Francis Lederer (November 6, 1899 – May 25, 2000) was an Austrian-born film and stage actor with a successful career, first in Europe, then in the United States. His original name was František Lederer and in the early years of his career he performed under the stage-name Franz Lederer.
Lederer in 1932
November 6, 1899
|Died||May 25, 2000 (aged 100)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City)|
|Spouse(s)||Ada Nejedly |
(m. 19??; div. 1928)
(m. 1937; div. 1940)
(m. 1941; his death 2000)
Lederer started acting when he was young, and was trained at the Academy of Music and Academy of Dramatic Art in Prague. After service in the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Army in World War I, he made his stage debut as an apprentice with the New German Theater, a walk-on in the play Burning Heart. He toured Moravia and central Europe, making a name for himself as a matinee idol in theaters in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Germany. Notable among his performances was a turn as Romeo in Max Reinhardt's staging of Romeo and Juliet.
In the late 1920s, Lederer was lured into films by the German actress Henny Porten and her husband. He worked with G.W. Pabst in Pandora's Box, starring Louise Brooks, and Atlantic (both 1929). He was also notable in The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna in the same year. Lederer, billed as "Franz" at this time, made the transition from silent films to sound films.
In 1931, Lederer was in London to perform on stage in Volpone and the next year in Autumn Crocus by Dodie Smith, which he then performed on Broadway – using the name "Francis" – where it played for 210 performances in 1932 and 1933. He also performed the play in Los Angeles. As the rise of the Nazi movement and the institutionalization of anti-Semitism spread throughout Europe and the political situation there deteriorated, Lederer, who was Jewish, chose to remain in America rather than return home. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.
Lederer's first American movies were Man of Two Worlds (1934), Romance in Manhattan (1934), with Ginger Rogers, The Gay Deception (1935), with Frances Dee, and One Rainy Afternoon (1936). He was cast as the lead with Katharine Hepburn in the 1935 film Break of Hearts, but the producers replaced him with Charles Boyer. It was Irving Thalberg's plan to make Lederer "the biggest star in Hollywood" but the death of Thalberg ended this possibility.
Although he continued to play leads occasionally – notably when he was a playboy in Mitchell Leisen's Midnight with Claudette Colbert and John Barrymore in 1939 – in the late 1930s Lederer began to expand his character parts, even playing villains. Edward G. Robinson praised Lederer's performance as a German American Bundist in Confessions of a Nazi Spy in 1939, and he earned plaudits for his portrayal of a fascist in The Man I Married (1940) with Joan Bennett. He also played Count Dracula for The Return of Dracula in 1958.
Throughout his career, Lederer, who studied with Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York City, continued to take stage acting seriously, and he performed often both in New York and elsewhere. He appeared in stage productions of Golden Boy (1937), Seventh Heaven (1939), No Time for Comedy (1939), in which he replaced Laurence Olivier, The Play's the Thing (1942), A Doll's House (1944), Arms and the Man (1950), The Sleeping Prince (1956) and The Diary of Anne Frank (1958).
Although he took a break from making films in 1941, in order to concentrate on his stage work, he returned to the silver screen in 1944, appearing in Voice in the Wind and The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and in films such as Jean Renoir's The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and Million Dollar Weekend (1948). He took another break from Hollywood in 1950, after making Surrender (1950), and returned in 1956 with Lisbon and the light comedy The Ambassador's Daughter. His final film appearance was in Terror Is a Man in 1959. During the 1950s, he served as honorary mayor of Canoga Park.
He would continue to make television appearances for the next 10 years in such shows as Sally, The Untouchables, Ben Casey, Blue Light, Mission: Impossible and That Girl. His final television appearance occurred in a 1971 episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "The Devil Is Not Mocked". In it, he reprised his role as Dracula from The Return of Dracula.
In his later life, Lederer, who had become very wealthy, invested in real estate, especially in the Canoga Park community (part of which at one time included West Hills in 1987). He was active in local and Los Angeles civic affairs, philanthropy and politics. He served as Recreation and Parks Commissioner for the city of Los Angeles, received awards for his efforts to beautify the city and was the honorary mayor of Canoga Park for quite a time. He became involved with peace movements, taught acting, and was one of the founders of the American National Academy of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, and the International Academy of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. In 2000, he was honored by the Austrian government with the Cross of Honor for Science and Arts, First Class.
