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Submitted by Michelle Guillot
For Mr. Walbrook It's All in the Stars
Interview by R. Quilter Vincent
I have always regarded Mr. Anton Walbrook as one of filmdom's more serious straight actors, so when, a couple of years ago, it was announced that Walbrook Sings! I was as surprised as when a decade and a half ago I heard that Garbo Laughs! As all the world now knows, Mr. Walbrook's singing has been every bit as successful as Miss Garbo's laughter. In the film La Ronde he sang a song that became an exceptionally, not to say exasperatingly, enduring hit, and then proceeded to win acclaim as one of the singing leads of two musicals, Call Me Madam and Wedding in Paris. Pushing his luck, he now proposes to have a shot at opera; at least, he is to appear in Oh, Rosalinda!, a film version of Die Fledermaus. There is nothing like having confidence in one's abilities.
"I suppose you are going to sing in Rosalinda?" I asked him.
"Ass much ass I khen," he replied, in that peculiar and fascinating accent of his. "I get avay with murder."
"Odd that you should have discovered your singing voice so late in life."
"If you can call what I do, singing. I have a range of two and a half notes."
"Well, you've done an awful lot with them. I can't wait to see what you're going to do next."
"I'm afraid I'm giving up singing after this, at least for a time."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Mm. I can't bear these long stage runs. Wedding in Paris ... oh, dear!" He raises his eyes heavenward. "More than human nature can stand."
"I pictured you becoming a matinee idol after the stamp of Ivor Novello - you know, Ruritania and all that."
"Novello didn't sing."
"Quite. Well, what will you do when Rosalinda is finished, then?"
"I'm going to Munich to make another film for Max Ophuls, who directed La Ronde." [Lola Montès (1955)]
"Is it to be anything like La Ronde?"
"No, not at all. I play a king - no, not a Ruritanian king, a real king, one who is slightly deaf. As a matter of fact, I've just made a film in France for Julien Duvivier [L'Affaire Maurizius (1954)] and I'm not the least romantic in that. I'm young to begin with - as young as they could make me - but I grow old, fat, very drunk and rather sinister".
"I must say," I said, "I admire the way you manage to be a topliner in so many countries. How many languages do you speak?"
"English, French and German."
"Do you live on the Continent?"
"No, I've lived in London for the past eighteen years. I even have a British passport."
"You are Austrian by birth, aren't you?"
"I am German. I was born in Vienna, and my mother was Viennese, but my father was German."
Walbrook's real name is Adolph Anton Wilhelm Wohlbruck. He was born fifty-four years ago [actually it was 58 years, but who's counting], but one would take him for a much younger man. He has a youthful grace and is still remarkably good-looking. I told him this. "Thank you for the still," he said. He has an easy self-assurance which is a great part of his charm, and he has plenty of charm. The ladies would doubtless think he has plenty of "sex-appill." About which he says: "You'f either got it or you hafn't, and if you hafn't you nefer vill haf." He's fairly tall and thick set, he dresses well and wears his clothes with casual - Continental - elegance. His face is round, plumpish and vaguely aristocratic, his grey eyes are shrewd and his thin mouth set and determined. His brown hair is thick and the grey in it enhances his prepossessing appearance; he wears it long and it hangs in a rakish but nonetheless attractive way over his forehead. He smiles often, and punctuates his comments with guttural chuckles.
He has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and he tells me he regrets he has had so few opportunities to play in comedy over here.
"On the Continent I play mostly in comedy," he said, "but not for ages was I allowed to in this country. The trouble with the British is they think they are the only people in the world who have a sense of humour. All they wanted me to do was make them cry; as the dying Albert they thought I was perfectly in character. Still, I was making money, so...." He gave a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders.
"Have you got a lot of money?"
"If I tell you I haven't you won't believe me, and if I tell you I have I shall get a lot of begging letters."
"Let's just say you're satisfied with your lot, eh?"
"Certainly. I take life as it comes. People who are dissatisfied with their lives are generally those who have tried to accomplish what it was never in them to do."
"The observation of a successful man."
"My dear fellow, when I was young I had a very hard time, but I've always believed that if you were meant to be a success you would be. If you were not..." He gave another significant shrug. "It's all in the stars."
"Of course. One's life is determined from the moment of one's birth. But now I'm afraid the conversation is becoming too personal. Scorpiongs do not like people to come too near."
I considered this remark in silence.
"Scorpiongs," repeated Anton, "you know scorpiongs, those deadly little animals one finds in Africa. When the scorpiong is trapped it turns its sting on itself."
He demonstrated his point by crooking a finger and sharply striking the back of his other hand.
"I feel," he continued, "that if I tell you too much I shall be giving away more of myself than I care to. I shall be betraying myself."
"But why call yourself a scorpion?" I asked, unabashed.
"Because I am of those people who live under the sign of Scorpio, the eighth sign of the zodiac."
"I was born on November the nineteenth, I am a Scorpiong. Scorpiongs remain aloof. I do not readily mix with people. I have never sought publicity. You never hear of me frequenting premiers, West End night clubs and so on. I wish to maintain the seclusion in which I have lived for years."
"You don't care for people?"
"Yes, but my friends are very much of my own choosing. They are few but they are enough, and those I have I keep."
"Are you married?"
"Ever been in love?"
"You are coming too close again. But yes, all my life I have been in love. I am not speaking now of physical love, but of love in a purer, greater sense. I love goodness, and in some people I have found it to a high degree."
He pondered a moment. "I suppose I am what you might call a religious man, when I was young I wanted to be a priest; I became instead an actor. There's an affinity between the pulpit and the stage, you know. But, anyway, how could I escape my destiny? An actor is what I was meant to be, and that is what I am. It was decided the day I was born. It is all in the stars."
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