09 January 2014

Hermann Thimig

Austrian film and stage actor and director Hermann Thimig (1890-1982) made 99 films during six decades. He was often cast as a reserved character. He was either shy, loveable or dreamy - like a child who looks with big eyes at the world around him.

Hermann Thimig
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm, no. 9544. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hermann Thimig
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 6414. Photo: Kiba Verleih / Felton-Film.

Shy, Loveable or Dreamy

Hermann Friedrich August Thimig (sometimes written as Thiemig) was born in a dynasty of famous actors in Wien (Vienna), Austria-Hungary (now Austria), in 1890.

His father was the actor and director Hugo Thimig, who later became the manager of the Burgtheater in Vienna. His mother Fanny Thimig as well as both his sister Helen Thimig and his brother Hans Thimig were also actors. They often worked together on stage and in films.

Hermann started his professional career in 1910 at the Hoftheater (Court Theater) in Meiningen till the First World War interfered. In 1915 he could leave the army for medical reasons and went to Berlin to play at the Schauspielhaus and the Volksbühne (People's Stage).

A change in the Max Reinhardt Ensemble at the Deutschen Theater in 1916 gave Thimig his breakthrough.

In the same year he also made his film debut in the drama Die Gräfin Heyers/Countess Heyers (William Wauer, 1916). Then he was the partner of Ossi Oswalda in the comedy Ossis Tagebuch/Ossi's Diary (Ernst Lubitsch, 1917), and of Henny Porten in Auf Probe gestellt/Being Tested (Rudolf Briebach, 1918).

He was often cast as reserved characters. He was either shy, loveable or dreamy - like a child who looks with big eyes at the world around him.

Hermann Thimig & Felix Bressart in Die Privatsekretärin (1931)
Dutch postcard by Remaco-Film, no. 229. Hermann Thimig and Felix Bressart in Die Privatsekretärin/The Private Secretary (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931).

Renate Müller, Hermann Thimig
Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 336. Photo: City Film. Publicity still from Die Privatsekretärin/The Private Secretary (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931) with Renate Müller.

Hermann Thiemig
Dutch postcard, no. 335. Photo: City Film.

Ernst Lubitsch

In the following years Hermann Thimig acted successfully in films as Moral und Sinnlichkeit/Morals and Sensuality (Georg Jacoby, 1919) with Erika Glässner, Die Brüder Karamasoff/The Brothers Karamasov (Carl Froelich, 1920) starring Fritz Kortner and Emil Jannings, and the comedy Kleider machen Leute/Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds (Hans Steinhoff, 1921) opposite his brother Hans Thimig.

Hermann appeared in three more comedies by Ernst Lubitsch: the comic fantasy Die Puppe/The Doll (1919) starring Ossi Oswalda, Die Bergkatze/The Mountain Cat (1921) with Pola Negri and Thimig as a timid bandit, and Die Flamme/The Flame (1923) with Negri and Alfred Abel.

Lubitsch knew how to integrate Thimig's original talent for the comic lover persona into his own satiric comedy style.

Thimig was also performing in the theatre. In 1924 he returned to Vienna to perform till 1932 at the Theater in der Josefstadt under the direction of Max Reinhardt. His greatest stage success was his role in 1924 as Truffaldino in Carlo Goldoni’s play Der Diener zweier Herren/The Servant of Two Gentlemen, directed by Max Reinhardt.

In 1918 he had his first engagement as a director at the Theater des Westens.

Successful silent films in which Thimig performed were Das Mädel mit der Maske/The Girl With the Mask (Victor Janson, 1922) again opposite Oswalda, the Cinderella variation Der verlorene Schuh/The Lost Shoe (Ludwig Berger, 1923) with Helga Thomas, and the Kammerspiel film Napoleon auf St. Helena/Napoleon at St. Helena (Lupu Pick, 1923) starring Werner Krauss.

Hermann Thimig and Anny Ondra
Dutch postcard. Photo: City Film. Publicity still with Hermann Thimig and Anny Ondra in Kiki (Carl Lamac, 1932).

Hermann Thimig & Magda Schneider
 Dutch postcard by distributor City-Film. Photo: Hermann Thimig and Magda Schneider in Glück über Nacht/Happiness Over Night (Max Neufeld, 1932). Mark the modern furniture and set design.

Renate Müller and Hermann Thimig in Viktor und Viktoria
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 195/1. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Viktor und Viktoria/Viktor and Viktoria (Reinhold Schünzel, 1933) with Hermann Thimig and Renate Müller.

Operettas and Comedies

When the sound film was introduced Hermann Thimig decided to focus on film operettas and comedies.

To his well-known films of the this period belong Die Drei-Groschen-Oper/The 3 Penny Opera (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1931) based on the text by Bertholt Brecht, and Mein Leopold/My Leopold ( Hans Steinhoff, 1931) starring Harald Paulsen.