Lederer was married three times. His wives were:
Francis Lederer worked until the week before he died, at the age of 100, in Palm Springs, California, one of the last surviving World War I veterans of the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City, California.
In 1934, Francis Lederer began the design and construction, with the help of artisan builder John R. Litke, of his landmark residence and stables on the hilltop of a large rancho in the Simi Hills in Owensmouth, renamed Canoga Park, renamed again to present day West Hills. It is in the western San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, at the west end of Sherman Way. The house is an example of blending of Mediterranean Revival style with Mission Revival style.
The residence and stables are both protected Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments. The 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged the house, and the property went through a total renovation that is complete. The estate is next to the very large 1845 Mexican land grant Rancho El Escorpión, which was his southern rural viewshed and remained undeveloped open space until 1959. The home and grounds are still in the hands of the family.
Captain Carey, U.S.A. is a 1950 film noir
crime film starring Alan Ladd, Wanda Hendrix, and Francis Lederer. An American returns to post–World War II Italy to bring a traitor to justice.
The film was based on the novel No Surrender by Martha Albrand. It was filmed under the title O.S.S. and then the title After Midnight.The theme song, "Mona Lisa" performed in the film by Charlie Spivak with Tommy Lynn, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was a #1 hit for Nat King Cole in 1950.Confessions of a Nazi Spy
Confessions of a Nazi Spy is a 1939 American spy thriller film and the first blatantly anti-Nazi film produced by a major Hollywood studio.The film stars Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, George Sanders, Paul Lukas, and a large cast of German actors, including some who had emigrated from their country after the rise of Adolf Hitler. Many of the German actors, who appeared in the film, changed their names for fear of reprisals against relatives still living in Germany.Screenwriter John Wexley based his script on real events and the articles of former FBI agent Leon G. Turrou, who had been active in investigating Nazi spy rings in the United States prior to the war, and lost his position at the Bureau when he published the articles without permission.Authors Paul Buhle and David Wagner of Radical Hollywood writing about the film said it "treated a real-life case" and that Warner Brothers had been warned by the Dies Committee "against slurring a 'friendly country'".Parts of the movie were a fictionalized account of a real-life espionage case, the Rumrich Nazi Spy Case, and the eventual trial in 1938 involving individuals convicted of spying for German government.The FBI says Rumrich Nazi Spy Case was their "first major international spy case" and that Leon Turrou "was placed in charge" and eventually fired. Guenther Gustave Maria Rumrich was arrested on February 14, 1938, and charged with spying for Germany. He came to the FBI's attention when he attempted to obtain 50 passport application forms from the Passport Office in New York City.
In the film, Francis Lederer, as Schneider, plays the equivalent part to the real Rumrich.
The film was the first anti-Nazi film from a major American studio. At the premier there were almost as many policemen and special agents in the audience as customers.
Wexley's script made a point of following the facts and real life events of the Rumrich Nazi Spy Case whose participants went to trial in 1938. The film failed at the box office. Nonetheless, it was named 1939's best film by the National Board of Review. Confessions of a Nazi Spy was banned in Germany, Japan, and many Latin American and European countries.The film was re-released in 1940 with scenes describing events that had taken place since the initial release, such as the invasions of Norway and the Netherlands. Scenes from Confessions of a Nazi Spy are shown in War Comes to America, the last of the Why We Fight propaganda film series, as well as the 2004 documentary film Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust.Her Majesty the Barmaid
Her Majesty the Barmaid or Her Majesty Love (German: Ihre Majestät die Liebe) is a 1931 German comedy film directed by Joe May and starring Käthe von Nagy, Francis Lederer and Otto Wallburg. It premiered on 9 January 1931.It's All Yours
It's All Yours is a 1937 American comedy film directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Madeleine Carroll, Francis Lederer and Mischa Auer.Midnight (1939 film)
Midnight is a 1939 American screwball comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor, and Elaine Barrie. Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder based on a story by Edwin Justus Mayer and Franz Schulz, the film is about an unemployed American showgirl stranded in Paris who is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife's affair with another man. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".My American Wife (1936 film)
