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Incredibly handsome, able to make thousands of women fall in love (including actress Hedy Lamarr), a versatile performer in theatre and film, active on the stage from a very young age, Wolf Albach-Retty is today best remembered for being the father of the great Romy Schneider.

A versatile talent

There are personalities in film, theatre and art worlds in general who, over the years, are not always remembered as much as they deserve to be. Having often played secondary roles in film and theatre productions or having directed works that, in their time, did not arouse much attention from the audience and the press, these personalities have inevitably ended up, over the years, almost in oblivion. This is the case, for instance, of the actor Wolf Albach-Retty, who is today best remembered thanks to his ‘illustrious parentage’. But who was, in fact, Wolf Albach-Retty?

Incredibly handsome, able to make thousands of women fall in love (including the actress Hedy Lamarr), a versatile performer in theatre and film, active on the stage from a very young age, Wolf Albach-Retty is today best remembered for being the father of the great Romy Schneider, with whom, however, he did not have a particularly close relationship.

Born in Vienna on May 28, 1906 as Wolfgang Helmuth Walter Albach, his mother was the acclaimed stage actress Rosa Albach-Retty, while his father, Karl Walter Albach, had been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army. Initially, an acting career was not considered for young Wolf, who began studying chemistry at the University of Vienna, although he never seemed particularly interested in the subject. But after dropping out of university after only two semesters, the young man finally began studying acting at the Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst, under the direction of actor Armin Seydelmann, and by the age of 20, he was already a member of the ensemble of the Vienna Burgtheater. And, in fact, it was in theatre that Wolf Albach-Retty achieved his greatest successes, although in the course of his career he took part in over a hundred films.

However, it was not long before the film world also noticed him and he was given his first film role as early as 1927, when he took part in Das grobe Hemd, directed by Fritz Kaufmann.

In 1933, there was a turning point in Wolf’s life. In this year, in fact, the actor married his German colleague Magda Schneider, temporarily obtaining German citizenship as well. The couple had two children: Romy (born Rosemarie Magdalena) and Wolf-Dieter. However, the union between Wolf and Magda did not last long and as early as 1945 the two divorced: the actor had already fallen in love with a colleague, Trude Marlen, whom he married in 1947 and with whom he remained married until his death.

During World War II, Wolf Albach-Retty decided to remain in his homeland, unlike many of his colleagues. He even started to sympathise with the National Socialist Party, becoming a member in 1940. Regarded by Goebbels as one of the most important actors in Austrian film industry of the time, Wolf had no difficulty, even in wartime, finding employment and was even exempted from military service.

During his career, Albach-retty starred in numerous films that were part of the so-called Wiener Films, namely mostly love stories, musicals, and costume feature films aimed at conveying, even abroad, the image of an Austria where culture and prosperity reigned supreme. Some of the films he starred in include Spring Parade (Geza von Bolvary, 1934), Hotel Sacher (Erich Engel, 1939), So gefällst Du mir (Hans Thimig, 1941), Seven Years of Happiness (Ernst Marischka and Roberto Savarese, 1942) and Ideal Woman Sought (Franz Antel, 1952).

With his daughter Romy, Wolf Albach-Retty only had the opportunity to work once, however. This happened in 1963, when the two of them took part in the well-received The Cardinal, directed by their countryman Otto Preminger, who had already moved to the USA years before. However, with his children – and thus also with Romy herself – Wolf never had a close relationship, but, on the contrary, was always an absent father to them. Romy Schneider herself repeatedly recalled his figure, whom she always idealised – for her, Wolf Albach-Retty was simply ‘Papili’ – and with whom she would have liked to deepen her relationship further. This, however, was not possible, because, unfortunately, the actor died prematurely, following a heart attack, on February 21, 1967, at the age of sixty.

Wolf Albach-Retty is buried, together with his mother Rosa, his wife Trude Marlen and her twin sister Cecilia Brantley, in Vienna’s Central Cemetery, remembered, nowadays, mostly only by film enthusiasts. Yet even today, when one happens to watch an old black-and-white film, one often comes across the figure of a charming conqueror or restless playboy. And if on stage the actor distinguished himself mainly in the plays by Artur Schnitzler, film directors such as Ernst Marischka, Franz Antel, E. W. Emo, Georg Jacoby and Gustav Ucicky appreciated his versatile and multifaceted talent, capable of adapting to any role, over and over again. His name, in its own way, made Austrian film history.

Info: the page of Wolf Albach-Retty on iMDb