Otto Gebühr

Portrait of Otto Gebuhr by Ross Binder.  This image is part of the Portrait Collection Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf at the library of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Portrait of Otto Gebuhr by Ross Binder. This image is part of the Portrait Collection Friedrich Nicolas Manskopf at the library of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main

Otto Gebühr (29 May 1877 – 14 March 1954) was a German theatre and film actor, who appeared in 102 films released between 1917 and 1954. He is noted for his performance as the Prussian king Frederick the Great in numerous films.

Otto Gebühr in der Rolle Friedrich des Großen.
Otto Gebühr in der Rolle Friedrich des Großen.

Born in Kettwig (today part of Essen) in the Rhine Province the son of a merchant, Gebühr attended the gymnasium secondary school in Cologne and completed a commercial training. Alongside he took drama lessons and began his acting career at the Görlitz city theatre. In 1898 he joined the ensemble of the Königliches Hoftheater Dresden and from 1908 performed at the Lessing Theater in Berlin. As a World War I volunteer he achieved the rank of a Lieutenant in the German Army.

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After the war he worked with director Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. At the same time he obtained his first film performances with the help of his colleague Paul Wegener. He found the role of his lifetime in 1919, acting as King Frederick II in the historical drama Die Tänzerin Barberina directed by Carl Boese, modeled on the life of ballerina Barbara Campanini (1721–1799). The first part of the UFA Fridericus Rex tetralogy starring Otto Gebühr playing the title role was released in 1922, followed by several further so-called “Fridericus-Rex-movies”. The series was heavily criticized by contemporaries for supporting a widespread negative stance towards the Weimar Republic democracy and the yearning for a leader in waiting. Gebühr continued his performances in the Nazi period from 1933 onwards, last performing in The Great King (German: Der Große König), a 1942 German wartime propaganda film directed by Veit Harlan referring to the historicMiracle of the House of Brandenburg, which received the rare “Film of the Nation” distinction.

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Gebühr died at Wiesbaden in 1954. His final film, Die Blonde Frau des Maharadscha, was released eight years after his death.

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