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Maximilian "Max" Schreck (6 September 1879 – 20 February 1936) was a Germanmarker actor. He is most often remembered today for his lead role in the film Nosferatu (1922).

Early life

Max Schreck was born in Berlin-Friedenaumarker, on 6 September 1879.Schreck received his training at the (the State Theatre of Berlinmarker) which he completed in 1902. He made his stage debut in Meseritz and Speyermarker, and then toured Germany for two years appearing at theatres in Zittaumarker, Erfurtmarker, Bremenmarker, Lucernemarker, Geramarker, and Frankfurt am Mainmarker. Schreck then joined Max Reinhardt's company of performers in Berlin. Many of Reinhardt's troupe made a significant contribution to the cinema.

Schreck served in World War I from 1915 to 1918.


For three years between 1919 and 1922, Schreck appeared at the Munich Kammerspielemarker, including a role in the expressionist production of Bertolt Brecht's debut, (Drums in the Night) (in which he played the "freakshow landlord" Glubb). During this time he also worked on his first film Der Richter von Zalamea, adapted from a six act play, for Decla Bioscop.
Max Schreck as Juana's father in Doña Juana (1927).
1921, he was hired by Prana Film for their first and only production, Nosferatu. The company declared itself bankrupt after the film was released to avoid paying copyright infringement costs to Florence Stoker, Dracula author Bram Stoker's widow. Schreck portrayed Count Orlok, a character analogous to Count Dracula.

In 1923, while still in Munich, Schreck appeared in a 16-minute (one-reeler) slapstick, "surreal comedy" written by Bertolt Brecht with cabaret and stage actors Karl Valentin, Liesl Karlstadt, Erwin Faber, and Blandine Ebinger, entitled (Mysteries of a Barbershop), directed by Erich Engel. Also in 1923, Schreck appeared as a blind man in the film (The Street).

Schreck's second collaboration with Nosferatu director F. W. Murnau was the 1924 comedy (The Grand Duke's Finances). Even Murnau did not hesitate to declare his contempt for the picture.

In 1926, Schreck returned to the Kammerspiele in Munich and continued to act in films surviving the advent of sound until his death in 1936 of heart failure. On February 19, 1936, Schreck had just played The Grand Inquisitor in the play , standing in for Will Dohm. That evening he felt unwell and the doctor sent him to the hospital where he died early the next morning of a heart attack. His obituary especially praised his role as The Miser in Molière's comedy play. He was buried on March 14, 1936 at Wilmersdorfer Waldfriedhof in Berlinmarker.

Personal life

He was married to actress Fanny Normann, who appeared in a few films, often credited as Fanny Schreck. Schreck had at least one brother named Augustin Schreck, who also fathered Max Schreck's niece, actress Gisela Uhlen (born Gisela Friedlinde Schreck).

Curiously, the word schreck is also the German word for fright, or terror. It comes from the Middle High German word schrecken: "to frighten, or terrify". Because of this, many authors who were unaware of Schreck's on-stage credits (and ignorant of the rather sparse details of his personal life) speculated that there was really no such person, and that Schreck was, in fact, some well-known actor who had chosen to adopt a pseudonym for his role in Nosferatu. One of the prime "suspects" was Alfred Abel; however, a careful examination of the photographs of these two actors is sufficient to dispel such notions.

Schreck's contemporaries recalled he was a loner with an unusual sense of humor and skill in playing grotesque characters. One reported he lived in "a remote and strange world" and that he spent time walking through dark forests.

Cultural references

The person and performance of Max Schreck in Nosferatu has been fictionalized by actor Willem Dafoe in E. Elias Merhige's Shadow of the Vampire. In a sort of secret history, Shadow posits that Schreck actually was a vampire.

Scriptwriter Daniel Waters created the character Max Shreck for the film Batman Returns and compared him to the character Max Schreck played in Nosferatu. Variety claimed the name was an in-joke.

See also


  1. Walk, Ines. 2006.
  2. All reliable sources agree as to Schreck's actual date of birth and date of death.(Brill, Olaf. 2004, Walk, Ines. 2006) However, at least until 9 March 2009 the Internet Movie Database had incorrect and self-contradictory details. ( IMDB bio: "Date of Birth: 6 September 1879," ... "born on June 11, 1879" ... "Date of Death 26 November 1936," ... "death from a heart attack on February 19, 1936")
  3. Enigmatic Max: The career of Max Schreck. Retrieved 26 December 2008
  4. Brecht, Willett and Manheim
  5. McDowell, W. Stuart. "A Brecht-Valentin Production: Mysteries of a Barbershop", Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Winter, 1977), pp. 2-14; and "Acting Brecht: The Munich Years," by W. Stuart McDowell, in The Brecht Sourcebook, Carol Martin, Henry Bial, editors (Routledge, 2000) p. 71 - 83.
  6. Brill, Olaf. 2004
  7. Brill 2004, Peter Trumm: obituary in vol. 89, no. 52, on February 21, 1936. (ie. 08:30 in the morning of February 20, 1936)
  8. (German) Retrieved 14 July 2008
  9. Graham 2008 Page 2. Retrieved 2008-12-26


Further reading

  • (summary of Eickhoff's biography/tribute of Schreck)

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