Oskar Werner

1.- Horst Buchholz, Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (US: Confessions of Felix Krull), West Germany, 1957. When the  Dresden-born Robert Siodmak was the first director to consider filming Thomas Mann’s unfinished 1954 novel he had some strange notions  for the young con-man hero.  West German stars OE Hesse and Martin Held were in their 50s versus Hardy Krüger at 29.  Oskar Werner, 35, wrote of his interest to Mann’s bohemian actress daughter, Erika (a co-writer of the script) but he lost interest when the next director, Rolf Thiele, insisted on a screen test.  Werner was furious. “He can see me  on the stage every night!”  Kurt Hoffman  eventually  directed Horst Buchholz  – billed in the US as Henry Buckholt. (United Artists  wanted him to keep that name  for The Magnificent Seven). Thiele must have gone to the theatre, although remaining wary of Oskar’s looks. He just wanted just his voice (off) as the Herr Doktor inviting seven women to his mountain lair in some nonsense called Venusberg (Suspect), 1962.  Werner’s partners in his early films included Marc Anthony (!), Georg Alexander,  Karlheinz Böhm, Signe Hasso, Curd Jürgens,  Marisa Nell,  Annie Roser,  Karel Stepanek… and a certain Rolf Wanka

2.- Marlon Brando, The Young Lions, 1957.  

Fox won rights to Irwin Shaw’s novel in 1951 and Werner rapidly lobbied to be the German lion,  Christian Distl – and, indeed, the first director, Fred Zinnemann,  thought  of  him from the start. He had a seven-year contract with Fox, after all, folllowing Decision Before Dawn, 1951.  But that was the only Fox movie he agreed to.  “I’m married to the theatre, but my mistress is the films.”  Anyway, Brando’s agents had more power. Life magazine even reported he lectured the suits for 15 hours on  softening the unrepentant Nazi. “I never spent 15 hours with Marlon,” snapped the final director, Edward  Dmytryk.  Nor did anyone ese. “The writer, Edward Anhalt, and I already had these ideas… and explained them to Marlon.” Shaw was furious about the white-washing –  Brando “wants to be sympathetic on screen.” However, the real reason was – naturally – money! Exec producer Buddy Adler explained: “A good picture today can take a million dollars out of Germany, and I’m sure that unless we do something as suggested…, this picture will not be sympathetically received in Germany.” Clearly, Werner would have refused this Distl – as pure as Brando’s copy of Laurence Olivier’s white-blond Hamlet from 1947.  

