06 April 2015

Erich Schellow

Tall and slender Erich Schellow (1915-1995) was one of the great actors of the Berlin theatre. He also worked incidentally for the cinema.

Erich Schellow
Austrian postcard by Verlag Hubmann, Wien (Vienna), no. 361. Photo: Unionfilm, Wien. Publicity still for Drei vom Variété/Three from Variety (Kurt Neumann, 1954).

A major character actor

Erich Schellow was born in Berlin in 1915. He was the son of a merchant. During his school years, Schellow already acted extensively in school plays. After graduation, he initially wanted to study art history and philosophy, but he chose for a theatre career on the advice of the actress Lola Müthel.

From 1935 till 1937, he attended the drama school of the Preußischen Staatstheater (Prussian State Theatre) under Walter Franck, Lothar Müthel, Hermine Körner and Maria Koppenhöfer.

In 1937, he made his stage debut as Mortimer in Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart (Mary Stuart) at the Deutschen Volkstheater (German National Theatre) in Hamburg-Altona, where he was engaged until 1940. In 1941 he moved to the Preußischen Staatstheater in Berlin, where he remained under contract until 1945. Apart from a further short engagement in Hamburg and guest appearances in Zurich and Vienna (at the Burgtheater), Berlin would remain the centre of his artistic career.

From 1948 on, Erich Schellow was a member of the Staatlichen Schauspielbühnen (State Theatre stages) in Berlin. From the young hero roles he developed into a major character actor, who interpreted Shakespeare's Hamlet, Goethe's Faust and Mephisto and Schiller’s Don Carlos. One of his outstanding roles was George in the German premiere of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Boleslaw Barlog in 1963.

He performed mainly in the Schiller Theater and remained there until its closure in 1993. Schellow complained against the termination of the theatre, which he saw as his ‘second home’. He and his colleagues went actively in the streets to protest about this. For his contributions to the theatre, Schellow received several awards, including the Bundesverdienstkreuz (the German Order of Merit), the Berliner Kunstpreis (the Berlin Art Prize which he won twice) and the German Critics Award.

Erich Schellow, Ingrid Andree, Franco Andrei
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 222, 1957. Photo: Standard-film, Wien. Publicity still for Drei vom Variété/Three from Variety (Kurt Neumann, 1954) with Erich Schellow, Ingrid Andree and Franco Andrei.

Erich Schellow
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 1471. Photo: Arthur Grimm.

The viewpoint of an automobile

Erich Schellow rarely took on film and television roles. He played for director Helmut Käutner in the Trummerfilm In jenen Tagen/In those days (1947). The film is an episodic recollection of life under the Third Reich, told from the viewpoint of an automobile. Each of the car's various owners is in one way or another a victim of Nazism.

He also played in Käutner’s Bildnis einer Unbekannten/Portrait of an Unknown Woman (Helmut Käutner, 1954) with Ruth Leuwerik. He costarred with French actress Etchika Choureau in the comedy Ein Mädchen aus Paris/A girl from Paris (Franz Seitz, 1954).

Schellow appeared in the social study Die Stadt ist voller Geheimnisse/This Town is Full of Secrets (Fritz Kortner, 1954) opposite Annemarie Düringer, and in the saga Hotel Adlon (Josef von Báky, 1955). He also played with the popular German film star Hans Albers in Vor Sonnenuntergang/Before Sundown (Gottfried Reinhardt 1956) which won the Golden Globe as best foreign film of the year, and with another popular film star, Heinz Rühmann, in Der Hauptmann von Köpenick/The Captain of Köpenick (Helmut Käutner, 1956).

In Der 20. Juli/The Plot to Assassinate Hitler (Falk Harnack, 1955), he was seen as a Protestant pastor. On television, Schellow slipped in the role of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for six episodes of the series Sherlock Holmes (Paul May, 1967-1968) with Paul Edwin Roth as Dr. Watson. For this performance the Deutsche Sherlock-Holmes-Gesellschaft (German Sherlock Holmes Society) appointed him as its first honorary member in 1991.

Schellow also worked occasionally as a dubbing actor. He was the German voice for Mel Ferrer in War and Peace (King Vidor, 1955), Vittorio Gassman in La tempest/Tempest (Alberto Lattuada, 1958), Peter Cushing in Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958) and The Mummy (Terence Fisher, 1959) and Rex Harrison in Midnight Lace (David Miller, 1960).

Deeply shocked about the termination of ‘his’ Schiller theatre, Erich Schellow had a severe stroke in 1993. From then on he was paralyzed. In 1995, he died in his home town of Berlin. He was 80. He was survived by his wife Elke and their son Alexander.

Erich Schellow
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. I 423. Photo: CCC-Film / Herzog-Film / Arthur Grimm. Publicity still for Hotel Adlon (Josef von Báky, 1955).

Erich Schellow
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 312, 1957. Photo: Real Film. Publicity still for Der Hauptmann von Köpenick/The Captain from Köpenick (Helmut Käutner, 1956).

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

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