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Anton Diffring; German-Born Character Actor

July 22, 1989|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Anton Diffring, a German-born actor who portrayed a series of villainous characters that moviegoers loved to hate in more than 50 films and a like number of TV shows, is dead, it was learned Friday.

The Associated Press reported that officials at City Hall in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse, in southern France, said he had died at his home there last May 20 but his death had gone unnoticed until this week when the British newspaper the Guardian first reported his death but without detail. Diffring was 70.

Born in Koblenz and a graduate of Berlin's Academy of Drama, Diffring performed on the stage in the United States and Canada before entering films in Britain in 1950.

The actor, who played a succession of Nazis and other nefarious characters in films such as "I Am a Camera," "The Blue Max," "Where Eagles Dare" and "Fahrenheit 451," was first seen in "State Secret."

Favorite Character

Over the years he became a favorite German officer character, some of them even kindly, but grew so tired of the type-casting that he left Britain for Rome in 1968, only to find himself facing the same dilemma: his fair hair and chiseled features made him a prototypal Aryan ideally suited for motion pictures about World War II.

That was ironic, for he had fled his homeland to escape the Nazi menace in 1939 but because of his German heritage was interned in Canada during the war. He appeared on stage in Toronto as "Richard III" after the war.

After acting in such other pictures as "Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street" and "Potato Fritz" in Germany, Diffring moved to television. That portion of his career also involved several German productions but he was seen on the American small screen in "The Fourposter," "Dr. Korczak and His Children," "The Trouble Shooters," "The Winds of War" and two-score more.

There was no report of survivors.

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