  1. – Maurice Ronet, Les Puits et la Pendule (The Pit and the Pendulum), France, TV, 1963. Werner had hit big in François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, 1962. So The Uncle of the New Wave, critic turned auteur Alexandre Astruc, asked him to star in his TVersion of The Pit and the Pendulum. Werner refused. Because of, one scene in the script. Where… a rat would run across his face. Ronet was making two films at once: Louis Malle’s Le Feu Follet (US: The Fire Within) after breakfast and this tele-movie after lunch.
  2. – Richard Burton, Becket, 1963. Werner must have thought he was in with a chance. He had succesfully played Jean Anouilh’s titular hero on the stage, at Vienna’s Burgtheater in 1960.  Anouilh loved his work and had great plans for him and, indeed, for his plays which he felt had never been filmed correctly. Then again, an Archbishop of Canterbury with a Austrian accent was hardly right.  And director Peter Glenville had managed to land Burton  as Thomas Becket opposite  Peter O’Toole’s King Henry II… despite Burton’s considerable misgivings about how the media would react  to him – Mr Scandal!! –  playing a saint!
  3. – Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, 1964. Shooting started on my birthday, March 26. Although everyone, director Robert Wise included, thought it too saccharine to bother with. Certainly, Werner refused to have anything to do with such a soft treatment of Nazis – a match for The Young Lions. “Yul Brynner was one of several people wanting to be The Captain,” recalled Wise.  “I told his agent his  name  would  be at the bottom of my list. He’d have been better on the other side!” Driven to drink by it all, Plummer hated everything. The film  – he called it The Sound of Mucus.  The co-star –  working with Julie Andrews  (or “Ms Disney”)  – was akin to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.”   So maybe Brynner, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Peter Finch, Rex Harrison, Walter Matthau (!) and Maximilian Schell were lucky to lose Captain Georg Von Trapp. Keith Michel was first reserve if Plummer proved (as he soon wished) unavailable. Despite all his badmouthing, Plummer and Andrews became good friends.
  4. 6. – Karl Michael Vogler, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes, 1964. Only the casting director could visualise Werner as Hauptmann Rumpelstosse, if you please, in the mad comedy about a 1910 air race providing roles  – and gags – for everyone  from  Alberto Sordi and Sarah Miles to Gert Fröbe and Benny Hill. Plus the uncredited first  Vernon Dobtcheff’s  astonishing 374 screen roles  in 67 years: 1962-2023/. No wonder Rupert Everett called him “the patron saint of the acting profession.” 
  5. Dick Van Dyke, The Art of Love, 1964. Hardly seems a role here either for Werner. Unless Dick Van Dyke’s struggling artist was once going to be European. His writer roomie was always American, as James Garner was also one of the producers (for his Cherokee combine).  The black comedy couple had begun as Garner and Rock Hudson – or Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Robert Goulet, George Maharis. And Brigitte Bardot was supposed to be Dick’s main squeeze, until Paris locations were cancelled and everything was shot at the Little Europe lot at Universal Studios.  With Elke Sommer.
  6. – Marius Goring, Up From the Beach, 1964. Or The Day After when head Fox, Darryl F Zanuck, announced James Garner and Oskar Werner would be directed by Guy Hamilton. Werner, as per usual, refused to glorify a Nazi commandant (as Brando had done with the role rejected by Werner in The Young Lions).  Hamilton quit for Goldfinger and Robert Parrish helmed Cliff Robertson and Marius Goring in what was, basically – and a better title? – D-Day Plus One.
  7. – Omar Sharif, Poppies Are Also Flowers (aka The Poppy is Also a Flower), TV, 1965. Werner was originally due in the TV drama special (financed by the United Nations and the Xerox Corporation) about the UN work in curbing  the global flow of illegal opium.  Dr No director Terence Young and writer Ian Fleming (the 007 creator, who died before completing his script) worked for free while it was a symbolic  $1 each for all  the international star line-up, from Marcello Mastroianni  and  Angie Dickinson to Rita Hayworth  and Harold Sakata (aka Oddjob), plus narrator Grace Kelly (her first film work since becoming Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956).  Werner had been up for Dr Rad – played  by Sharif on his weekends off from Doctor Zhivago in Spain.

10Omar Shariff, The Night of the Generals, France-UK, 1966. “Must be seen to be disbelieved,” declared Andrew Sarris in The Village Voice.  The WWII  II whounnit  fell at the first fence – as if Nazis would bother investigating Warsaw and Paris sex-crimes by a “general.” (And such an obvious one). Producer Sam Spiegel rounded up a starry cast to bolster such silliness.  Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif weren’t keen but felt they owed him for Lawrence of Arabia.  Werner and Robert Redford were also asked to the investigative Major Grau.

11 – Horst Buchholz, Cervantes, (US: The Young Rebel), France-Italy-Spain, 1966.  Werner was supposed to replace French star Alain Delon in this peek at the early life of the Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. But the “German Delon” took over, opposite José Ferrer and Gina Lollobrigida.  Oh, and Spanish star Soledad Miranda – except her role was all but shredded on the alleged orders of  a jealous La Lollo!  Exec producer Michael Salkind had made the 1932 Don Quixote film in Spain with Feodor Chaliapin Sr.