My American Wife is a 1936 American comedy film directed by Harold Young and written by Elmer Davis, Edith Fitzgerald and Virginia Van Upp. The film stars Francis Lederer, Ann Sothern, Fred Stone, Billie Burke, Ernest Cossart and Grant Mitchell. The film was released on August 7, 1936, by Paramount Pictures.One Rainy Afternoon
One Rainy Afternoon is a 1936 American romantic comedy film directed by Rowland V. Lee, starring Francis Lederer and Ida Lupino, and featuring Hugh Herbert, Roland Young and Erik Rhodes. It also marked the last film appearance by actress Florence Lawrence, who died in 1938, who had an uncredited bit role in the film. It was written by Stephen Morehouse Avery, with additional dialogue by Maurice Hanline, from the screenplay for the 1935 French film Monsieur Sans-Gêne by Emeric Pressburger and René Pujol, which was based on the story "The Satyr" by Pressburger. The film was reissued in 1948 as Matinee Scandal.Pandora's Box (1929 film)
Pandora's Box (German: Die Büchse der Pandora) is a 1929 German silent melodrama film based on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). Directed by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. Brooks' portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.Perjury (film)
Perjury (German:Meineid) is a 1929 German drama film directed by Georg Jacoby and starring Alice Roberts, Francis Lederer and Miles Mander. The film's art direction by Andrej Andrejew.Raymond Lederer
Raymond Francis Lederer (May 19, 1938 – December 1, 2008) was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania's 3rd congressional district from 1977 to 1981. He was convicted of taking bribes in the 1980 Abscam scandal.Romance in Manhattan
Romance in Manhattan is a 1935 American comedy/romance film directed by Stephen Roberts, starring Francis Lederer and Ginger Rogers, and released by RKO Radio Pictures.Surrender (1950 film)
Surrender is a 1950 American Western film directed by Allan Dwan, written by James Edward Grant and Sloan Nibley, and starring Vera Ralston, John Carroll, Walter Brennan, Francis Lederer, William Ching, Maria Palmer and Jane Darwell. It was released on September 15, 1950, by Republic Pictures.The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944 film)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a 1944 drama film made by Benedict Bogeaus Productions and released by United Artists. It was produced and directed by Rowland V. Lee with Benedict Bogeaus as co-producer. The screenplay by Howard Estabrook and Herman Weissman was adapted from the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. The music score was by Dimitri Tiomkin and the cinematography by John W. Boyle and an uncredited John J. Mescall. The film stars Lynn Bari, Francis Lederer, Akim Tamiroff, Alla Nazimova and Louis Calhern.
Dimitri Tiomkin's music was nominated for the Best Original Score.The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946 film)
The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) is a drama film about a newly hired servant who severely disrupts a wealthy family. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Octave Mirbeau and the play Le journal d'une femme de Chambre, written by André de Lorde, with André Heuse and Thielly Nores. The film was directed by Jean Renoir, and starred Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, Hurd Hatfield, and Francis Lederer. It was named the eighth best English-language film of 1946 by the National Board of Review.The Gay Deception
The Gay Deception is a 1935 romantic comedy film starring Francis Lederer and Frances Dee. Writers Stephen Morehouse Avery and Don Hartman were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story.The Madonna's Secret
The Madonna's Secret is a 1946 American film noir crime film directed by Wilhelm Thiele and starring Francis Lederer, Gail Patrick, Ann Rutherford and Edward Ashley.The Man I Married
The Man I Married (alternative title I Married a Nazi) is an American 1940 drama film starring Joan Bennett and Francis Lederer.The Pursuit of Happiness (1934 film)
The Pursuit of Happiness is a 1934 American comedy film directed by Alexander Hall and written by Stephen Morehouse Avery, J.P. McEvoy and Virginia Van Upp. The film stars Francis Lederer, Joan Bennett, Charlie Ruggles, Mary Boland, Walter Kingsford, Minor Watson and Adrian Morris. The film was released on September 28, 1934, by Paramount Pictures.The Return of Dracula
The Return of Dracula (a.k.a. Curse of Dracula on US television and The Fantastic Disappearing Man in the UK) is a 1958 horror film starring Francis Lederer as Count Dracula. The female lead, Rachel Mayberry, was played by Norma Eberhardt. It was filmed in black and white (with a brief color sequence involving blood) and directed by Paul Landres. It was released in April, 1958 as a double feature with The Flame Barrier.