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The Times (31/Jan/1978) - Obituary: Mr Oscar Homolka

(c) The Times (31/Jan/1978)

Obituary: Mr Oscar Homolka

Well-known character actor of the screen

Mr Oscar Homolka, the stage and film actor whose death in hospital in Sussex at the age of 79, was announced briefly in The Times yesterday, was one of those actors who are instantly recognizable and whose strong, emphatic personalities make an impression on any part they play. To thunderous eyebrows and eyes that could twinkle or convey menace were allied a most evocative Central European accent. He had a fine ironic sense of humour.

Of late years he had been a great asset, playing slightly equivocal "spymasters", notably in some of the James Bond films.

Though known to later generations as a film actor his experience was by no means confined to the cinema. Born in Vienna he appeared many times on the stage in that city and in Berlin. He first appeared on the Viennese stage in 1918 and soon graduated to important parts. Among the leading characters he played in Berlin and Vienna were the Emperor Jones in O'Neill's play and Edward II ; under Max Reinhard's direction he played Ferdinand le Levis in Galsworthy's Loyalties and Sir Colenso Ridgeon in The Doctor's Dilemma. He was also seen in King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Troiluts and Cressida. In his time he had played Professor Higgins in Pygmalion and Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock, and had directed a performance of Pygmalion in Berlin.

He came to the London stage in the mid 1930s, was seen opposite Dame Flora Robson in Close Quarters and later drew admiration for his acting in Karel Capek's Power and Glory. Later Homolka left for America to achieve great success on the stage in I Remember Mania.

His film career was extremely wide; while many filmgoers will remember his study of Verloc the anarchist in Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage made in 1936, and his General Kutuzov in King Vidor's War and Peace (1956), he had long before that made a reputation in German films under the direction of men like Berthold Viertel who was later to direct him in the British film Rhodes of Africa in which he gave a memorable performance as Kruger matching Walter Huston's Rhodes. For the rest of his life he was scarcely ever absent from the screen; among the many pictures in which he appeared were Ebb Tide; Rage in Heaven; Mission to Moscow; Ball of Fire; I remember Mama: Ann Lucasta; Jack of Diamonds; Funeral in Berlin; and Billion Dollar Brain; two of the Michael Caine "Harry Palmer" adventures that were greatly liked by cinemagoers, and The Madwoman of Chaillot.

His wife Joan Tetzel, the actress, died last year.