12 – Tom Courtenay, The Day the Fish Came Out, Greece-UK-US,1966.  Obviopusly  Werner would refuse such manure.  Courtenay should have done the same (but fancied a Greek holiday?) and Candice Bergen obviously strolled into the wrong movie. Based on a true incident in Spain, nuclear bombs (or worse!) are jettisoned from a crashing aircraft over an almost unknown Greek isle. Undercover investigators dress as gay tourists  and so real tourists flock in as well and… Well, here’s Andrew Sarris in The Village Voice: ”[Director Michael] Cacoyannis  seems to be  straining  for the wit of Dr Strangelove and wound  up with the  witlessness of Dr Queerlove.” 

13 – Gaston Moschin, L’harem (UK: The Harem; US: Her Harem), France-Italy, 1966. Less trenchant than usual,  Italian director Marco Ferreri  served up a Carry On Courting  about  three men crazy for  Carroll Baker in her Italian debut.  They are Michel Le Royer, Renato Salvatori and Werner’s substitute, Gaston Moschin.  On location in Dubrovnik. They  should have stayed there.  

14 – Kaz Garas, The Last Safari, 1966.  Werner couldn’t see himself as a big game hunter  opposite Richard Attenborough – not even for for Hollywood hardass Henry Hathaway! Following last minute changes, Stewart Granger was far from happy about surrendering top billing to the Lithuaniajn-born Kazimer Saul Gaizutis. Garas was unknown then. As he remains today.  Despite 77 other screen roles, mainly on TV.

15 Rolf Henniger,  Die Nibelungen, Teil 1Siegfried (Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy),  West Germany-Yugoslavia, 1966.  Harald Reinl.

16 – Rolf Henniger, Die Nibelungen Teil  2 –  Kriemhilds Rache,  (US: Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy2), West Germany-Yugoslavia, 1966.    was Oskar Werner made it abundantly clear that he had no time for the German folk saga. Therefore, King Gunther went to  Henniger, another stage star –  in the bjggest box-office success of  Reinl’s 69 films.  Fritz Lang’s version was an epic masterpiece for US critic Leonard Matlin. Der Spiegel hated the new ones, the  first, “childish hero-cinema” and the second,  “a simple, high-body-count spectacle.”  The  Lexikon des internationalen Films also slammed them: “a naive-elaborate, at times comical, adventure series in picture-book style.”  Owch!   Reinl was murdered in Tenerife at age 78  by his former actress-wife Daniela Maria Delis.

17 – Gian Maria Volonte, A Ciascuno il sio (To Each His Own), Italy, 1966.  Director Elio Petri wanted Oskar as introverted academic trying to Sherlock his way through a double homicide without drowning in the quagmire of local politics.  Petri and Ugo Piro won the Best Script award at the ’67 Cannes festival and the novelist Leonardo  Sciascia’s  novel was re-made  by Lamberto Piggelli for Italian TV in 1982.


00 – ???? ,  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.  Now is this really the 18th film turned down by Oskar Werner (in this list) or simply an attempt at humour on his part?   For an actor who preferred the stage to the screen (he had his own theatre company), Werner  would consistently boast about the films he refused for being, basically, beneath him.  He’d made 19 movies by 1961 when he claimed to have he had  already refused 65 roles (40 alone in 1966!)   By 1972, the total had reached 291 and 300 by 1977.  When no one in these pages, not even my the reigning chanmpions –  Nicholson and Brando –  has rejected 300, films, nor even 200.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was producer-directed by Stanley Kramer as a love letter to his favourite couple: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.  He also became very keen on Oskar, inviting him aboard Shjp of Fools, for his Hollywood debut in 1964.  They did not gell well.  (In fact, exceedingly  few of his collaborators appeared to have enjoyed the experience).   Kramer recognised Werner’s  talent and  his appeal, if not at the box-office, then to  old  ladies (as Truffaut scornfully put it) and attempted  to sign  him again for The Secret of Santa Vitttoria, 1968, The Domino Principle, 1976. and, according to Werner’s vanity and self-importance, to play he guy  expected for dinner. Perhaps. If for example, Kramer and his scenarist, William Rose, had changed things  around in an earlier draft, having Werner as, say,  the  (adopted) son  of Spence  and Kate and bringing  home a black fiancée. Or then again, not.  No, this is a lame joke from a show-off, out to prove how the cinema wanted him so much more than he ever wanted it

