26 June 2014

Alfred Gerasch

Alfred Gerasch (1877-1954) was a popular Austrian stage actor who belonged to the exclusive circle of the ‘Königlich-Kaiserlichen Hofschauspielern’ (Royal Court Actors). He also acted in several silent and sound films, often playing historical figures.

Alfred Gerasch
Austrian postcard by Postkartenverlag Brüder Kohn, Wien (Vienna). Photo: Setzer, Wien, 1913.

Royal Court Actor

Alfred Gerasch was born in Berlin in 1877. He made his stage debut at the Bellevue Theatre in Szczecin (now Poland). In 1897 he moved to Hamburg, and later to Oldenburg and to Karlsruhe. In 1907, he went to Vienna, where he was an ensemble member of the famous Burgtheater.

He became very popular among the Viennese theatre audiences as the young hero and lover in plays like Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and Don Karlos by Friedrich Schiller.

Many great roles in the classic plays followed and the charismatic Gerasch was named ‘kaiserlich und königlichen Hofschauspieler’ (Royal Court Actor).

In 1919, the then 42-years old actor made his film debut in the role of the son of the main character in the Austrian production Adrian Vanderstraaten (Robert Land, 1919), followed by films like Durch die Quartiere des Elends und Verbrechens/Through the Neighborhoods of Misery and Crime (Robert Land, 1920) and Eine Million Dollar/One Million Dollar (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck 1921).

He returned to Berlin where he worked both for the stage and for the film industry. During the 1920s he appeared in such silent films as Die Legende von der heiligen Simplicia/The Legend of Holy Simplicity (Joe May, 1920) starring Eva May, Dagfin (Joe May, 1926) with Paul Richter, Eine Dubarry von heute/A Modern Dubarry (Alexander Korda, 1927) featuring María Corda, and Königin Luise, 2. Teil/Queen Luise, part 2 (Karl Grune, 1928) with Mady Christians.

Alfred Gerasch
Austrian postcard by Postkartenverlag Brüder Kohn, Wien (Vienna). Photo: Setzer, Wien, 1913. Caption: "Alfred Gerasch als Romeo." (Alfred Gerasch as Romeo). Publicity still for a stage production of the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Alfred Gerasch
Austrian postcard by Postkartenverlag Brüder Kohn, Wien (Vienna), no. 887-1835. Photo: Setzer, Wien, 1913. Caption: K.k. Hofschauspieler Alfred Gerasch als Fiesko. Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua/Fiesco was the second full-length play by Friedrich Schiller. It is a republican tragedy based on the historical conspiracy of Giovanni Luigi Fieschi against Andrea Doria in Genoa in 1547. It premiered in Bonn in 1783 at the Hoftheater.

Historical Figures

After the introduction of sound film, Alfred Gerasch continued to play various supporting roles in films.

He often appeared as historical figures including Czar Alexander I in Napoleon auf St. Helena/Napoleon on St. Helena (Lupu Pick, 1929) with Werner Krauss, the Austrian-Hungarian chief of staff, Baron Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf in 1914, die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand/1914, The Last days Before the World Fire (Richard Oswald, 1931), the Austrian statesman Prince Metternich in Marschall vorwärts/Marshal Forward (Heinz Paul, 1932), Talleyrand - Napoleon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in Hundert Tage/Hundred Days (Franz Wenzler, 1935), and Field Marshal General Daun in Fridericus (Johannes Meyer, 1937) starring Otto Gebühr.

From 1937 on, Gerasch lived in Vienna, Austria and his only film work from that period were a few guest appearances. He did appear in Zauber der Bohème/The Magic of Bohème (Géza von Bolváry, 1937), a film operetta tailor-made to the dream couple Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth. For this film he also served as co-author.

After 1945 he limited his work even more. His last film part was Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius in the comedy Die Welt dreht sich verkehrt/The World Turns Upside Down (J.A. Hübler-Kahla, 1947) starring Hans Moser. He was 70 at the time.

Alfred Gerasch died in 1954 in Vienna.

Alfred Gerasch
Austrian postcard by Postkartenverlag Brüder Kohn, Wien (Vienna). Photo: Setzer, Wien, 1913. Caption: "Prinz in Emilia Galotti." (Prince in Emilia Galotti). Emilia Galotti is a play in five acts by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), which premiered on 8 March 1772 in Braunschweig (Brunswick). The work is a classic example of German 'bürgerliches Trauerspiel' (bourgeois tragedy). Lessing's work comprises an attack against the nobility and its powers. Lessing depicts aristocrats as having unfair powers in society and as ruining the happiness of the emerging middle class.

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-line.de) (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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