Max Reinhardt

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Max Reinhardt (September 9, 1873 – October 30, 1943) was an Austrian (later naturalised American) theatre and film director and actor.


He was born as Maximilian Goldmann, of Jewish ancestry, in Baden bei Wien, Austria-Hungary. From 1902 until the beginning of Nazi rule in 1933, he worked as a director at various theaters in Berlin. From 1905 to 1930 he managed the Deutsches Theater ("German Theatre") in Berlin and, in addition, the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna from 1924 to 1933. By employing powerful staging techniques, and harmonising stage design, language, music and choreography, Reinhardt introduced new dimensions into German theatre.

The Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna, which is arguably the most important German-language acting school, was installed implementing his ideas. Siegfried Jacobsen wrote Max Reinhardt in 1910.

In 1920, Reinhardt established the Salzburg Festival with Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, notably directing an annual production of the morality play Everyman about God sending Death to summon a representative of mankind for judgement.

After the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi-governed Germany in 1938, he emigrated first to England, then to the United States, where he had already successfully directed his own play The Miracle in 1924, and a popular stage version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1927.

Reinhardt followed that success by directing a film version in 1935 using a mostly different cast, that included James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Joe E. Brown and Olivia de Havilland, amongst others. Mickey Rooney and Ms. de Havilland had also appeared in Reinhardt's 1934 stage production, which was staged at the Hollywood Bowl. The Nazis banned the film because of the Jewish ancestry of both Reinhardt and Felix Mendelssohn, whose music (arranged by Erich Korngold) was used throughout the film.

Reinhardt also opened the Reinhardt School of the Theatre in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard. Several notable stars of the day received classical theater training, among them actress Nanette Fabray.

In 1940 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. At that time, he was married to his second wife, the actress Helene Thimig.

Max Reinhardt and film

Reinhardt was much more interested in film than most of his contemporaries in theater. He made films as a director and from time to time also as a producer. His first staging for the film was Sumurûn (1910). After that, Reinhardt founded his own film company. He was chosen to direct the film adaptation Das Mirakel (1912). Controversies around the staging of Mirakel, which was shown in the Vienna Rotunde in 1912, led to Reinhardt's retreat from the project. The author of the play, Reinhardt's friend and confidant Karl Vollmoeller, won the French director Michel-Antoine Carré to finish the shooting.

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