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Paul Henreid, Who Gained Fame in 'Casablanca,' Dies

April 03, 1992|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Henreid, the stoically elegant matinee idol of the 1930s and '40s whose portrayal of resistance fighter Victor Laszlo in "Casablanca" made him a prized part of the Hollywood legend, has died.

Henreid, who in another of cinema's legendary roles lit two cigarettes, held them briefly in his mouth and then handed one to Bette Davis in "Now, Voyager," died Sunday in Santa Monica of heart failure. His daughter, Monika Henreid, announced the death Thursday, the day of her father's funeral.

Ironically, his death at age 84 came as "Casablanca" has once more been scrubbed and recycled for a big-screen revival next week, after years of proving a favorite TV feature and an ongoing source of tape rentals.

Henreid, who played the visionary European freedom leader who brings his wife, Ingrid Bergman, to Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca cafe, was the last survivor among the film's major stars.

He died within days of the death of Joan Appleton, co-author of "Everybody Comes to Rick's," the play on which the 1942 Warner Brothers picture was based.

Henreid, in 70 films over 50 years, became the epitome of the Continental lover--suave, articulate and stunningly handsome.

And in reality he was all of the above.

He was born on the Continent--in Trieste, Italy--as Paul George Julius Hernreid von Wasel Waldingau, the son of a Viennese banker who had been financial adviser to Emperor Franz Joseph. But after his father died during World War I, there was little left of the family fortune.

Young Paul had developed a taste for acting while in school. His family opposed a dramatic career, so he studied book publishing while continuing to act in a Vienna conservatory.

While performing in a play there, he was seen by Otto Preminger, the future producer and director who then was working for director Max Reinhardt. His first role for Reinhardt was as a schoolboy in "Faust" in 1933.

He enjoyed a great success in "Men in White" (135 performances) in Vienna and "Mizzi" where he was seen by a London entrepreneur who invited him to England. For the next few years he worked on stages in London and Vienna but eventually fled Hitler's Europe and settled in Great Britain, where he starred in an anti-Nazi play, "The Madman of Europe."

Henreid had been a fervent anti-Nazi since a Jewish comedian friend had told him years earlier that he was no longer allowed to perform. Later, Henreid helped the comic escape from Berlin.

For that and other anti-Nazi actions, Henreid was designated "official enemy of the Third Reich" and all his assets were seized.

He had made one film in Austria, "Jersey Lilly" in 1935, and then three in England, "Goodbye Mr. Chips" (in which he had to suffer through a portrayal of a German professor), "Victoria the Great" and "Night Train to Munich."

He and his wife, Elizabeth Gluck, a Viennese dress designer whom he called Lisl, came to the United States in 1940 with 20 British pounds between them.

His wife designed dresses and he took a few stage roles to keep them going, and in 1941 he made his first U.S. movie, "Joan of Paris," which established him as a worthy rival of such other European matinee idols as Charles Boyer.

The next year he made the two films that were to define his career forever, "Now Voyager" and "Casablanca."

In "Voyager," Davis played a dowdy spinster encouraged to seek love by her psychiatrist. Henreid was the object of that doomed affair and the knowing glance he gave her as he offered that second cigarette was fixed on the hearts and minds of audiences across the land.

Then came "Casablanca." In a memorable scene, Henreid draws himself up to his full 6 feet, 3 inches and stands defiantly in Bogart's saloon where sin and cynicism run rampant and where a group of German soldiers are singing. He whips a crowd of French exiles into a stirring rendition of "La Marseillaise" and stills the boisterous Germans.

Bogart got an Academy Award nomination but Henreid got Miss Bergman in one of the screen's most poignant and clever climaxes.

Both actor and director, Henreid's other credits included "Night Train," "Devotion," "In Our Time," "Between Two Worlds," "Of Human Bondage," "Rope of Sand" and "Last of the Buccaneers."

In an infrequent interview in 1963, he said he preferred the challenges of directing to acting but did admit that being before the camera had its rewards.

"I hate to think of the day," he said mocking his craft, "when nobody remembers me as an actor and I can't get good tables in restaurants."

He also is survived by his wife, another daughter, Mimi, and four grandchildren.

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