He appeared again opposite Anny Ondra in the comedies Eine Nacht im Paradies/A Night in Paradise (Carl Lamac, 1932) and Kiki (Carl Lamac, 1932).

Other popular films were Kleiner Mann - was nun?/Little Man What Now (Fritz Wendhausen, 1933) with Hertha Thiele, Der Himmel auf Erden/Heaven on Earth (E. W. Emo, 1935) with Ilona Massey and Heinz Rühmann, and Der geheimnisvolle Mr. X/The Mysterious Mister X (J.A. Hübler-Kahla, 1936) with Ralph Arthur Roberts.

Critic H.T.S. wrote in 1936 in The New York Times about his the Viennese comedy Die Fahrt in die Jugend/The Trip to Youth (Carl Boese, 1935): "Hermann Thimig is excellent, as always, in the double rôle of an old Baron who goes to Vienna to be made young enough to win the hand of Cilly, star of a dancing troupe, and of his nephew, who joins the party at the estate just in time to keep them all guessing for a while. The charming Liane Haid, despite her long stage and screen experience, looks youthful enough to justify her refusal to be an 'old man's darling' and to warrant Leopold's enthusiasm for his uncle's choice."

Thimig often played with the in 1937 deceased actress Renate Müller, like in Der kleine Seitensprung/The Little Infidelity (Reinhold Schünzel, 1931), Mädchen zum Heiraten/Girls To Marry (Wilhelm Thiele, 1932) and the hugely successful Viktor und Viktoria/Victor and Victoria (Reinhold Schünzel, 1933).

Hal Erickson writes on AllMovie about the latter: "The most popular of Reinhold Schünzel's German directorial efforts, Viktor und Viktoria is a spoof of such music-hall 'male impersonators' as Vesta Tilley. Unable to get a show-business job, would-be singer Renate Müller is urged by her somewhat epicene friend Hermann Thimig to adopt a brand-new stage persona. Our heroine re-invents herself as a cross-dressing entertainer, posing as a man (Viktor) who poses as a woman (Viktoria)! The fun begins when Muller falls in love with Adolf Wohlbrück, who can't quite understand why he's so attractive to the aggressively male Viktoria. Viktor und Viktoria was remade in England by Jessie Matthews as First a Girl (1936), then of course by Blake Edwards as the 1981 Julie Andrews vehicle Victor/Victoria.'"

Hermann Thimig
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6508/1, 1931-1932.

Hermann Thimig
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8741/1, 1933-1934. Photo: NDLS. Publicity still for Karneval und Liebe/Carnival of Love (Carl Lamac, 1934).

Hermann Thimig
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7383/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Aafa Film.

Older Gentleman

From 1934 on Hermann Thimig was working for the equally famous Burgtheater in Vienna, where he mainly appeared in roles as an older, distinguished gentleman or a quirky count. He played these characters also in films until the end of the war. Among those films were Johann (Robert A. Stemmle, 1943) starring Theo Lingen, and Die kluge Marianne/Smart Marianne (Hans Thimig, 1943) with Paula Wessely.

After Austria's Anschluss to Nazi-Germany, he was chosen to be a Staatsschauspieler (actor of the state) in 1938. In the final phase of World War II Adolf Hitler placed him on the Gottbegnadeten list of the most important artists, in August 1944. For this reason he didn't have to join the army and fight at the front.

After the war he continued his film career in such films as Der Prozess/The Proces (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1948) a drama about anti-Semitism with Ewald Balser, Geheimnisvolle Tiefe/Mysterious Shadows (G.W. Pabst, 1949) staring Paul Hubschmid, and the musical comedy Abenteuer im Schloss/Adventures in the Castle (Rudolf Steinboeck, 1952).

His final appearance for the cameras was in the TV comedy Der Arzt wider Willen/Doctor Against His Will (Hans Hollmann, 1967) with Paul Dahlke. In 1965 Thimig became a honorary member of the Burgtheater and in 1969 he was awarded with the Filmband in Gold for long and outstanding achievements in the German cinema.

Hermann Thimig died in 1982 in Vienna.

He was married twice. First with actress Hanna Wisser and in second marriage with actress Vilma Degischer. He had three daughters: from his first marriage Christine (1923), and from his second marriage Hedwig (1939) and Johanna (1943), who also became actors.

Scene from Viktor und Viktoria/Victor and Victoria (1933). Source: atqui (YouTube).

Hermann Thimig and Lizzi Holzschuh sing So verliebt (So much in love) in Der Himmel auf Erden/Heaven on Earth (1935). Source: BD 130 (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D'Heil (Steffi-line) (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), H.T.S. (New York Times), Filmportal.de, IMDb and Wikipedia.

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