Consequently, #18, rather surprisingly, is…

18 – Lee Marvin, Point Blank, 1967 Producer Irwin Winkler had several projects  in mind for  Werner. But he found Richard Stark’s tough guy way too violent for him. Just as Stark was one of US novelist Donald E Westlake’s 19 pseudonyms, his hero of 24 books, Parker, was Walker in this film – and indeed, Porter in Mel Gibson’s (weak) re-make, Payback, 1997. In one book, a character cannot remember Parker’s name and calls him “Porter, Walker, Archer, something like that.” Steven Soderbergh is the film’s greatest fan – “a film that I’ve stolen from so many times.” In his book. Cinema Speculations, Quentin Tarantino commented that despite being such a tough customer, Parker was “remarkably well represented in movies” – Gibson, Marvin, Jim Brown, Robert Duvall,  even Anna Karina (in Jean-Luc Godard’s take on Stark’s The Jugger, as Made in USA, 1966).

19 – Jacques Perrin, L’ecume des jours  (Spray of the Days), France, 1967.  A French nouvelle vague film, as proved by French-Canadian Alexandra Stewart being in it. Chabrolian actor-director (eight credits per occupation) Charles Belmont,  wanted Werner as Colin but had to make do with Perrin – who had a better smile. Michel Gondry’s version of the Boris Vian book in 2012 co-starred the superb Romain Duris, Audrey Tatou and another French-Canadian, Charlotte Le Bon.  

20 – George Hamilton, The Power, 1967.   MGM wanted a star for the hero, Professor Jim Tanner. “That would ruin the basis for the story,” protested science-fiction producer George Pal, “because no one is supposed to know who ‘the power’ is.” Oskar Werner was it in  1965, Cliff Robertson in 1966 and, ultimately,Metro pactee George Hamilton. Maklng his final film, Byron Hsaid MGM was “so anxious to be rid of Pal” that it deliberately sabotaged his film, by casting the wrong actors and skimping on the  budget,  particularly for the vital effects.  In the UK, the film was slashed by almost 15 minutes and stuck at the fag end of a double bill with Day of the Evil Gun.   

21 – Rod Steiger, No Way to Treat a Lady, 1967.  Always  anti-violence, Werner had scant  interest in playing a psychopathic murderer (not yet known as a serial killer) who used disguises to gain entry into the homes of his victims – and elude the cops, led by George Segal as, wait for it, Moe Brummell.  Rod Steiger enjoyed himself (more than the public). One of his disguises was that of W C Fields – virtually  a screentest for him winning  W C Fields and Me away from Peter Boyle, Charles Durning, Albert Finney and Walter Matthau in 1975.   

22 – Terence Stamp, Blue, 1967. Once Robert Redford rode out of the Western, Oskar Werner (also blond, you see) was asked to saddle up. But (a) he hated horses and (b) he was being a renowned orchestra conductor in mid-Interlude (an affair) with journalist Barbara Ferris in Michael Billington’s directing debut in London…  a re-hash of the 1956 Hollywood romance  between Rossano Brazzi and June Allyson, which ironically was made in  Austria and Germany. Redford was sued by Paramount and, consequently, refused to join Rosemary’s Baby.

23 – Alan Arkin, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1967. Carson McCullers’ book about a deaf mute – cruelly called Singer – was perfect for an Austrian-accented star. No dialogue!  However, Werner was trying to produce and direct himself in his own perfect project – Robert Nathan’s novel, So Love Returns.  It never happened, yet its planning  frequently interfered with various movie offers. Warren Beatty, Montgomery Clift and George Peppard were also in the mix for John Singer.

