Arriving home today I turned on the internet only to find that Mr. Schell had just died at the age of 83. Another fine actor has been lost to the cinema but will forever be immortalized on film.
Reflecting on his career I find it kind of funny how we are easily influenced by our age when we first see actors in motion pictures. Originally I couldn’t stand him because I was seeing films on television growing up that would play fairly regular and his characters often struck me as pompous and of course he was playing Germans who were quite often the villains of the film due to WW2. The 2 films I think would be my earliest recollection of him would be The Young Lions and his Oscar performance in Judgement at Nuremberg. I hated the way he tore Monty apart in that memorable scene where Clift breaks my heart. From there he turns up in my childhood hero Charles Bronson’s film St. Ives and of course he was kind of weird in that as well. Counterpoint with Heston he is another German officer. At an impressionable age it’s sometimes hard to separate the actor from the character. As I got older and realized he’s just that an actor playing a part, my opinion began to change and then I rented Topkapi on VHS and my eyes were opened to seeing a new kind of role with him and from there forward I have always found him a credit to any film he appeared in. Cross of Iron, The Freshman, Return From the Ashes, Little Odessa to his documentary on Marlene Dietrich. I just checked and have only seen 18 of his films and have 21 in my possession so I need to catch up. May he rest in peace.