16 February 2014

Fritz Rasp

German film actor Fritz Rasp (1891–1976) appeared in 104 films between 1916 and 1976. He excelled in dark roles: villains, rapists, traitors. His most notable film parts were Der Schmale (The Thin Man) in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), Meinert in Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and J. J. Peachum in Die 3-Groschen-Oper/The Threepenny Opera (1931).

Fritz Rasp
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1738/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Typecast as the Villain

Fritz Heinrich Rasp was born in Bayreuth, Germany in 1891. He was the thirteenth child of the county surveyor Daniel Rasp and his wife Auguste Rasp-Grähl.

Fritz studied acting at the Theaterschule Otto Königin in München (Munich). Rasp debuted on the stage in 1909, as Amandus in Max Halbe's scandalous play Jugend (Youth) as the Münchner Schauspielhaus, and in 1914 he went on to work with the famous Max Reinhardt at the Deutschen Theater in Berlin.

In 1916 he made his film debut in the silent comedy Schuhpalast Pinkus/Shoe Palace Pinkus (Ernst Lubitsch, 1916) starring Lubitsch himself and Ossi Oswalda. It was part of the Sally series of films featuring Lubitsch as Sally, a sharp young Berliner of Jewish heritage. After leaving school, the self-confident young man goes to work in a shoe shop and soon becomes a shoe tycoon.

Rasp also appeared in the fairy-tale Hans Trutz im Schlaraffenland/Hans Trutz in the land of plenty (Paul Wegener, 1917). After his military service (1916-1918), he started to work for Max Reinhardt again.

His breakthrough as a screen actor came in 1922, when he played one of the main characters in Fred Sauer’s film adaptation of the play Jugend/Youth.

During the early 1920s he appeared in such silent films as Zwischen Abend und Morgen/Between Evening and Morning (Arthur Robison, 1923) starring Werner Krauss, the expressionist film Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination/Warning Shadows (Arthur Robison, 1923) with Alexander Granach, and Ein Sommernachtstraum/Wood Love (Hans Neumann, 1925), an adaptation of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream starring Werner Krauss, Valeska Gert and Alexander Granach.

Filmportal.de: “While he was extremely versatile on stage, the screen actor Fritz Rasp – lean and tall with a narrow mouth and sunken eyes – is quickly typecast as the villain, a role which he often managed to subvert by adding layers of irony and psychological depth to his characters.”

A beautiful example is his part as Fredersen's spy Der Schmale (The Thin Man) in Fritz Lang's expressionist epic Metropolis (1927). The classic science-fiction film was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel (Joh Fredersen, the master of Metropolis) and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Many of the scenes in which Rasp appears were part of the Metropolis footage long believed lost until their recovery in 2008.

His role in Metropolis was soon followed by supporting parts in other masterpieces of the Weimar cinema, such as Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney/The Love of Jeanne Ney (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1927), and Spione/Spies (Fritz Lang, 1928).

He also appeared in very popular entertainment films like Der letzte Walzer/The Last Waltz (Arthur Robison, 1927) starring Liane Haid and Willy Fritsch, and Schinderhannes/The Prince of Rogues (Kurt Bernhardt, 1928) starring Hans Stüwe.

In 1929 Rasp appeared again in two classic films. He played the rapist Meinert opposite American silent star Louise Brooks in Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/Diary of a Lost Girl (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929). He reunited with Fritz Lang for the Science Fiction film Frau im Mond/Woman in the Moon (Fritz Lang, 1929) in which he played an evil American.

Fritz Rasp, Hilde von Stolz
German collectors card. With Hilde von Stolz.

Nazi Era

Fritz Rasp started the sound era with more great films. He played the thief Grundeis in the children film classic Emil und die Detektive/Emil and the Detectives (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1931) based on the novel by Erich Kästner, who also contributed to the film's script, written by Billy (then: Billie) Wilder.

Another notable role was J. J. Peachum in the musical Die 3-Groschen-Oper/The Threepenny Opera (G. W. Pabst, 1931), loosely based on the musical theatre success by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.

He also appeared in popular films of the time like Der Zinker/The Squeaker (Martin Frič, Karel Lamač, 1931) with Lissi Arna, and Der Hexer/The Sorcerer (Martin Frič, Karel Lamač aka Carl Lamac, 1932) with Paul Richter, both German screen adaptations of Edgar Wallace thrillers.

In Paris, he played in the American German language drama Tropennächte/Tropical Nights (Leo Mittler, 1931) starring Dita Parlo. The film was one of five multi-language versions of the American film Dangerous Paradise (1930) made by Paramount at the Joinville Studios in Paris. These were made in the years following the introduction of sound film, before the practice of dubbing became widespread.

During the Nazi era he only got small roles in films like the comedy Onkel Bräsig/Uncle Bräsig (Erich Waschneck, 1936) and the mystery Der Hund von Baskerville/The Hound of the Baskervilles (Karel Lamač aka Carl Lamac, 1937), an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes's story The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1943, he reunited with director Georg Wilhelm Pabst for the drama Paracelsus (G.W. Pabst, 1943) based on the life of Paracelsus (Werner Krauss).

After the war he first appeared in Eastern Germany in productions by the DEFA. He also performed on the stages of Berlin.

Later he was seen in West-German light entertainment films like the mystery Das schwarze Schaf /The Black Sheep (Helmut Ashley, 1960) starring Heinz Rühmann and based on the Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton.

Rasp also played in the popular Edgar Wallace adaptations of the 1960s, such as Der rote Kreis/The Crimson Circle (Jürgen Roland, 1960), Die seltsame Gräfin/The Strange Countess (Josef von Báky, 1961) and Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee/The Puzzle of the Red Orchid (Helmut Ashley, 1962) starring Christopher Lee.

In 1963 he was honoured for his work in the German cinema with the Filmband in Gold award. One of his last films was the sweet crime comedy Lina Braake (Bernhard Sinkel1975), in which Lina Carstens and he played revolting seniors who rob a bank.

Fritz Rasp died in 1976 in Gräfelfing, Germany. He was 85. His wife was Charlotte Petermann.

Fritz Rasp
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6828/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ufa.

Sources: Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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