24 – Nigel Green, Fräulein Doktor, Italy-Yugoslavia, 1967.  German WWI spy Elsbeth Schragmüller was not fiction. Her film was. As very little is known of her beyond her code name, all kinds of spy stuff has been made up in Euro Pudding fashion, including some lesbianism with Capucine. Werner wisely left it  and Colonel Mathesius alone –  while gorgeous  Suzy Kendall, who was in every studio I went to in the Swinging 60s, was so miscast she was dubbed by  Niki Van der Zyl, who voiced nearly all the James Bond Girls.

25 – Maurice Ronet, Les Oiseaux vont mourir au Perou (UK/US: Birds in Peru), France, 1967.
French novelist RomainGary hated the two films made of his  books (Lady L,  Roots of Heaven) and decided to  make his own,  It was  worse… A kind of a wet dream tribute, to his wife, Jean Seberg, stoking the embers of their dying union. He certainly doesn’t let anyone  else in for long. including her screen husband, the old Pierre Brasseur, who looked alarmingly like… Romain Gary. Werner was offered one of lovers, a painter – he let Ronet use the easel. Oskar obviously realised how Gary would film Seberg’s face.  “We see it for minutes on end,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert.  “Looking up at us, down at us, away, in profile, turning toward, blank, fearful, seductive, nihilistic… None of it works. The movie doesn’t grow. Rarely has so much pretension created so much waste.”

26 – Hardy Krüger, Le franciscan de Bourges,  France, 1967. Veteran French réalisateur Claude Autant-Laras invited Werner to play what could have been bis greatest role. Instead it became Hardy Krüger’s. In the true story of Alfred Stanke, a German  Franciscan monk and medical orderly who helped save hundreds of lives during World War II.

27 – Omar Sharif, Mayerling, 1967. Another true story…  Three years earlier, 007 director Terence Young  called on Werner to incarnate Crown Prince Rudolf, son and heir  of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I,  in the tragic love story of the prince and Baroness Mary Vetsera; a re-make of Anatole Litvak’s 1936 version with Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux. Young’s first choice had been the married Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn. . Sharif played the role opposite Catherine Deneuve and 38 years after that (2005), he agreed to a cameo in Robert Dornhelm’s German TV version of  same story, co-starring Max von Thun and Vittoria Puccini.  

28 – Omar Sharif, The Appointment, 1968.  Another Sharif take-over… Joseph Losey and Dirk Bogarde passed the odd tale to Frank Perry for Marcello Mastroianni and Kim Novak. Then, Oskar Werner was Sydney Pollack’s idea for the Rome lawyer Federico Fendl … until Sidney Lumet took over (just to work, indeed study with cinematographer Carlo Di Palma) and Sharif lawyered up and killed his marriage to Anouk Aimée by believing an Iago-ish friend’s tales that she was a callgirl.  Web critic Dennis Schwartz “found it a chore to sit through such claptrap.”  Right!

29 – Yul Brynner, The Madwoman of Chaillot1968The  project had been on producer Ely Landau’s bucket list for six years. Yet here was a major  flop…  clearly not helped  by John Huston quitting 17 days before the off and the clever UK scenarist-turned-director Bryan Forbes taking over in order to work with Katharine Hepburn. But the old Jean Giraudoux play, as Roger Ebert wrote, “staggers under its own dead weight” –  due to a  (mainly old) star stuffed cast: Hepburn, Charles Boyer, Yul Brynner (inheriting Oskar Werner’s Chairman), Richard Chamberlain, John Gavin, Danny Kaye (in his final film), Margaret Leighton,  Guilietta Masina (replacing Simone Signoret). Plus, as this became a Forbes film, his favourite UK actress Dame Edith Evans (replacing Irene Papas) and his wife Nanette Newman.  One good thing came out of it. The Place de Chaillot set was put to  far better use by François Truffaut during  La nuit américaine (Day For Night) in 1972.

