy Schneider
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 1064. Dutch licency holder for Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof. Photo: Ufa.

Walter Reyer, Romy Schneider
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 1060. Dutch licency holder for Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof. Photo: Ufa.

Romy Schneider, Walter Reyer
Dutch postcard by Int. Filmpers (I.F.P.), Amsterdam, no. 1535. Publicity still for Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress (1957, Ernst Marischka).

Everyman
Walter Reyer was foremost a stage actor. He preferred challenging roles in plays by William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller and the Austrian dramatists. From 1960 till 1968 he performed every year at the famous Salzburger Festspielen (Salzburg Festival). Every year, he played here the title role of Jedermann/Everyman, the play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. During the early 1960’s, Walter Reyer also continued to appear in the cinema. He starred in the film version of Jedermann/Everyman (1961, Gottfried Reinhardt). The film was selected as the Austrian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee. He also played the title role in another stage adaptation, Don Carlos (1961, Alfred Stöger), based on Burgtheater production of the play by Friedrich Schiller. In France, he co-starred in L'Oeuil du malin/The Third Lover (1962, Claude Chabrol) with Jacques Charrier. It is one of Chabrol's first films to include social criticism on bourgeoisie lifestyles that would become one of his trademarks in later films. The film tells the story of a journalist in southern Germany who stays with a novelist and his wife and gradually begins to destroy the young couple's lives. During the 1960’s Reyer started to work more for the new medium television. Through the years he had roles in many TV films based on stage plays and in Krimis like Tatort (1978). In 1984 he returned to the cinema in the international thriller The Amateur (1984, Charles Jarrott) with John Savage. He also appeared in the German crime film Ärztinnen/Woman Doctors (1984, Horst Seemann) starring Judy Winter. His final feature film was Die Schuld der Liebe/Debt of Love (1997, Andreas Gruber) with Sandrine Bonnaire. On TV, he was last seen in the popular series Der Bergdoktor/The Mountain Doctor (1992 – 1997, Klaus Gendries, Ulrich König) in which he played a veterinary. Walter Reyer was married four times. He first married actress Erika Remberg with whom he had a daughter, Veronika. He then married actresses Gretl Elf. With his third wife Claudia, he had four children: Claudia-Maria, former model Cordula, Cristina and Clemens. In 1992 the finally married his manager, Angela. He also had a son, Wolfgang, from an affair with former soubrette Käthe Lentsch. Walther Reyer died in 1999 in Innsbruck, Austria. He was 77. After his death, his wife Angela published the memoir Walther Reyer, Es fügte sich so… Erinnerungen und Betrachtungen (Walther Reyer It happened so ... memories and reflections).


Trailer for Sissi – Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi – The Young Empress (1956). Source: Kino Welt dvd (YouTube).


Scene from Das Indische Grabmal/The Indian Tomb (1959). Source: B.R. Schuck (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line) (German), Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

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