30 – David Warner, Michael Kohlhaas Der Rebell (UK: Michael Kolhaas – The Rebel; US: Man on Horseback), West Germany, 1968.  German director Volker Schlöndorff wanted Oskar Werner as his 16th century  rebel,… until  discovering that he  was afraid of horses. Like his nearly  Die Nibelungen  director Harald Reinle.

31 – Hardy Krüger, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1968.  Oskar Werner and Hollywood’s Stanley Kramer never managed to get back in harness again, mainly due to scheduling issues. And by this time, Oskar was somewhat peeved at being Hollywood’s new  go-to guy for  German  (and worse, Nazi)  officers.  Max von Sydow also refused to be Captain Von Prum in  what swiftly became the Anthony Quinn-Anna Magnani Show.   

32 – Karl Michel Vogler, Patton, 1969.  

33 – Marcello Mastroianni, Leo the Last, 1969.  Another John Boorman offer… But no.  He passed on the satire about the last in the line of a one-time (nameless) Euro-monarchy.  “I feel wrong for it,” declared Werner.  ”And it feels wrong for me.”  Surviving a scenario at war with itself, Marcello was, as always,  perfect.

34 – David McCallum, La Cattura (US: The Ravine), Italy-US-Yugoslavia, 1969. A WWII German special agent falls for Nicoletta Machiavelli as the female sharpshooter he is ordered to kill.  So, naturally, the scenario was dispatched to Werner. And, just as naturally, he dispatched it back. Although, this Sergeant Holman was no Nazi, but a Wehrmacht  soldier portrayed in a thoroughly human manner by director Paolo Cavara and  the Scottish Man From UNCLE.   

35 – Michael York, Something for Everyone, 1969.  Or The Rook (from a book called The Cook!) when once again Werner foresaw all the flaws ahead and returned to sender.    Michael York became the new butler rescuing the household  of Austrian Countess Angela Lansbury, by  sleeping with everyone, male and female, Angela included. A kind of (very) empty Theroem.

36 – Richard Burton, The Assassination of Trotsky, France-Italy-UK, 1971. To follow his Ben-Hur Oscar in 1960, Charlton Heston read – and dropped – the script. The exiled American-in-London director Joseph Losey admitted it was terrible when inviting his usual UK star, Dirk Bogarde, aboard. With the promise of revisions. None arrived and somehow Richard Burton accepted the same scenario, saying it would be a blockbuster like his Where Eales Dare.  (Except Clint Eastwood was not the assassin.  Alain Delon was).  Hence, Trotsky is in Harry Medved and Randy Lowell’s book, The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (and how they got that way).

37 – Sami Frey, César et Rosalie, France, 1972.    Two guys in love with the same woman… Well, Oskar had been here before and saw little reason to modernise Jules et Jim. (Besides he was the same age as his “older” César, Vittorio Gassman).  Brigitte Bardot-Lino Ventura-Jean-Paul Belmondo became BB-Gassman-Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve-Yes Montand-Belmondo, Romy Schneider-Montand-Gérard Depardieu, ultimately and beautifully Schneider-Montand-Sami Frey… When Deneuve proved pregnant. Annie Giradcot wanted it., Marlene Jobert pleaded for it,  But  Romy proved a glorious Rosalie in Claude Sautet’s greatest box-office triumph, his most autobiographical work –  the most cherished for the French public.

38 – Max von Sydow, Steppenwolf, France-Italy-Switzerland-UK-US, 1974. 
John Frankenheimer  and even James Coburn wanted to direct and thereby “enter The Magic Theatre.  For madmen only.”  Michelangelo Antonioni also passed. “Unfilmable,” he concluded.  Not so,  said the young Fred Haines.  With just one co-scripting gig behind him (for Joseph Strick’s 1966 Ulysses;  the  critic  Pauline Kael introduced them), he bravely adapted and directed his one and  only feature –  based on Herman Hesse’s 1927 Jungian masterpiece, rediscovered by the 60s’ counter-culture, due to all  its free love  and psychedelia.  
Werner, unwisely for once, backed off from playing Hesse’s other HH (the sad, suicidal Harry Haller) and his HH – being half-man,  half-animal in some staggering, Terry Gilliamesque  animation by Jaroslav Bradac. Seven years in the planning, the project attracted – and lost –  such odd HHs as Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau…. even  Mr Turn-on-tune- in-drop out, Timothy Leary,  who’d helped kick-start the 60s’ Hesse boom)   before  the Bergman star, Max von Sydow, rose superbly to the occasion.  Unfortunately, as Hermine, French Dominique Sanda  (first choice for  Maria Schneider’s Last Tango in Paris role) did not.

39 – Hardy Krüger, Barry Lyndon, 1973. Like auteur François Truffaut seven years before, Stanley Kubrick did not take kindly to the ego-striven Austrian  – and fired him after three weeks of his nine-month shoot.  (Such a pity that Truffauit had not done  the same  during Fahrenheit 451  in 1966). Inevitably, Werner was replaced by Hardy Krüger. (Omar Sharif was on holiday?). Surprisingly, Kubrick was an immense fan of the 19th Century English author William Makepeace Thackery and intended to film his Vanity Fair before switching to his Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq and a full nine month shoot in various locales, including Wilton, one of my various UK home towns.  Before Jack Nicholson, Kubrick had wanted Werner to be his (never made) Napoleon. Because he was a great admirer of Werner’s  work in Anatole Litvak’s Decision Before Dawn, 1951 –“ the most underrated film ever made. I have seen it five times, and the subtlety, taste and intelligence of your performance is more striking on each occasion.”  However, following  the Napoleonic collapse, Werner was “shocked and disgusted” by A Clockwork Orange,and crossed Kubrick off his bucket list.

40 – Jon Voight, Der Richter und sein Henker (End of the Game), West Germany-Italy,  1974. UK actor-novelist Robert Shaw wrote the first adaptation in 1965 of Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1950 novella, The Judge and His Hangman, for himself and his wife, Mary Ure. Nicholas Ray was due to direct. Instead, Austrian star Maximilian Schell co-wrote and fully directed the existential whodunnit. He kept Shaw as the crooked nemesis of the usual bulky, burned-out veteran cop – a rare film acting gig for the US ex-actor-turned-director Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma Rae). As web critic Dan Stumpf was first to point out they were rather like a darker version of Inspector Teal and Simon Templar in The Saint stories. On the sidelines of their chess-style battle,  there is younger cop eager for glory. (By, perhaps, solving the murder of his colleague, Schmied).  This was the part Schell offered Werner, who passed him over to Jon Voight.Jacquelijne Bisset succeeded Mary Ure as Shaw’s mistress, Anna Crawley(!); Schell’s mother, Margarete Schell Noé had her fourth and final screen role; and he even persuaded the author, to play, well, himself, an old  writer, “Friedrich… Friedrich… you know, Friedrich! What the hell’s his last name?”  Here, then, was a Euro-pudding that actually worked.   Oh, and Donald Sutherland was Schmeid’s corpse.  (No, really). And Shaw said he never got his $50,000 salary.

41 – Roman Polanski, Le Locataire (UK/US:The Tenant), France, 1975. Werner was attached to the Roland Topor adaptation in the late 60s, long before it entered Roman Polanski country. And it was Roman who actualy played the titular (and paranoid) Treikovsky, taking over a suicided  woman’s Paris apartment and gradually – and I mean  this – turning into her.  Garbed in drag, he throws himself out of her window. Twice! No wonder he cut his acting credit, settling for an overblown tribute to his directing career on the poster, ending awfully (considering his February 13 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl): “Nobody  does it to you like Polanski”!  Chicago’s Roger Ebert nailed the fil;m  (into its coffin). “Not merely bad – it’s an embarrassment.”

42 – Gene Hackman, The Domino Principle (UK: The Domino Killing),1976Hollywood’s Stanley Kramer wanted Oskar  – again. This time  for what became  the Gene Hackman’s assassin. Werner refused for his usual ethical reasons about violence and wanton killing.  Hackman was not proud off his work here. “I was on the take-the-money-and-run bandwagon. I knew it, and I had to stop.”

43 – Steve McQueen, An Enemy of the People, 1976.
Yet another call from  Stanley Kramer. When it was his project in 1974. And another refusal.  Reasons unknown.  What is known (it’s so obvious) is that McQueen – known for telling such potential co-stars as Stella Stevens, “I consider you competition” – set himself up for the chop  with such a vanity project as  a  1882 Ibsen play, way beyond his style, scope  and  talent.  A “wonderful play,” he said, with a “great actor’s part.” Yeah sure. But Steve was a movie star. Not a great actor.  He would tear dialogue scenes out of a script, not have nothing  but them all over the place. And his fans didn’t wish to see a fat Steve  with an enormous beard, tiny glasses,  straggly hair. This wasn’t super-cool hippy Steve. This was a lamentable farce.

44 – Christopher Eichhorn, Der Zauberberg (UK/US: The Magic Mountain), Austria-France-Italy-West Germany, 1981.  Another Mann that got away. (The first was our #1 item in 1957).  Alexander Korda, Luchino Visconti gave up trying their versions, while producer  Gifford Cochrane  signed  Erich von Stroheim for another take.  When Oskar Werner was attached, his possible directors were Jules Dassin or Alberto Lattuada. Finally, Hans W Geissendörfer helmed Christoph Eichhorn as Hans Castor, the latest victim of the Sanatorium Berghof in the Swiss Alps.  Christopher Eichhorn’s actor father  – ironically called Werner –  narrated the film, which also featured Charles Aznavour,  Hans-Christian Blech, Helmut Griem, Marie-France Pisier and Rod Steiger

45 – Trevor Howard, Ludwig,  France-Italy, Monaco-West Germany, 1972.  Visconti wanted Oskar as Richard Wagner, and Oskar wanted to work with Visconti. But after much  research, Werner declined: “I hate Wagner! He was pompous, phoney, schmaltzy – a genius of kitsch.“   Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier also passed and Trevor Howard, the most English of Englishmen, became the most German of German composers.  

46 – Peter Fleischmann, Frevel (Mischief), West Gemany, 1983.  Ah well, no –  violence again, you see.   But, as it turned out, much, much more than that…  When Oskar Werner  turned down the detective  Lohmann, “with the highest clearance rate in the county,” writer-director Fleischmann  did the unthinkable and played the ‘tec, himself!  All very Basic Instinct (or Sea of Love, etc) Meets Persona, according to web critic ”sleepsev” in Thailand.  “Atmosphere, that thing which you can’t see or grasp, is the thing that makes Frevel stand out from other movies in the police-love-suspect genre.”  The Girl was Angelika Stute in her only film acting role. She went on to exec produce Fleischmann’s 1988 Es ist nicht leicht, ein Gott zu sein (Hard to Be a God).

47L’enfer (UK/.US: Torment), 1993.  Ah yes, the unfinished Henri-Georges Clouzot film of 1964, withRomy Schneider and Serge Reggiani…   Both Clouzot and Reggiani fell  ill and the  film was shuttered. Three decades later, Claude Chabrol had the bright idea of buying and adapting the Clouzot scenario to suit the 90s.  The titular hell remains  as a husband –   cheekily aimed at  Truffaut’s famous Jules – drives himself utterly mad with jealously over the affairs he‘s sure his wife is havjng with every man in town. Chabrol’s couple,  Emmanuelle Beart and François Cluzet, were terrific. The  film, not so much.


This page would have been impossible without the generous aid of Austrian Film historian Raimund Fritz

and my German journalist friend, Gerhard Midding.  Danker!

 Birth year: 1922Death year: 1984Other name: Casting Calls:  47